Why schools should train student leaders on public speaking

The writer trains student leaders. vochieng.90@gmail.com. 0704420232

Secondary schools across the country often reach out to us to train their Student Council(s). During the in-depth training and tutelage, we take student leaders through their crucial role in school leadership.

Our training framework delves deep on areas such as general roles, convening effective meetings, leadership challenges, school safety, disaster management, forms of discipline, principles of punishment, emotional intelligence, people skills, and qualities of effective student leaders.

We point out grievous mistakes they can make while on duty. We explore leadership skills and styles. We guide them on how to strike a beautiful balance between academics and leadership. Then, we train them on effective communication.

Leadership rises and falls on communication. No wonder, student leaders must master effective communication, which is also a useful soft skill. They should know how to deliver announcements in assemblies, dormitories and classes. This will help them influence other students through the intriguing tools of rhetoric, which Aristotle, the Athenian thinker, summarised as logos (truth), ethos (ethics) and pathos (emotions).

Student leaders sometimes face opposition from their peers. Rude students can heckle, boo, or refuse to attend to duties. In such instances, student leaders should rely on comely communication skills plus proper persuasion. Student leaders who are eloquent and articulate command respect from their peers.

Moreover, when we look at the world as a whole, both in the distant and recent past, we see classic cases of leaders who relied on effective communication and powerful presentation of speeches to inspire people. Winston Churchill, the former premier of Britain, is an excellent example. Through the great gift of the gab, he stilled the nerves of British soldiers to wage war with bravery and bravado during the Second World War (1939-1945). Likewise, in 1963, Martin Luther King (MLK) planted hope in the hearts of African-Americans who suffered due to racial segregation.

Therefore, our secondary schools should strive to groom student leaders to be good communicators. There is the exigence of raising leaders who can be objective, informative and educative.

In a broader sense, speaking in public is not as simple as some people think. There is the essence of training student leaders on how to prepare and present phenomenal speeches. This revolves around the use of good grammar, adequate preparation and settling on the best style of delivery. It also entails knowing, involving and maintaining cordial relationships with the audience.

Finest orators focus on audibility and clarity. They check on their personal appearance before they go lyrical. Then, they dodge the erroneous advice of fake it until you make it. Instead, they remain natural and lively.

Right poise and posture are worth putting into critical consideration. Great speakers pay meticulous attention to paralinguistic features – both verbal and non-verbal. Their body language rhymes with what they say. They focus on right vocal delivery; meaning volume, pace and pronunciation. Then, their speeches focus on novelty, memorability and emotionality.

Finally, student leaders who have mastered mechanics of eloquence are skillful in overcoming stage fright. How do they do it? First, they accept that it is normal to be nervous. Therefore, they put premium on practice as they make good use of available time allotted. They present facts interestingly, peppering presentations with a good sense of humour. Then, they employ different types of pauses such as sense, dramatic, emphatic and sentence-completion ones.

By Victor Ochieng’

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