Not sure how to deliver a speech to an audience of teenagers? You’re not alone! Here is a question from a Facebook group I am a member of along with my very detailed answer:
QUESTION: “I am a cancer survivor and speaker. I am presenting to 100 15 year- old girls on health at a private girls school this week. I have presented to many women’s groups before, however I feel this is one of my greatest challenges. I present from a non-clinical perspective and hope I meet the mark with these girls and the school administration. Would anyone care to share a few tips to help share my message. Feeling quite nervous.”
It’s not uncommon to be worried about any kind of audience that is unusual for you, but when that audience is teenagers, it can be especially scary! In my career I used to be a college professor and spoke to older teens every day. More recently, within the past couple months I spoke to a Girl Scout troop to help them with a public speaking badge. Here are my tips to help you if you’ve got to speak to a group of teens:
1. Make the presentation as much about THEM as possible. Yes, tell your own story but always relate it back to their 15-year old lives
2. Make it engaging & interactive: even if you don’t normally have an activity in your presentation, it’s worth it to have this particular audience engage in SOMETHING. I’d suggest a couple different things.
For example, how many women die from the kind of cancer you had on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis? Do a short exercise that says “Stand up if you’re a woman who has reached puberty (or whatever).” (They’ll all stand). Then, “sit down if you…” and each one should be a risk factor that not everyone would have. Stop when there are a few standing and say, “The girls standing? They’re the lucky ones in this example. They lived. Xxx women die per day/week/month/year and everyone sitting is in that number.” It’s sobering to see numbers come to life.
3. Think of another activity where they can move around the room. (A creative speech coach like yours truly! can help you with this after seeing your speech outline!).
4. Do NOT rely on your slides, BUT this group is very used to multimedia as part of their daily lives, so if you have a short video you can show, that will enhance their experience.
5. Don’t talk to them like they are kids. They hate that. Speak the same way you do to adults.
6. If you have time, take questions. But don’t say, “Are there any questions?” Ask instead, “What did you hear you’d like to know more about?” Or “What came up for you?”
7. Suggest teachers hold a brief discussion after your presentation so the girls can talk in small groups about their thoughts and feelings. Provide a list of suggested discussion questions and strongly encourage the administration to do this. If you can, go into each of the small discussion rooms. The girls will more readily share, and therefore get more from the experience, in a smaller group than in front of a whole auditorium full of kids.
I hope that helps!
And if you’re in need of public speaking coaching for any audience, make a comment or visit the contact form on my website and let’s talk!
If you happen to have any tips for speaking to younger audiences, I’d love to see them in the comments.