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4-H Public Speaking

Public speaking is a beneficial and important project that all 4-H youth can do.  Learning to be a good public speaker is something that will be useful throughout a 4-H member’s lifetime.  The necessary skills associated with being a good public speaker have always been an important part of the 4-H experience and 4-H clubs are encouraged to foster a positive, learning-oriented environment for youth regarding this subject.

The degree of a 4-H member’s public speaking skills is directly related to his or her leadership and social ability.  Members who feel comfortable speaking in front of others have a greater sense of self-confidence, a feeling of respect for themselves and others, and generally have a solid feeling of accomplishment.  Good public speakers are more apt to do well in a job interview or a presentation in college or at work.

The 4-H public speaking program provides opportunities for 4-H’ers to learn skill in articulating a message.  The objectives are to:

  • Develop leadership talents and work toward character development and effective citizenship;
  • Recognize the value of obtaining all information on a given topic;
  • Encourage careful organization of material to be presented;
  • Develop a pleasing personal appearance before an audience;
  • Acquire the ability to speak convincingly in public.

There is no “right” or “best” way to speak, except to be yourself and to show you are interested in your topic. It is only when you are natural that you communicate your real self—and all speeches need the personality you can give them.

Here are some suggestions to help you be at your best when you give your speech:

  • Get plenty of rest before you meet your audience. Do not eat much before you speak—this can keep the butterflies in your stomach from bothering you too much;
  • If you are nervous, breathe deeply and slowly several times just before you are introduced. Relax your arms, legs, and body as much as possible;
  • When you are introduced, walk briskly to the lectern, smile, and look at the audience as though you are glad to be there;
  • Stand tall—don’t lean on the table, podium, or lectern;
  • Be confident from the beginning—first impressions are important. Be sure you speak loudly enough to be heard by all.

The best public speaking opportunities for youth are centered around a personal interest shared with the other members in the club. There are, however, several other public speaking opportunities that are offered at the county, district, and state level.

Basic public speaking opportunities in 4-H:

  • Becoming a club officer;
  • Giving a committee report at a meeting;
  • Leading pledges;

Advanced public speaking opportunities in 4-H:

  • Demonstration or illustrated talk at a club meeting;
  • County and District Events presentation;
  • Health and Safety talk or skit;
  • Food preparation talk;
  • Speaking to civic groups about 4-H;
  • Teaching a 4-H workshop or clinic;
  • Camp counseling.

In 4-H you learn by doing—and you only learn how to give a speech in public by doing. To always “Make the Best, Better,” give a speech at your next club meeting and always remember one thing—RELAX—everyone is rooting for you!

 (Adapted from Tools for Public Speaking by David M. Farrell, Ohio State University and 4-H Public Speaking Member Manual by Bud Downing, Washington State University)