All I Really Need to Know About Public Speaking, I Learned From Teaching Kindergarten

I have been very blessed to be able to speak to several groups lately, and I’ve been thinking about how much FUN I’m having! I’ve been a performer all my life, whether it’s dancing, singing, or acting.  I think public speaking is a lot like performing: you have to entertain, educate and inspire.

Teaching children is another love of mine; I spent four years after College as a K-8 Music Teacher. So I’ve put together some tips for public speaking, based on that experience.  And in true Kindergarten Teacher fashion, they are written in rainbow colors!

People have an attention span of about 10 minutes. Seriously.  Speak for 10 minutes or less on one portion or point of your speech.  Then, be sure to change it up a little with a question, joke, or inflammatory statement.  Well, I’m just joking on that last one… sort of.

Props make it memorable. When I talk about Social Media, I often use my BlackBerry as a prop.  I might hold it up as I mention that everything is “mobile” these days.  Or I might act out tweeting as I’m giving a real life example.  Sometimes I do my “social media nerd snort.”  But a lot of the time, I’m just checking my email during my speech. OK, not really.

But my favorite prop so far has been the Snuggie. I made the point that you may have to change your approach if the public doesn’t react to your product the way you thought they would.  Snuggie is a perfect example of this. I believe they were totally serious that the Snuggie would be the savior of the snuggling world.  But when more people were laughing than buying, they capitalized on that humor- literally.  So then, I capitalized on the humor by wearing one on stage.

public speaking
Photo by Marie Freeman, ASU Photographer

When in doubt, give stuff away. Candy and toys, preferably. Does anyone doubt this?  I actually had to give away the aforementioned Snuggie to an audience member after my speech.  A very bold young entrepreneur student asked for it… and I didn’t want to come off as stingy.  I did get another Snuggie, though, because I’m going to use that  illustration for my Social Media Business Workshop tomorrow.


If the audience farts or picks their noses, don’t laugh.  Just ignore it. Enough said.

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I opened up the question on Twitter and Facebook, and got some great responses!  Here are some of the things my friends had to say about Public Speaking and Teaching Kindergarten.  Very wise words.

Practice introducing yourself to the class with a loud and clear voice so everybody can hear ~ Lori Holton Nash, entertainer, teacher, and writer.

Just keep talking, even if people are talking while you are, because someone is listening. ~Jennifer Lacy, 4th grade teacher

Kids are like most of us…we don’t always remember what people SAY, but we remember how they make us FEEL. ~ Cathy Cole, Tweetsie Railroad (based on a quote by Carl W. Buechner)

Smile – if they don’t remember anything you said, they will remember your smile ~ April Knodel, my friend from High School

Don’t let the audience scare you. Of course, a class full of 5-year-olds scares me a lot more than speaking. ~Kelby Carr, writer, SEO expert, social network maven

If you want to preach, stand behind a podium. If you want to teach, stand on their level on front of them. If you want to truly reach, sit down among them. ~Virginia, Friend and mom

What do you think?  Do you have a lesson about public speaking that could also be applied to teaching Kindergarten?