So I’m not so sure that that title is clear, but basically what I’m talking about is delivering presentations to young people. I’m talking about elementary school age folks. Like 5-11 years old. Maybe the toughest crowd that you’ll ever have to face! I come up against this tough customer at least once a year when the schools in my area have a “career day” where parents are invited to come and talk to the kids about their careers. The goal is to provide the kids with motivation to study hard and stay in school. I love the IT field; however, it’s a hard sell to kids who have just been dazzled by the policeman / fireman / soldier who all have cool uniforms and neat utility belts. On top of this career appeal challenge, there’s that issue with trying to find the right way to talk to these kids – you know, they really are not young adults just yet…
When I need help in trying to figure out how best to deal with a tough crowd like this, I know that it’s best to go talk with an expert. In this case the expert is Caren Neile who is the director of Florida Atlantic University’s Storytelling Project. Here are 10 tips for how you can not only survive a presentation to the very young, but also do a good job of it:
- Watch Your Height: Kids are very sensitive to having to look up at a speaker. You need to do everything that you can to “be on their level”. One way to do this is to sit on the floor. Another is to sit on a chair – pretty much the opposite of what we tell you to do when speaking to adults!
- Don’t Start Your Presentation Cold: One of the key things that you want to happen when you talk with kids is to have them behave and pay attention. This can be hard to do if they don’t know you. By spending some time with them before you start your presentation you can knock down some of the walls that exit between you and them. By doing this, you can come across as a person that they know and they’ll do a better job of paying attention to what you have to say.
- Be Real Man: Kids hate vague “management speak”. Remember that their world is pretty much what they see on a daily basis and only the things that they can touch are real. If you speak in big broad terms (“the whole world”, “boosting productivity”, “over $1B dollars”, etc.) they simply won’t be able to grasp what you are talking about. Instead, use concrete expressions that they can easily understand (“lots of people”, “able to make even more widgets”, “enough money to fill this room from floor to ceiling”, etc.)
- See What I’m Saying: Props are your friend when you are talking to a young audience. We’ve raised them to be multi-tasking demons and they’ll show you just how good they are at this by tuning you out and working on other tasks while you are talking unless you find a way to keep grabbing their attention. Props are one of the best ways to do this.
- Take A Time Out: How long can you sit and effectively listen to someone? Kids can’t pay attention for even that long! Given ’em a break before, during, and after your presentation. They will be forever grateful.
- Have Everyone Play A Role: Much more than adults, kids love to participate in a presentation. They will be itching to do this even if you don’t want them to do so. Caren suggests that you work specific places in your presentation for them to help you out. This will help to keep their interest and will make your presentation even more memorable.
- Get Up And Move!: Once again, we generally like it when adults sit through our presentations. With kids, things are different. If you can find a way to get them to get up and move around as part of your presentation, then they will connect with you and your message better.
- Chill Out Man: With adults, we would often like it if they stood up and started shouting during our presentation – it would show that they were really engaged. With kids, they might just stand up and start shouting because they like to shout. Make sure that you don’t get them too riled up during your presentation or things could get out of hand.
- Allow Learning To Happen: We all learn in our own way and kids are no exception to this rule. Some kids will appear to tune you out, may be drawing while you speak, may even get up and walk around. Don’t be offended and don’t worry about it. This may be how they learn best and you should just let it happen.
What happened last time you had a chance to speak to young kids? Did you treat them like kids or like little adults? Do you think that they understood and remembered your message? What would you do differently if you had it to do all over again? Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking.