One of the greatest fears identified by many people is that of speaking in front of others! 4-H members can develop their communications skills through public presentations. Each 4-H member is encouraged to present a project talk or demonstration at his or her club meeting during the year. 4-H members may present a formal speech, an illustrated speech or a demonstration on a given project at their club meeting.
The four P's to public presentations are: Plan, Prepare, Practice and Present! Here are a few tips to help guide members through the process.
Choose a topic that you have learned about in your 4-H project work and that you can do well. Be sure you can show or tell others about the topic in the given time frame (3-5 minutes). Pick a topic that you think others will be interested in learning about. Select a catchy title for your talk or demonstration. Limit your presentation to one idea and learn all the facts you can about the topic.
There are three parts to every good public presentation – introduction, body and summary.
In planning the introduction you will want to think about how you will greet your audience and tell what you are going to present and why. You may also want to tell the audience how you became interested in the topic.
In planning the body of your talk or demonstration, list the steps to be shown in order and decide what you are going to do for each step. List supplies needed for presentation and decide what you are going to say for each step.
In planning the summary, you will need to think about how you will show the results of your presentation. You will want to plan to restate or briefly repeat main points; give sources of information; give your audience a chance to ask questions; and finally give out samples or materials (optional).
In preparing for your talk or demonstration, don't memorize your presentation. Instead use small note cards. If you are giving an illustrated speech or a demonstration, you may want to utilize a poster. When using posters:
- Be sure they are A – attractive, B – brief, and C – clear.
- Stress important points.
- Be simple and uncluttered.
- Have large letters.
- Use the posters in your presentation.
Plan for a three to five minute presentation. Use a timer to keep track of how long you talk and how fast you talk. Practice in front of a mirror first and then practice for family or friends. Often when you get nervous, you will talk faster than if you are speaking in front of the mirror. Be sure you have enough material to fill up your time allotment.
During your presentation, speak clearly with a loud voice. Pause for a few minutes for effect. Speak with excitement and enthusiasm. Keep good eye contact with the audience. Smile and have good posture. Show you are glad to be present.
There are a number of resources that are available to help you prepare for your public presentations. There is a member manual entitled Public Presentations that can be ordered through the 4-H data management system at your local University of Illinois Extension 4-H office. Project support pieces on Demonstrations, Formal Speech, Illustrated Speech, Extemporaneous Speaking, Oral Interpretation, Original Works and Master of Ceremonies are available on the Illinois 4-H website at web.extension.uiuc.edu/state4h/projects/resources.cfm?CategoryID=3862 .
There are other opportunities for youth to participate in public presentation contests at the county and state level each year. In the horticulture and horse project areas, there are additional specialized public presentation contests. For more information on the rules, regulations, and deadlines for these competitive events, please contact your local University of Illinois Extension 4-H Office.