It’s always puzzled me why public speaking is higher on America’s list of fears than death or the economy.  What’s the big deal?

The catch-22 of public speaking is that the more you do it the easier it becomes. The problem is that most of us don’t have much chance to gain that experience. Sure, naturally outgoing people are generally more comfortable than the more cautious and reserved, but there’s no substitute for experience.

There are a lot of ways that you can get that experience.  When our children were in their early teens my wife and I made a deal with them. On the first Tuesday of each month, at suppertime, we would visit a foreign country. Let me explain. Our five children decided which country they wanted to ‘visit’ each month, and Wendy and I would research the menu and prepare a typical three-course meal from the chosen destination. During dinner each child agreed to give a short, informal presentation about predetermined aspects of the country, climate, tourism, industry, politics, exports.

We all had a month to prepare. I remember answering the phone on one occasion to be told, “This is the Mexican Consulate, may I please speak to Sandy?” She was ten at the time and had phoned asking for information. It subsequently arrived in the mail.  At first, the kids were shy and nervous, but before long they were learning from each other how to research and how to make their talks enjoyable and informative. Guests would sometimes join us at the table and get in on the fun – we never took the content very seriously.

These entertaining adventures continued for more than a year and we had a wonderful time. Today, the kids don’t think twice when they have to give a talk or a presentation. Do you think this exercise helped them at school and later on in life? You bet. Do you think it’s ever too early, or too late, to start learning a skill as valuable as this? No.