At what age should we begin our public speaking training?

At what age should we begin our public speaking training?

This question is one I ask myself a lot. The reason is the number of young graduate students I work with who find it so hard to express themselves. I have worked with so many young people with fantastic CVs, brilliant academic backgrounds but very little self confidence. I was exactly the same as a young man except for the fantastic CV and brilliant academic background. However, everybody can catch up with practice, but it’s a slog with all the activities going on in a young person’s life. So, I repeat the question, at what age should we begin our public speaking training?

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54 Responses to At what age should we begin our public speaking training?

  1. vince says:

    Just a quick point in case… – please don't evaluate Natalia as she's only nine years old (and doing well). Please comment on the prompting question. Regards Vince

  2. Anandha P. says:


    Great web site. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning effective public speaking from you and the members at the Beckenham and Bromley speakers club. What a great bunch of folks to hang out with and learn from. Wish you all the best!

  3. Zoe Eccleson says:

    Hi Vince
    In my opinion, this skill is one that we neglect to nurture in our children and the school system could also do more to encourage it.
    'Show & Tell' sessions start at pre-school age where children can bring in something of their choice to school or nursery to tell their teacher and friends all about it. This is a fun activity.
    However, all public speaking sessions from this point on are usually around more formal events such as presentations that are scored as part of an exam. It's just a pity that public speaking wasn't more actively encouraged from an early age and continued on a regular basis as part of the curriculum with a fun, informal theme. Public speaking like any skill improves with practice but until it is ranked with more importance in the curriculum the problem you describe will never disappear as we often expect shy adolescents to take the stage and speak with authority and have presence when they have had zero practice throughout their childhood.
    Likewise as parents we are all too quick to scold children for contributing too readily to adult conversations and being 'seen and not heard' continues to exist when in fact we should be encouraging the views of our children.
    Thanks for raising an interesting question on this topic

  4. Victoria says:

    I think that we should start in elementary school.  While playing, we learn how to read and write and build our self confidence. So express our thoughts and feelings would be something natural.

  5. Cara Martin says:

    Public Speaking Training should begin as early as possible in my opinion!

  6. Gurdish says:

    Hi Vince,

    Great web site. My answer to your question is that public speaking should start at an early age, perhaps in primary school. As we are all working in very competitive environments, public speaking is an essential skill to get ahead. I also think the confidence one gets at an early age, stays with one for the whole of one’s life. However, I have realised it too late. But trying my best to catch up.

    You are doing great job to pass on this life skill to others.


  7. Masood says:

    As Victoria has suggested I believe it shall start in elementary school. Having said this, those who have  already passed the age, you can always start at any age. On a personal note, I have been working with Vince to improve my speaking skills.  Thanks for your help and support

  8. Brenda Dunnett says:

    I believe children from Primary school level should be encouraged to speak confidently in front of an audience. This certainly happens in my children's school and as a result, I would say most or all can do so without fear or any self consciousness as it is something thay have had to do from a very early age and it becomes second nature to hear themselves speak publicly. This really needs to be carried through into secondary school. It's only through teenage years and into adulthood that for some, who have lost practice and/or other life events have affected self esteem or confidence, that this fear can really become a big issue. Experts like Vince who offer amazing encouragement and training are so needed for those who are frustrated speakers inside dying to be released. Thanks Vince for all your great work.  

  9. Christina says:

    What a brave young lady! I think it's best to start as early as possible, although it's never too late to start.
    Your course definitely helped me in becoming more confident in public speaking and I've recommended you to many of my friends. Rest assured I will continue to do so, as I think you're doing a great job. Christina

  10. Hello Cristina, brave? She's a natural. That was take 11 and she wasn't going to stop until it was in the can. Natalia has always been very expressive. As a three year old she was fascinated by cooking programs on TV. She does her own little Nigella Lawson show at home. Daddy gets the camera and she talks us through the recipe as she demonstrates. She's very funny, determined and engaging. I hope she will continue in this way. Regards Vince

  11. Olivia says:

    Children from the age of four years old should be encouraged to express themselves publicly via creative means. As a young child, I was very shy interacting socially. However I was encouraged to act and dance in front of people which served a good platform in later life as it gave me the groundwork to be confident and have the correct attitude i.e. planning for a presentation,  to do great public presentations in adulthood.  If presenting is done in a fun way, and focuses on an interest of the child, then the child will have positive reinforcement  message when it comes to public speaking. 

  12. Solinn says:

    I think it should start as early as possible in different appropriate forms. Helping children learn how to articulate verbally effectively should be a key parenting task.   

  13. Sarah says:

    Public speaking should start as early as possible – the skills that are needed for public speaking are transferable to most areas of our lives.  At age 5 schools should include public speaking as part of the curriculum (already some do introduce some public speaking via 'Show and Tell' etc, however there is not enough structure).  When children (or anyone) practice public speaking they get better at it, and that then grows confidence and so on and so forth.  Everyone should have a voice!

  14. Marcia says:

    Vince, you raise such a good point, we do not start practicing the art of speaking early enough. All too often we become so consumed by the correctness and formality of it that we forget about the excitement of sharing.
    Although confident and bilingual, public speaking is something I have to mentally prepare for every time. Perhaps it is just my desire to be better or may I’m uncomfrotable with my style (getting over this since your course!).
    I am already making sure that this doesn’t pass on to my son Rafael. He is 1.5 yrs and we play lots of vocal games (this helps me to!). Sometimes I will stay quiet so that he is encouraged to read back to me. I love hearing his own little versions and try not to giggle, but this is an example of the begining of his creative speaking! It is a lot of fun and does not need to feel daunting.
    We try to encourage his self esteem with lots of fun and happy expressions every day, amongst the small tantrums along the way…. it’s all good stuff!

  15. I would agree that 'the earlier the better' is the way to go. My daughters’ senior school have started to introduce the concept of public speaking. They also have a debating club, which takes this one step further. I fear that this will not gain momentum though as the schools are always under pressure to fit in the standard 'curriculum'. 
    Everyone is fighting their corner to get their interest more time at school – such as the sporting interest after the Olympics. I fear that compulsary public speaking in schools is a fight that will not be won.

  16. Paul Goodliffe says:

    Vince really interesting and you have started a conversation I have had spent a lot of time thinking about. I agree with everyone that we should be encouraged to start speaking and presenting as soon as we can. There is another point to make , children copy what they see, if they see their parents doing it they will want to do it as well, so if you want to encourage your children to speak get out there and do it yourself they will want to follow.

  17. I think it should be offered (but not pushed!) as early as possible! 
    It's never too early to start getting comfortable with developing one's voice.  However, pushing young peopl into public speaking before they are ready can backfire and even scar them for a long time if it doesn't go well. 
    I recall having a good experience when I was in 5th grade (about 11 years old)… followed by a bit of a disaster when I FROZE during my Shakespearean soliloquy in front of my 6th grade class.  It took a long time to get back on the stage after that.  
    So, to make a long story short… give kids the option and let them decide!  
    PS.  You're daughter is great… no signs of shyness there!   

  18. Richard Johnson says:

    This is great – it can never be too soon to start getting used to speaking in public. It should be done from the time children start school, so children never build up the fear of talking in front of people in the first place.
    Natalia is a fine example of what can be achieved at a young age. Look forward to hearing more from her in the years to come.

  19. Joanne Spiteri says:

    I've seen some terribly unconfident young people blossom when I've worked with them and given them the time and attention they need to become excellent public speakers.  How young should they be when they start? My answer would be when they're ready. But there are things that you can do in advance to prepare them for it. I think that one of the biggest key things is to listen to them!

  20. Mike Douse says:

    This is lovely – very well done 9-year old Natalia.
    Most of life is spoken, much of schooling is written, even at the upper primary stage. As well as 'training in public speaking' (widely interpreted, including debating and purposive listening, for instance), the curriculum needs to be re-focussed on spoken communication. Teachers need to be saying 'speak up!' more than 'keep quiet!'
    From the hospitality industry through to the security services, from retailing through to medicine and law, and from government service through to the charity sector, the capacity to express oneself orally, to listen intelligently, and to ask and answer questions is a crucial proficiency. But, as I say, much of what occurs in classrooms is based upon and results in words on pages. The most vital occupational and social skill is not encompassed by the 3Rs (perhaps ‘oracy’ should become the fourth).

  21. Janet says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed debating at junior school and found it stimulating, fun and challenging. I'm not sure if this still happens in schools but it would be great for children to be offered the opportunity. 

  22. Michael says:

    Starting early with encouraging public speaking is preferable, but as has been said, and was the case with myself, it’s certainly never too late. Public speaking at an early age builds confidence, not only for public speaking, but in all areas of social interaction, be it at work, conferences, school, or even meeting new people on a social basis. This confidence makes you feel good about yourself and attracts others to you. For schools, it should be part of the curriculum, like Maths and English.

  23. George says:

    Natalia – great stuff! Talented girl.
    I don't think you’re ever too young to begin public speaking and performing in general. What is vitally important at any age is that the environment is supportive – like it is at toastmasters. Worst case scenario: failure at an early age scars a speaker for life, and I know many speakers like that.

  24. Michael Ronayne says:

    Starting any skill when you are young is an advantage, whether sport, music or speaking.  When working with young children I am always struck at how straightforward and unselfconscious the whole process is.
    Public Speaking is 'simple' – children understand that.  Unfortunately as we get older it becomes less 'easy' to do the the simple things well. 
    One issue remains throughout life however: having the ability to speak well is still no substitute for having anything worthwhile to say in the first place!

  25. Dan Antion says:

    I think speaking in front of an audience should be introduced very early. I was never afraid of getting up in front of the crowd, as I had been made to do that in Sunday School at our Church, but I didn't know anything about being effective, I think it's almost better to be nervous and give a bad speech than it is to appear confident but still give a bad speech. I also think that the confidence that comes from giving a good presentation would be a benefit to young students.

  26. Vaskor Basak says:

    This is a very interesting question, which I hadn’t thought about before, to be honest. From my general business experience rather than as a practitioner in skills training, I think the most important skills/characteristics for new employees at a junior level (in the areas I have worked in) are a general interest and ability to learn, the ability to work accurately and good general English and numeracy. I would say public speaking isn’t essential at this level, although at a slightly higher level, the ability to communicate well, with customers on the phone or to present work to senior colleagues, for example, is important. As we move into more senior roles, public speaking gradually becomes more important, until it is critical at the level of a Finance Director or CEO of a large organisation dealing with the media and investor community, for example, or a political leader. By this stage, if someone has not been exposed to public speaking earlier on, I am guessing that it is more difficult to pick up the skill.

    However, the ability to speak articulately is essential at interviews for roles at any level, and no doubt many of the skills for public speaking are linked to general verbal communication.

    Therefore, I think the debate is open as to what age public speaking should begin, although I agree with a lot of the others’ comments about teachers and other adults offering supportive encouragement rather than pushing young people to speak through presentations in the classroom and in assemblies and debating, for example and making the experience fun.
    Vince – as you are probably aware, public speaking isn’t my strong point, although I think I have developed the skill to a level which is just about sufficient for what I do!

    P.S. Well done, Natalia!

  27. Simon says:

    Go Natalia!
    I think we should all learn and practice the art of speaking in public from the age we start school.
    Children have a natural instinct to learn, and to learn from others. If speaking in public were encouraged earlier then it would be something everyone would be less afraid of! We are only frightened by it because it is something we are not accustomed to doing and we have therefore learned that it is frightening as most people avoid it!
    The reality is that speaking to groups is essential if you want to progress in almost any profession or walk of life. Communicating to many as opposed to one or two requires a different set of skills, and a channeling of nervous energy which must be practiced.
    Thanks for your help Vince: a relaxed and friendly environment in which to challenge oneself!

  28. Elizabeth Przybysz says:

    In Poland, where I am from, children as young as four perform in front of the audience for occasions like mother’s day or grandma’s day. I am sure that in England there are similar shows. The most important thing is for parents not to be critical (happens way to often in my country) but to allow kids to treat it as a game and simply – enjoy!

  29. Phil says:

    I think this is great. I would say around about 8 or 9, any younger would be too young to do meaningful talks. It should carry on right through teens though as we can get many knocks in our teens and this can severely affect our self confidence. Also I only did one presentation at college and one at Uni; not great considering when you start a professional job you are supposed to to be able to get up and deliver professional talks. The large number of students was restrictive though. But if Natalia keeps this up she will indeed have one of the most valuable life skills, well done!

  30. Gavin says:

    My view would be that any age is fine – it is such an important development step not only for career but also self development. The only caveat being that the subjects should be interesting and fun and be treated like any other learning exercise, that just happens to include public speaking at the same time so two lessons learned in one! If the opportunity arose and I was a professional speaker I’d have no qualms about building some school lessons/homework round a public speaking! 

  31. Katy says:

    As early (and as regularly) as possible.

  32. Sarah-Jane says:

    Public Speaking is such an important skill which can affect your career potential –  I think it should be a standard part of education from as young as 8 or 9 yrs. However I do think the subject matter should be light and fun and it should be non competitive. 

  33. Karsen says:

    I must say, I am very impressed by your daughter’s speech. I don’t think I know any 9 years old that can speak with such confidence and composure. No wonder you are the ‘Fear Doctor’!

    In response to your question, I can recall my first memory of public speaking when I spoke in front of 1000 people for my kindergarten graduation. Although it was a great learning experience, it was merely a reiteration of the carefully scripted, memorised paragraph that I practiced for months before the graduation. And there was no technique to it at all. 

    I believe public speaking training is never too early for young children. But the training should emphasise on actual public speaking, and not public reiteration. This is however just an observation of mine. What do you think?


  34. John McDonald says:

    I must say that I think it is down to our culture of being rather reserved in how we conduct business and our everyday lives. Having worked in the USA, there is a huge difference when kids are encouraged to “speak out”. Confidence is nurtured at every opportunity and people tend to grow up as natural talkers / presenters. 
    Taking into account the above, there is a saying that the child’s brain is like setting jelly and this sets by the age of 16 or so, which means that the encouragement of self expression should be before that. 

  35. James oxley says:

    What a great video and website!
    Public speaking should start at an early age which would prepare you for potential speaking opportunities in a future career. Simply holding back and not facing your fear will not allow you progress, grow and learn. I think the main thing is you try your best and in the long run your are likely to only get better. 

  36. cecellia telkes says:

    Enjoyed the video! Well done Natalia. My daughter just turned 10. Their school starts them on presentation in year 1. I believe communication skills are not just important for interaction but building self esteem.

  37. vlad says:

    Nice work Natalia!
    I believe public speaking should start at a young age, 8-10 years old most probably. I believe at that age you care less what other people think, and therefore its a good time to build confidence. Also there is less ‘apparently’ at stake. I put that in inverted commas because even now there’s not that much at stake in most short business presentations, but it often feels like the world hinges upon it. In fact, I did some public speaking at school, but a complete lack of practice in the past 10 years has meant that I had lost a lot of the confidence I had gained in my younger years. This essential skill should be nurtured from a young age and maintained all the way into adulthood. What a great thing to pioneer Vince!

  38. wayne says:

    Charming speech by Natalia, learning to speak in public should be encouraged from an early age. At school, it is done naturally if you know the answers to group questions, but if you don’t answer amongst your peers, is it because you don’t know the answer or that you are not confident in expressing your self in the open environment. With me it was more often the latter.
    In life you can probably measure what you have achieved or gained through speaking in public, both socially and in business, but you can’t measure what you might have achieved or opportunities lost if you had done it earlier or were confident enough to do it more often.

  39. Gayna says:

    Well done Natalia!  I loved your speech.  You were confident, you took your time, you had something important to say and you made me listen.  Also, you have a wonderful smile and when you used it at the end, it was fantastic because it made me want to smile too and listen to you more.  Looking forward to your next speech very much.

  40. Jason says:

    As we know Vince, communicating in the right way and having the confidence to do so is such an important skill, whatever the context.  As we’ve seen at Beckenham Speakers, young people can develop quickly and to a high standard and build significant confidence in other areas of their lives. This should surely be part of the school curriculum.  I personally feel that it should be.  

  41. James says:

    Hi Vince,
    I think public speaking should start at as younger age as possible. However I dont think you can be too late to start as at whatever age you start public speaking there will be benefits. As for me it’s been really beneficial for some subjects at GCSE and for confidence in general when talking to new people. But for people in a job it may be helpful for presentations etc.

  42. Simon green says:

    Hi Vince, your daughter is very sweet, bless her!  Personally I think children should start speaking as young as is reasonably possible, however if they don’t like it then they shouldn’t be forced to continue.  Certainly if children were encouraged to speak in public as part of the curriculum then it might not be such a taboo subject for many and the fear wouldn’t be able to manifest like it does. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for all your help at the retreat, it was a great course and I’ve learnt lots, just need to put it into practice now!  All the best, Simon Green

  43. I think it an easy answer , my opinion will be that as early as a person child or adult Identifies that would want to do some form of public speaking in future.

    Sometimes people don’t identify this early in their lives, so I would say if there was some form of curriculum in schools to teach public speaking that would help a lot and my recommendation would be , secondary school age when children are beginning to understand and define what they would love to become.

    Well done to your 9 year old

  44. Alex says:

    Hi Vince and Natalia,
    I believe that public speaking should begin as early as possible and, ideally, form a natural and integral part of the curriculum.  If it is part of school from the outset, children should not have a sense of being forced to participate in public speaking, any more than they feel forced to participate in Maths, English or Sport.
    I was fortunate to begin public speaking at age 5 as my parents were able to support me through extra-curricular training and exams.  I loved it and it proved hugely valuable.  It gave me greater confidence in class and in other aspects of life, for example, passing interviews into my chosen secondary school.
    What I do wish I could have started earlier, is debating; not just public speaking, but thinking on your feet, preempting opposition responses to your own arguments and the ability to listen and understand under pressure.  It is rare in adult life to be able to deliver a speech and sit down, without fielding questions and challenges to your point of view.  I’m not necessarily advocating full parliamentary debating at primary school; but encouraging children to give an unscripted answer to a ‘why’ question encourages them to speak an opinion.  It also helps to tackle the issue mentioned by Michael Ronayne: ‘having the ability to speak well is still no substitute for having anything worthwhile to say in the first place!’
    If regular (and importantly, fun) public speaking and debating opportunities became the norm in schools, it would also mean that ‘failure’ is put into perspective.  Just like the weekly spelling test; you might have a bad day, but it is a more minor setback if, as a matter of course, you have another go next week.
    Well done to Natalia!!

  45. eman says:

    Hi Natalia,
    What a brave girl you are. Please keep it up because I believe that you going be one of the most effective and persuasive coaches out there!

  46. Hi Vince

    Clearly, the earlier the better – you daughter demonstrates beautifully how eloquent one can be when there is an absence of fear.  It’s like anything, the early in life that desensitisation can occur, the better :)


  47. Hi Vince,
    What an interesting thread. As with any skill, I think speaking training should be age appropriate. So absolutely, for younger children a revival of “show and tell” and encouraging all children to read out loud and speak in class (taking care of the needs of any children with dyslexia or other differences).
    At around 9/10. I think children are old enough to be introduced to simple debates and the art of persuasion with the added benefit of getting them to think (which seems to be slipping away) and to think about the world and others etc.  Another benefit is that it gives children an opportunity to compete and excel in a way other than sport.  At school, I debated from 12 till about 14 when I switched schools – and it was great – especially as I was not particularly outspoken or vocal as a child. It gave me an uninterrupted platform to be heard and permission to speak. 
    So. my experience, and thoughts, are very much Get Started Soonest and keep the training age appropriate! 
    And well done Natalia! Also for keeping up the energy on 11 takes – potential as a presenter too :-)
    Best wishes

  48. Hi, 
    I think it should start with public speaking when you are about 7-8 years old and continue through your teenage years, when you often are very sensitive. 
    Some kids want to be on stage and some are very shy, you can play some games so everyone can participate. Improvisation for kids can be a great start :) 


  49. Jean says:

    Great question, easy answer! I truly believe public speaking should be taught in junior school upwards. 
    Why? Well 97% of people fear public speaking, that means only 3% of society’s potential actually has the self confidence / ability to speak. That results in us (society) tapping into a tiny amount of our human resources as a society. Imagine what the other 97% could offer in the workplace, business, in communities, charities, etc., etc., if they had only developed the skill and ability to speak in public?
    So, my answer is as young as possible it’s as necessary as ABC.

  50. Firstly a message for Natalia. What a charming presentation, thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed it and commend you on your engaging delivery. I look forward to watching you grow into a delightful and accomplished young lady. Remember to always follow your dreams x
    Secondly a message for Vince. This is a very interesting topic. I was painfully shy as a child and therefore, sent to drama lessons to “cure” me. I enjoyed taking part in the lessons, but I suffered from terrible stage fright and I really did it just to please my mother. Eventually I went to Theatre School and after that I sang in a rock band, and all the time, I was absolutely terrified…
    I am over it now… 
    So I suppose what I want to say, is that some children are not entirely comfortable with public speaking and even though I did it endlessly, even narrating the King and I Ballet at the Palace Theatre in front of hundreds and hundreds, I wanted the ground to swallow me up. 
    Like me, one of my sons would stand with a blank expression, just like a rabbit caught in the headlights, at all his nursery and infant recitals, the other children singing along while he stood mute and stock still. The same boy now eleven, cannot wait to take centre stage, sings solo and received a standing ovation at his last performance.
    We are all able to become confident at performing, if carefully nurtured. Some of us are born naturals, but others may take a little longer. It is good to see public speaking at a young age encouraged, but we must be mindful that children are wonderfully individual, and develop at their own pace. 
    I wish I would have met you when I was just a very young and nervous girl, suffering from stage fright. My career path may have been very different!

  51. David Bell says:

    I think Natalia did a brilliant job, full of confidence and passion, well done!
    I think we should start our public speaking training as early as possible, from the time we are old enough to stand up and talk to our friends or family.  In fact we do this as children when at school, the nativity play at Christmas, the “show and tell” to our class mates each week.  As children we are much more likely to learn and adapt to situations, as children our brains are like sponges and we lack fear, so making a mistake is less likely to bother us. 
    So what is the ideal age? I don’t think you can pin point an actual age, as everyone is different.  However I think the earlier the better. Making it fun and rewarding though are the key drivers to success. 

  52. Richard Jacquard says:

    About 10, but it should be part of foundation subjects and hotly stepped up at 14 onwards

  53. Glaucia HS says:

    Natalia speaks so well and has such an engaging smile. Very natural and authentic. Keep it up Natalia.

  54. Jessie Jay says:

    Great work Natalia, so charming. I have been working with my son on this since he was six. Just making a game of it. It seems to work. Jessie

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