Youth Ministry: Building Confidence in Speaking

Have you ever heard of the old speaking technique of “picture your audience naked?” Yeah, I think it’s not a good idea too, especially if you work with youth. I have never tried this technique frankly because it’s disturbing. When I think about speaking in front of a large crowd of people whether it is teens, parents, or my co-workers, I focus on how much they NEED to hear what I have to say.

I remember my first time presenting in front of a large, intimidating assembly of people. I was a senior in high school, and I was asked (the night before) to do a run through of my senior project speech in front of 100 teachers who would be learning how to judge our senior class for future presentations. Keep in mind, I had not prepared my speech. However, my English teacher, Ms. Stevens, had a lot of confidence in me.

The following morning I was in a large cafeteria with 100 teachers eyes staring directly at me waiting for a speech with pencils and papers in hand ready to pick me apart. I was one of the two students selected to be the guinea pig. I remember thinking, “Okay, it’s time to talk about everything you’ve learned and to set the bar high for everyone in my senior class.”

My presentation was on Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I know what you’re thinking….and yes I was pretty AWESOME in high school. Well, I’m still pretty awesome, but the problem with using the word “AWESOME” is that it will haunt you.

From the applause for my presentation, I felt confident that I had given an excellent speech. However, I was about to receive one of the most memorable and humbling experiences of my high school career. There I was sitting in my economics class when my teacher decided to “reflect” on the two students who gave their senior project presentation to the staff. He wanted to give feedback to the students to “better” their presentations when it was their turn.

He began to state the positives of our presentations which made me smile. Then, it happened. Out came some humbling words. I’ll paraphrase for you, “Students should avoid slang and not continually use the word AWESOME.” Some students chuckled, as I sat deep in my seat, with gazing eyes pressing on me.

So, I used the word “awesome” as a filler word one too many times during my speech. But, I remember speaking with passion. It was Ms. Stevens who helped me realize that speaking from my heart and with passion is what gave me confidence. I humbly learned that confidence is obtained by speaking from your heart, giving the audience the words they NEED to hear, and doing it with extreme passion.

  • Here are additional pointers that I learned to help increase my charisma and engagement of audiences:
    Before speaking, I do a warm-up exercise. I make a siren noise with my voice to stretch my vocal chords, and I let out a big sigh to relieve any stress or worry.
  • If I am extremely nervous, I play my favorite motivational song (Right now it’s “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten) and dance to it in a private room passionately.
  • When I share anything, I make it relatable. I use personal stories when I’m teaching a lesson or speaking to parents. When the audience can relate to you and your story, you gain their attention and trust. It’s also what Jesus did by using parables. If it worked for Jesus, it will work for you.

Also, remember for your next speech or talk – whether to teens, parents, Core Members, or your parish community – speak with passion and from your heart. It will be AWESOME!


Image via FlickrCC 2.0 Logo added

About the Author

Cheyenne Vasquez

Cheyenne is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern who works with severely emotionally disturbed adolescents from Southern California. On her spare time she enjoys singing, exercising, eating ding dongs, and napping (not in that particular order).

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