4-H Public Presentations, a foundation for success

Jen Clancey, 4-H and Human Ecology Team Leader
Public speaking is a skill many adults struggle with. 4-H provides opportunities for young people to develop their public speaking skills and do it with confidence in 4-H Public Presentations events. Youth as young as 5 can begin to practice their poise in front of an audience, learn to organize their thoughts, express their ideas clearly, respond spontaneously to questions, and increase their self-esteem.

YATES COUNTY — How would you feel if you were asked to speak in front of a group of people? Would you be excited, anxious, a little bit of both? Public speaking is a skill many adults struggle with. It’s also a skill highlighted by the 4-H Youth Development Program.

4-H Spotlight

4-H provides a variety of opportunities for young people to learn and improve their public speaking skills. Most notably, 4-H members can take part in our 4-H Public Presentations event. This program is held yearly and helps youth develop their self-esteem and confidence speaking in front of others. Youth as young as 5 can begin to practice their poise in front of an audience, learn to organize their thoughts, express their ideas clearly, respond spontaneously to questions, and increase their self-esteem.

Public speaking may seem a bit intimidating at first, but youth are encouraged to start small and select a topic they’re interested in and can easily talk about. This can be something as simple as, "How to Make a Peanut Better and Jelly Sandwich" or a brief introduction of a family pet! After some experience, youth are encouraged to try more challenging topics or even venture into different public speaking categories.

While most youth start with either a demonstration (telling the audience how to do something) or an illustrated talk (telling the audience about something), more challenging categories include: a speech, Power Point, impromptu, recitation, college or job interview, team presentation, or horse communication. In Yates County, we’ve had a variety of topics presented by our members. We have learned how to make English muffin pizzas, what to expect at a horse lesson, how to play the violin, the history of the Super Bowl, and even how to extract DNA from a strawberry!

After selecting a topic, 4-H members research the subject to gather additional information, create an outline for their presentation, and then develop a plan on how to deliver their knowledge in a way that is educational, persuasive, or entertaining. Members spend many hours selecting a topic, creating and deciding upon visual aids, preparing and practicing their presentations, and gaining feedback from family and friends to ensure they’re well versed in and comfortable with their material.

On the day of their competition, 4-H members and their families gather to present their topics and then receive feedback from volunteer judges. Youth are provided feedback on their delivery, subject matter, and appearance. An overall rating is provided with comments on what the youth did well and suggestions for improvement. After several successful presentations at the county level, many 4-H members are encouraged to take their public speaking to the next level and participate at the Finger Lakes District Public Presentations Event. This event gives members the opportunity to gain valuable feedback from a different evaluator with a different perspective, and present in front of a group of people who they likely don’t know. There is also an opportunity to go on to the state and even the national level for 4-H public speaking events.

Those who have had opportunities to practice public speaking shine in a crowd. Many 4-H alumni credit public presentations as one of the most impactful programs of their 4-H career. School teachers remark that they can peg a 4-H’er in a roomful of students based on their confidence speaking in front of their peers. The college and job interview gives youth an edge on building skills by doing a real interview, for a real employer, in a mock setting.

2022 Yates County 4-H Public Presentations will take place in April at the Yates County Office Building in Penn Yan. Registration for this event is due the end of March, so there is still time to have your child take part in this worthwhile event.

Yates County 4-H Educator Jen Clancey

For more information on 4-H Public Presentations or the Yates County 4-H program, please contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County at 315-536-5123 or visit us online at http://yates.cce.cornell.edu/4-h-youth. Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities.