Have you ever wondered what voices aren’t heard? I personally wish more people did. While we hear plenty of viewpoints every day on societal issues, there are always so many more untold stories and so much more diversity in the perspectives we don’t usually hear. Sometimes, this silencing is due to the institutionalized oppression that makes it perilous to speak up for yourself. Other times, it is personal anxiety and self-doubt, or negative memories that make you worry about being judged. Access to opportunities to practice your voice is limited, and sometimes, you don’t get a chance to speak until the situation is high-stakes and scary.
Public speaking doesn’t have to be scary, but we need an entire ecosystem to elevate underrepresented voices. We need better listeners, who give high-quality feedback and are willing to learn something new. We need speakers who think about connecting with people, as opposed to focusing on their own ego or agenda. And we need facilitators, educators, and coaches, who can create inclusive spaces for people to practice and try out different ways to express themselves and what they care about.
This curriculum is the result of two years of work with young people, who helped me try out new ideas, refine our activities, and sharpen my own coaching. The middle and high school students who pilot-tested this curriculum were not experienced or confident public speakers when they first started, but they did have an incredible amount to say. They showed me that what they needed most were small steps to practice their skills, a public event or goal to work towards, and a caring community to help them believe in the power of their voice.
Our curriculum consists of six guides, which focus on several key areas of public speaking, including:
- Storytelling Guide: For telling more engaging and powerful personal stories
- Presentation Guide: For improving oral delivery skills, including voice and movement
- Advocacy Guide: For learning to advocate for yourself and speak up for others
- Debate Guide: For speaking persuasively on the spot
- Coaching Guide: For facilitating and coaching emerging speakers
- Confidence Guide: For coping with anxiety and fear of public speaking
I hope that this curriculum helps educators, students, families, and emerging speakers from all walks of life find a starting point for empowering the leader within. As one high school student, Devyn Barram, articulates, “Communication is honestly the framework for everything we do in life. Interacting with other people and being able to reach a certain audience is what’s going to get you places.” At The Practice Space, we want to be part of that journey and help diverse communities of people feel capable, cared for, and free from fear. Hope this gets you started!