Public Speaking: Getting beyond the fear through the three P’s

A Common Fear

We have all heard the statistics regarding the fear of public speaking. Surveys typically indicate that between 72-75% of the population fears public speaking. While there are a lucky few that do not experience the anxiety associated with speaking, the rest of us can use some strategies to become more skilled and relaxed speakers.

Why is it Important?

The fear of public speaking can hold us back both academically and professionally. Virtually everyone has been assigned an oral report in school and most college degrees require at least one public speaking course. Public speaking skills are closely associated with leadership ability and those who wish to advance in their careers will benefit from becoming comfortable with speaking in order to communicate effectively.

The 4-H Program places great emphasis on youth developing effective oral communication skills. As a result, many of our contests measure mastery of this life skill. Obvious examples are 4-H Public Speaking, Demonstrations/Illustrated Talks and oral reasons within judging contests. Few kids are excited to make oral presentations; therefore, it is up to the adults in their lives to support and encourage these growth opportunities.

Purpose, Preparation and Practice

How can we make speaking less stressful for youth? The answer is the three P’s – Purpose, Preparation and Practice. My memories of early 4-H experiences with speaking were that I did not want to do it! However, my initial fears were eventually calmed through the support and guidance of my 4-H club leader who included these three elements. As a result, I eventually began to enjoy presenting in 4-H.

One of the strengths of the 4-H program is that youth participation centers around their chosen project. This project provides the first “P,” which is Purpose. It is more motivating to present a speech, demonstration or defend class placings when it relates to something kids already care about and have a purpose for sharing with others.

The second “P” cannot be emphasized enough. Preparation is where much of the initial fear of presenting can be minimized. Planning (another p!) is the first step. It’s hard to argue with the fundamentals of research, outlines, and drafts. Knowing in advance what one wants to say, and the best order in which to say it, is a cornerstone of an effective presentation. Preparation could also involve creating visual aids and choosing props if those are part of the presentation. Visual aids can be a great way to incorporate prompts to guide the presentation without using actual notes.

Finally comes the third “P,” which is Practice. Practice does not mean memorizing, but rather delivering the presentation enough times that the flow and pace is relaxed, and the speaker has a good handle on the introduction, body, and conclusion of the presentation. Practicing alone, video recording and presenting for friends and family all give youth confidence in advance of the contest.

4-H Opportunities for Speaking

Orange County 4-H members are all encouraged to participate in our Annual County Events Day Event to be held on April 9th at the Extension Education Center. Contests include demonstrations, illustrated talks, public speaking, share the fun (talent) as well as photography, member exhibits and game boards. Registration will open in 4Honline in February.  For more information on these contests, please visit or email me at


Posted: January 21, 2022

Category: 4-H & Youth, Clubs & Volunteers, Events
Tags: #OC4H, 4-H, 4-H Events, Leadership, Life Skills, Ocextension, Public Speaking, Youth

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