Last Wednesday, I gave my first presentation with four groups of three to four-year-old at pre-school. I appreciate the staffs special arrangement there and Mrs. Fisher taking her valuable time to help me with the whole preparation process.
Comparing to my previous speaking experience, three to four-year-old, is both the easiest and hardest audience one could ever face. I was impressed by how much kids were able to understand the lessons of the stories. In each session, half of the children answered my question actively by following the natural logic embedded in each story.
Kids were enthusiastic at the very beginning of the presentation, sitting up straight, leaning forward, and staring at me. When I flipped my printed visual aids, kids paid close attention to them. They noticed a little snake on the bottom of one image that I did not even notice beforehand. I kept my stories and questioned highly engaging; kids are eager to jump in and tell me about their experience. Because of the curiosity, they respected and appreciated the speaker.
Meanwhile, three to four years old becomes challenging because they express the most honest behaviors based on the speaker. Sometimes, the kids were highly-engaged, and a chain effect will take place: kids began to add and follow each other, falling into an out-of-control situation which generated constant interruptions. Kids are honest: they express the loss of focus and interest if they cannot make a connection with the speaker. In the first group, one boy apparently lost his focus and began to talk to his friend. And in other cases, a few kids started to lean back into the bean bag and stared at the ceilings.
So, what do pre-school audience tell me about a more general audience and ways to engage the speaker? Kids represent a typical body of listeners. A couple of them are easily get distracted. The speaker may not have the full control of their focus. But It is still speaker’s responsibility o keep an engaging environment. Kids, or general audience, are usually high enthusiastic to hear anything from the orator at the beginning. I started with the story of a man being afraid of the “sky and the ground” which successfully captured their attention and utilized their initial enthusiasm. A beginning of any presentation is the chance to take advantage of the curiosity to make a connection with the audience.
Reflecting the preparation and the story-telling process, I succeeded in preparing for the unexpected question and keeping kids’ contribution to the presentation in a limited way. Including the engaging questions into the preparation process is essential. I need to have ideas of immediate follow up towards certain kinds of questions and interruptions. Some examples, in this case, would be, saying “that sounds like a very exciting example, why don’t you hold on to that until the end” after one kid jumping into the presentation which may cause interruption.
There still things need to be improved. I am still having a hard time getting some specific pronunciations correctly. I staggered and repeated some phrases a few times when I was trying to get the correct tense. Theses troubles indicate a sign of lack of practices and speaking public. Hopefully, I will conquer them as the Independent Study project progresses.