【Parent Webinar】Ask The Expert – Polish your child’s presentation skills
Bizibuz hosted a webinar on polishing your child's presentation skills on May 26, 2023. In this webinar recap, our expert panelist, Joanna Hotung, shared valuable insights on how to help your children enhance their presentation skills. Strong presentation skills are not only essential for academic success but also crucial for their future career development. Discover practical strategies and tips to incorporate improving presentation skills into your daily routine at home.
Key topics covered
• Why should my child develop presentation abilities?
• How can my child develop presentation abilities?
• How can I support my child?
• How should my child prepare for an event?
• How can my child effectively deliver a formal presentation?
Meet the speaker - Joanna Hotung
Joanna Hotung is best known among parents for having founded Kids’ Gallery in 1996 and later Face Productions, Star English & Mills International Kindergarten. Kids’ Gallery was actually the first education centre in HK to offer courses in performing arts including theatre, drama and debating. During her tenure, she has had a hand in the development of more than 80,000 young children.
Today Joanna continues to support performing arts as a Board member of the Playright Children’s Play Association, and the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and the Hotung Mills Foundation has just run the 7th annual London School of Music Speech Festival in which more than 1600 kids aged 3-12 years competed in a range of categories such as verse, prose and public speaking.
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Cristy Almeida: Welcome to the Bizibuz webinar on how to improve the presentation skills of your child. My name’s Cristy, I’m the founder of Bizibuz. Presentation skills and the need to communicate effectively are vital to succeeding in almost all careers, in impressing during job interviews & school interviews, and are often part of school & university examinations. And the corollary is also true – not working to improve your child’s presentation skills may leave them feeling humiliated & embarrassed if they can’t deal with the stress of public speaking when needed.
Before we dive in, I’d like to poll parents to understand which age group we should focus on – pre-primary, primary, secondary and also given the tips for presentation skills in different languages may differ, pls let us know whether your child attends the local school system or an ESF/international school. Click on the triangle/circle/square icon on the bottom right to see the polls.
No one has put a message in chat so can we assume that only a small amount of Cantonese supplement is required and people are comfortable with English. In terms of the votes, it looks like primary is the most relevant Joanna, with pre-primary second and secondary third, but there are parents with kids of all ages here. And we've got many more parents with children in the local school system relative to the international or ESF school system. So with that, I would like to, to turn it over to Joanna. Joanna, could you lead us through what are the basic building blocks of presentation skills?
Joanna Hotung: Hi everybody. Great to be here. Really nice to see all of you especially on a public holiday. Really, we should appreciate all these things that we do for our children, right? I'm just going to share my deck. There will be a chance to ask questions later but feel free to post any message or questions in the chat area as we go. It would be great to have some interaction in terms of how we think it's best to support all of our children with presentation skills.
So the biggest takeaway that I would really like for everyone to have today is that communication and by definition, presentation skills, is really an everyday life skill. It's not something that we just switch on when we need to use it or when we have an event where we need to present ourselves properly. Communication and presentation skills are fundamental life skills. I'm going to be talking about that through the whole presentation because I think it's just as important as many of the other things that your child will have to learn as they grow up, and this is something that if they learn it young, it's so much easier for them and so much more natural for them to do as they grow older.
The other important takeaway is that I would like you to recognize your child for who they are. You don't have to be an outgoing loud noisy person to be a good presenter. If your child is quiet, introverted and would rather play by themselves, that’s fine. It's not about the personality but it's about how you can still present yourself effectively. You can still remain true to yourself, you can still be who you are, you don't have to change your personality or your character or anything like that, but you can still be a very effective presenter. You can stay natural and it's something that you can grow up with without being afraid of situations where you have to give public presentations.
I also just want to remind all of us that we tend to fall into a trap of thinking that presentation skills means being a good speaker. We tend to focus on being a good speaker and whatever that means, having nice pronunciation, good diction, articulation of words. Speaking is particularly important in communication and presentation, but the other three skills of thinking, listening and non-verbal skills are just as important.
For example, thinking is very important because when you're speaking, you should be thinking about what you're trying to convey. You have to know how to read the room. You have to get signals from other people as to whether they're listening to you or not. Why are they listening to you? Why are they not listening?
Non-verbal is also important and that covers the things that we don't say. These could be a body gestures, our facial expressions, it could be smiling, it could be frowning, it could be the way we use our hands. I feel like I can't talk without my hands. You'll probably see my hands waving around. It's just a part of who I am when I speak. Non-verbal communication helps you to make connections with other people which is a whole point of communication. So these are the overriding foundational areas that I'd like to build upon in this talk.
Cristy Almeida: Joanna would you say the emphasis on these four different communication skills you have on the slide differ depending on whether we're talking about a monologue style presentation, where a child is presenting to a group versus say something that tends to be much more interactive like a one-on-one interview.
Joanna Hotung: I think all four skills are involved in every kind of presentation. Obviously if you're speaking to one person or you're speaking to 500 people in a huge seminar, there’s a different way of communicating, but actually the fundamentals are still the same. If you're talking to one person, you really want to make a connection with that one person. But if you're talking to 500 people, you also want to connect with 500 people. You don't just want to resonate or talk to one or two people in that room. You want to connect with all 500. So how do you do that? You use all of these four skills. And of course, you might prepare the content differently. But all of these are just as important.
I mentioned earlier that it's very important to know who you are, what your personality is like and also to behave naturally. If you're giving a really important presentation to very important people, and there's lots of people there, you will connect much more effectively if they can see who you are, if they can see who you are as a person. They are more likely to remember you and they will remember your words. And all of these four skills make up who we are, which is equally important.
Joanna Hotung: The next slide outlines why presentation skills are important. I think as parents we can look at these and we probably agree on all of these. The main point of presenting and communicating is to make connections with other people, that's really important.
Teamwork has become increasingly important now. In most schools a lot of projects are done in teams. When we go to work, a large part of our work is done through collaborative teamwork. And there is much less emphasis on individual people having to come up with all of the answers. That is just not the way that workplaces behave anymore.
When we talk about leadership, there’s now a different kind of leadership than perhaps some of us grew up with. It's not the leadership where the boss knows everything and tells everybody what to do. It’s leadership where individuals supervise different projects and have leadership skills to motivate people rather than just organizing and instructing. So leadership is a critical skill.
Empathy is also a wonderful thing to instill in our children. Understanding how other people are feeling and responding accordingly. It's important in life, it’s important in our families, and our personal relationships, but it's also important at work and at school.
We all know where the world is going. Many of us here use chat GPT. It’s here to stay along with all of the other AI platforms that are blossoming all around. We can't fight these. And they can be incredibly useful to our children. At school, even in university, and for us at work, they can be very useful. But we as humans must differentiate ourselves. The world does not need more humans who behave like robots right? The world needs humans, who behave like humans and use human skills and communication. I think communication is a foundational human skill that will enable us to move forward more successfully.
So how can my child develop presentation ability? I've structured this slide so that we can match things that children can do and things that parents should allow them to do or encourage them to do.
So the first one I've put is to speak up and what parents can do is to allow children to speak. Don't anticipate their every wish. I remember when my children were young, they wanted to do things by themselves, but it was so frustrating watching them. If they wanted to put on their own shoes, but we were in a hurry to leave the apartment, watching them was frustrating because it took so much time and they put it on the wrong foot. They, the child, is completely fine. They are engaged in the activity, but it's the parent who's like, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. And then we do it for them.
It's the same thing with allowing our children to speak. We don't have to anticipate everything. I noticed for example a lot of parents are always checking if their child needs to drink water or checking if their child is cold or hot. Put on your jacket, take off your jacket. We don't need to do that. If our child is thirsty, they can tell us. If our child is cold, they can tell us. They can ask for things. They can learn to speak up for themselves. They are individual human beings. So I start with that message because, you know, I'm a parent too. We tend to just try and smooth things along, make things easier, make things faster. But we are not allowing our children the opportunity to speak and communicate for themselves. We as parents need to learn patience. It's difficult to be patient. And we also need to listen actively. Sometimes they don't have the vocabulary and we don't really know what they need. But we have to allow them to try and express that need and then we support them when they need us to. We should not anticipate everything.
I said at the beginning, that communication is a life skill. We shouldn't treat communication as something that we just prepare for sometimes when we need to. We should create an environment where it's all about communication. And of course, the environment has to start with our family, our home. Later it will be at school. It will be at kindergarten and primary school and secondary school, and it will be the wide world, but our families and our homes are really important.
So how do we get our children to speak? To listen? To think? And give us the nonverbal cues? We should encourage them to tell stories and jokes. Let's have fun. How does your child tell stories? By hearing us read them stories. Encourage them to play word games. Children love games, they want to play them all the time. It's sometimes really annoying for us as parents because the child wants to read the same book again and again. We can play games and puzzles. Word games are fantastic. Let them draw their ideas. How do children think? They think through drawing and talking and all sorts of ways so offer them multiple mediums to explore. It's not bad to give your child an iPad. It's not a bad thing to do as long as you know why you're doing it, but also give your child paper and crayons and pencils and all sorts of things. Let them explore role play. Children love to play. Don costumes to help them to role play whoever they want to be.
We can ask our children open-ended questions. An open-ended question is a question that does not end with yes or no. And encourage them to reply. Instead of saying, shall we go to the park? Because the answer to shall we go to the park is yes or no. Instead, say to your child, what would you like to do? You can give them some options - we could go to the park, we could go to the playground, but allow them to answer you.
And of course, practice. When I talk about practice, I don't mean piano practice where you sit down for half an hour and you practice how to communicate. I don't mean that at all. I mean, practice through all of these different activities that we list here. And practice should be an ongoing activity that your child should be exposed to. Also when they're practicing don't criticize them. Don't tell them to pronounce this properly or fix their grammar or it really is very discouraging. Even if what they're saying is very long-winded and just going on and on, and you really can't understand half of what they're saying, it's fine. They’re figuring it out, they're working it out in their own heads, so allow them to do that.
Cristy: Joanna, could we talk a little bit more about telling stories and jokes because I feel like these are two of my favorite tools in terms of making a presentation or a communication more engaging. I feel they just really enhance that connection that you can build with your audience. I recently read a book by a guy called Mitch Earlywine. He is this really interesting combination of a psychologist and a stand-up comic. His book is called Learning to Be Funny. His takeaway is that there's a psychology to humor and you can teach kids and adults to be funny. And I think it's a great tension breaker and it’s a really good way to win over an audience. Do you have any good advice for teaching kids how to be funny or how to tell better stories?
Joanna Hotung: So the easiest way to teach jokes is to start with one that’s repetitive. For example, the knock knock jokes. It always follows the same pattern. Another repetitive joke is why did the chicken cross the road? That's a repetitive joke and there are multiple answers. The thing that's important with children is that their answer doesn't actually have to be funny in the way that we adults think. It just has to be funny to them. So you could ask your child to come up with the answer to why did the chicken cross the road. Your child might say because they wanted to go to McDonald's. Great. The child will laugh because to them, that's meaningful. I'm talking about younger children here. They will put their own ideas into these jokes and that's really creative as well. For the parental point of view, the thing to do is to laugh because it is funny, because they made that up by themselves. It is genuinely fun, it’s not being fake to laugh. But then, as they get older and the children really understand the point of a joke, they understand a pun or they understand the current events that might be related to that, they have these tools that are at their disposal and they're thinking by themselves.
Cristy Almeida: Okay got it. I think young kids are often really fascinated with humor because of the connection and the response they get from people when they tell a joke. I've actually bought my kids little joke books. Books that contain jokes and have tips on how to deliver jokes. And the other thing we do is I'll say, ok you've practiced it on Daddy, how about you go and practice that same joke on someone else to see if they can get even more of a responsive, an even bigger laugh.
Joanna Hotung: And don't forget a lot of a lot of joking is visual. Why do children love to look at and go to parties where they have clowns and people doing silly things. I mean, that are slipping on a banana peel, making silly gestures and pulling faces. It's very visual but it's funny. It's funny for children and it's the nonverbal communication that's going on there and that gets the children to laugh.
So I’m going to talk about younger children first and then later I'll move to talking about older children. How can my young child get started? I truly believe that as soon as a child is born, they're already communicating, or they're trying to and we're trying to communicate with them. So it really is a case of starting as young as you possibly can. These are some of the techniques and things that we can do as parents with young children to make them comfortable with language, to make them comfortable sharing their language with other people, inside the family and outside of the family.
Telling repetitive stories. Young children love repetition. They love to hear the same story over and over again. It makes them feel safe. It makes them feel happy. They are interested. They don't get bored. They love to know what comes next. The first time you read them the story they won't know what comes next. But the second time they will know what the second little pig does and what the third little pig does, and they will love it because they will feel proud that they know what's coming next. But it's not just about the story. What you are teaching is structure. You are teaching a beginning, middle and an end. You are teaching that something happens at the beginning and then something else happens and then there's a conclusion. So that's really important. It’s a skill for children to learn and they can learn it very early.
Talk about things that are important to them. Things that they enjoy such as their favorite toys or books, or pets or other people. They can talk about their grandma, they can talk about auntie. A lot of schools have introduced show and tell, and it’s a great activity where the child can bring something and talk about it. And there's usually a structure. Again the structure is important. They usually follow a list of questions. Today I brought this and this is what it is and who gave it to me and what it can do and why do I like it. Something like that. And again, it's easy for them to follow the structure. They're talking about an object they know and that they love so the content is actually easier for them to think of.
There are other important things we can do with young children. Allow them to use whatever toys or props or visuals they like. Allow them to dress up. Allow them to wear funny glasses. Allow them to wear a hat. It's all part of them understanding how they can present themselves in different ways. And that is using imagination. Don't tell your child that's silly or that doesn't make sense. Don't worry that they can't tell the difference between make believe and what's real. It's fine. They can talk about princesses and they can talk about their sister in the same sentence, and it's completely fine. The point is that they are thinking, they are talking and they are communicating.
I talk about patience a lot because I think that's a difficult one for parents. Try and really listen to them. Try and support them as a good audience member. It requires patience but it also teaches them how to be a good audience member as well. To listen to you and listen to other people when other people are communicating. Show them you are listening by asking questions. And when you listen, don't listen while looking on your phone because they will know. They will know that you're not listening. And again, it's very difficult. Try when you're listening, to actually listen to what they're saying and ask relevant questions rather than just going mm, yes. And give good feedback. Support them. Say that was fantastic. I love the way that you said that. Because that's what makes them want to do it again.
Cristy Almeida: I was wondering if nonverbal skills are more challenging for young kids. Not fidgeting, making eye contact. I found when my kids were young (they're now nine and eleven) that they would just refuse to look at the people they were speaking to. How much emphasis should there be for young kids on the non-verbal side of communication? Or is that something for older kids?
Joanna Hotung: I think with young kids, it's really important to recognize that when you give them instructions, they don't necessarily hear them in the way that we say them. If you say to a young child, you have to look at people when you talk to them, it may not resonate with them. You have to think of a way to deliver that message. All children are different. But for example, you might say to a child, who are you telling this story to. It's an open-ended question. Make them think about it. And then they might say, I'm telling the story to you. You go, fantastic. I really want to hear your story. But when you tell your story to me, you have to look at me. Otherwise I don't know that you're telling the story to me right? So you turn it into a scenario that they understand and that they can connect with. Then they go, oh ok, Mummy doesn't know I'm telling her the story. Then they internalize that much more. Whereas delivering that message in another way can come across as nagging and no one responds well to nagging. It’s just not as effective. So it requires us to be a little bit more creative and think about how can I explain this to a three-year-old or a four year old or a six year old, that makes them understand it.
Cristy Almeida: I've also had some success with my kids by saying it's about being polite. If you're saying something to someone else, they won't know that you're talking to them if you're looking down at your feet. And even more than that, it's viewed as rude. So we try to explain it that way to make it a little bit more of an etiquette point. Do you think that works?
Joanna Hotung: I one hundred per cent agree with you about the good manners. I'm going to talk about that later. It doesn't always work because sometimes they just don't want to have good manners because it's not fun or interesting to them. However, if they have this story in them that they want to tell you, they are intrinsically wanting to communicate this to you. So the good manners approach can sometimes sound a little bit more like a lecture rather than making them want to do it.
Cristy Almeida: Just a quick reminder. We do want this to be interactive so if anyone has any questions at any point, you can go to the chat area and put any questions that you have there. We can either address them as we go or at the end. Joanna, over to you.
Joanna Hotung: So a lot of the time, we're worried because our child is shy or quiet or doesn't speak up. It's something that concerns us because we feel like our child really should be speaking up more. And this is something that I feel quite strongly about. This word “shy”. I believe that communication should be a family rule. I don't think it should be optional. I think that strong communication in a family, should be something like brushing your teeth. It's non-negotiable. You have to brush your teeth. Whether you like it or not, you have to brush your teeth.
Cristy Almeida: On this point, we have some rules in our household that might be a good example here. For example, at mealtimes, we make sure that adults don't have electronics for a start and then, secondly, we require the kids to communicate. I know this can be difficult when children are really young because you're just focused on getting the food in the mouth. But when our kids got a little older, we would ask them at least one question and have them answer rather than meal times just being about a conversation amongst the adults. So we really encourage our kids to talk at the table.
The other thing that we do is when we go out for meals, we require our kids to place their own order with the waiter and waitress. Now they're nine and eleven years old and we've been doing it for a couple of years. Initially, it did not come naturally so it was something that we just had to do again and again. Initially they were really shy and didn't want to speak up. But we would say, if you want a tissue or you want a glass of water, then you have to ask yourself. We would refuse to order it for them so it just became expected by them they if they wanted something, hey would have to ask for it. So I agree. I think if you can build it into your normal family routines, it just becomes very natural and very expected.
Joanna Hotung: This is exactly my point. I do notice a lot of parents make excuses for their children's behavior by using the word shy. For example, we may ask our children to greet a friend you bump into in the street. We say to our child, say hello to Auntie. Then you know, a lot of children don't want to do it. They shrink away and often parents may feel embarrassed. Sometimes our children do not do what we want them to do which may be embarrassing. Then parents make an excuse. They say, oh my child is shy. Now I think that's a big mistake, especially if you say it in front of the child because you're giving your child an excuse not to have to communicate.
Then they tag on to that and they know that you will always rescue them when they don't want to communicate. And I think that is a mistake because as Cristy mentioned you need to set up your family rules for communication much like you must brush your teeth. I believe that a rule can be if someone greets you, you must greet them back. Of course sometimes you know you pick and choose to enforce but it is still a rule. So that is the foundation. If you can get your child to always greet people, whether they feel in the mood or not, that's a huge step. Then you can have other rules at home. No phones is a great ideal. It's not always possible. One thing you can do is you can talk to each other when you eat. Or if you can't eat together because of work schedules or whatever, then you find another time just before bed to communicate. I used to do with my children and we called it, Thorns and Roses. It's just one good thing that happened today and one bad thing that happened. That's all you start with for everyone. Go around the table. And it's great because it helps the child to think and we all need to think. But parents you must play too. So if your child says, one good thing was I got a good mark on my maths test. Great. Bad thing was I fought with my friend at school. So these are the things that the child speaking about and you can discuss them after the child has spoken. Praise the child or you can ask for more details. What was the argument about? This is how you develop the conversation but as an adult, when it comes to your turn, you share and you share the reality of your day. I had a really nice lunch with my friends but the bad thing was that I got some bad news about something at work. You don’t have to share inappropriate information depending on the age of the child but do share to have them understand your life as well. It's good for all sorts of reasons.
The key thing here is don't make excuses for your child and expect them to have good communication. And don't ask them to communicate. If you ask them to do something they may say no, or they may argue with you, or fight with you. Just create an expectation. I expect you to brush your teeth every night. I know you don't feel like doing it tonight, but there's no point arguing because you're going to have to do it anyway. Right? So just brush your teeth. Do exactly the same thing with communication. I expect you to greet people. I expect you to answer when someone asks you a question. If you can teach your child that when they're young, they may not like it and you may find it quite difficult, but it's such a gift that you give your child for the future because it becomes a habit. So I really emphasize this point and that’s the main message from this slide.
Cristy Almeida: I have another question. Let's say you have a really shy child and you really want them to develop presentation skills. Would you recommend enrolling them in a debating class or signing them up for a speech festival if they are really scared of public speaking. You know they'll fight you on it and they won't be happy. How would you handle that?
Joanna Hotung: So first of all, being shy is completely fine. It's not bad to be shy. We don't want a child to feel bad because they are quiet. So how do we help them? We're still building an expectation that the child has to communicate. So I think the best way to do that is to put them in situations where they do feel uncomfortable. And yes, it may be enrolling them at a learning center, but of course, you need to pick the right learning center for your child, who really understands your child. It might be enrolling them in other things that perhaps we don't think of in terms of communication. For example, enroll them in sports. Enroll them in activities that are fun where maybe the end goal is not just talk. The end goal may be to play football or do gymnastics or something, but it's still very important because it's getting them out. It's helping them to develop a skill outside of themselves, to interact with other people, and to get them to advocate for themselves. I do believe that's really important. The more exposure possible for a shy child is really important. I was a very, very shy child.
Cristy Almeida: I was as well. And look at us now!
Joanna Hotung: Yes now we can't stop talking. So I was a very shy child but I had parents who insisted on putting me out there so that I would feel uncomfortable. And I resisted at times. I love reading. I just wanted to stay at home and read my book but they recognized that it was so important to be able to communicate, so they helped me to overcome that resistance through various ways.
Cristy Almeida: The way my parents did it with me was that I learned a musical instrument. As part of that, we had eisteddfods, we had lots of performance that we had to do. And as a shy child, I really didn't enjoy it when I was that age. I found it very difficult because you’re having that physiological response where you don't have steady hands and you can't breathe properly. All of those really uncomfortable physical experiences made it really difficult to play music. But it definitely taught me to get more comfortable with that discomfort. And I do think that in the long run it helped me enormously. And now I do a lot of music performance. It's a non-event for me in the discomfort sense.
Joanna Hotung: Yes absolutely. On an earlier slide I talk about being mindful. One of the core concepts of mindfulness, which is incredibly helpful for children and adults, is to label the feeling that you are feeling. Label the emotion that you are feeling and recognize it. Say to your child, I know you feel really nervous or ask your child to name it. How do you feel right now? I feel really scared. It's fine. You're scared. Name it. It's okay. Mummy feels scared too a lot of times. Daddy also feels scared and your teacher feels scared. Everyone feels scared sometimes or nervous, and by labeling it immediately helps because you're packaging it. It's not just this out of control feeling. With very young children, the reason they have tantrums is because they can't control their feelings? The feelings have really overwhelmed them. So if you can help your child to have self-control with their feelings and to recognize this is just a feeling, everyone has this feeling and I'm naming it. It makes them feel it's okay and they can handle this. Later, I'll talk about a couple of physiological ways to help yourself as well if you're feeling nervous.
Cristy Almeida: We have a question in the chat area. It's about a 3.8 year old girl who's observant but she's not good at talking to strangers. The parents have been encouraging her to say hello for two years now to her teacher who she likes and also to security guards. These are probably people that she sees quite frequently and still she doesn't really like doing it. What else could they do to help the child?
Joanna Hotung: My question to you would be, what would you do if you had exactly the same situation but she refuses to brush her teeth? I recognize this because this is a very common problem and I'm definitely not saying this is easy, but I would just ask you, what would you do if your child refuses to brush her teeth every evening? Whatever you would do about that, I believe you should apply the same principle to this. It seems you're encouraging her to do this but then you're allowing her not to. So maybe it's time to have more reinforcement and consequences.
Cristy Almeida: For example, maybe the parents could go with the child to speak to the security guard or greet them and not leave until the child says something?
Joanna Hotung: It's obviously a very difficult situation because the child has got into the habit of not having to do it. It's now been 2 years, so we have to break a habit. So breaking a habit is quite difficult and I know I sound harsh when I say there has to be a consequences. But maybe you need to think of a different strategy that does involve you going to speak to the security guard. You can prepare her and say it's really important that you speak to people. It's not okay that you don't speak to people and then there may have to be a consequence if she doesn't do it.
I'm going move to older children now. Again the fundamentals are the same as for younger children. We're reinforcing communication, we're reinforcing not making excuses for the child, and we’re reinforcing good manners. At this age this is where as a parent you really should be starting to challenge your child in their thinking. Ask them what they believe. What do they think about A or B? Which one do they like better? And why do you like it better? Help them to start to think for themselves and articulate what they believe in and what they think. Most of what they believe in and what they think will come from you as parents. They will also be learning a lot of new things at school, hearing things from their friends and their peers and so they will have information coming in from everywhere. And we should help them to sort that information and to discuss things. Do you think it's a good idea to be a vegetarian? Why, why not? This is the time for them to start thinking these things through. And you keep challenging them. Keep asking them if they say, yes, you know, it's it's bad to eat meat because I don't want to kill animals, then you might say, but you know there is a lot of protein in meat. How would we get our protein? You can talk to children in ways that are beyond what we think they can understand. This is the time where they are developing their personalities, their character and the things they can talk about. We don't want to have children who have nothing to say. Children should have opinions.
There is also evidence that mindfulness is especially as children become teenagers. I mean it's really tricky right? There are so many feelings, so many things happening to them. This is also the time to give specific and honest feedback but we need to make them feel secure. We need to make them feel loved. We need them to know that we will are there for them, whatever happens. But they need honesty from us as parents. So if they do something wrong, they need to know it's wrong. If they deliver a presentation that wasn't very good, don't say it was amazing. Say well done, you tried your best, but let's also talk about what it is that you think was not so good because then we can work on that and we can improve it for the future. Be specific. Don't be general.
Cristy Almeida: I have a question here. My daughter is an avid reader which is a great thing, but it does make her really tied to the visual phonetics of words and I find that her pronunciation is terrible. She mispronounces very common words wrong like stom”itch” instead of “stomach”, uncomfortable instead of uncomfortable. I got so many examples. And I don't really know how to improve her pronunciation. Admittedly, it's not helped by the fact that my husband and my son think it's really funny to adopt these mispronunciations into their vernacular. So they repeat these mispronunciations and they become part of our family vocab so then she just gets even more confused. And I'm constantly trying to correct her. Should I be doing this or should I not be overcritical of these things. How do you even go about teaching a child pronunciation for example?
Joanna Hotung: I love this because there's a phrase out there, that you can tell a reader by the way that they don't know how to pronounce the words. And I really like that. So when I was talking about not correcting grammar and pronunciation, that was more for younger children. When they get older, now is the time to be pulling them up on it. I mean you don't want to be annoying and nitpick on everything, but now is the time. if they say it at school or in front of a friend and that friend makes fun of them, they will never forget again right? As they go out into the world and start doing these things, you can't protect them from everyone outside. Some people are going to criticize them. If she's doing a talk and she says a few words incorrectly, I wouldn't interrupt as she’s talking, but I would keep track of those words. Then at the end of it you can say, that was so good. I really loved that part about this, and that section there was really funny, but you know maybe that other section was a bit too long and oh by the way, you don’t pronounce stomach, stom”itch”.
The other really important thing here is, do not compare your child to others. How hard is that? Very hard, we can't help it. Oh my gosh, when your child is five and everyone else can read and your child can't read and you think, what's wrong with my kid? There is absolutely nothing wrong with your child, they just weren’t programmed to read at five. Children don't compare themselves to others until a much older age that we think. They just don't notice. This is why children can make friends with any ethnicity, with disabled children. They don't notice these things right? But as adults, we zero in on comparison. We do it for ourselves as adults, but we do it for our kids as well. Try not to express that to your child. Try not to say, oh look at so and so, they're so good. They speak so clearly. Just help your child be the best they can be themselves and develop their own ability. They will later start to figure out for themselves how to benchmark themselves against other kids.
There's this really interesting phenomenon in speech festivals where it's sort of lucky draw as to what order you speak. You can be first, last or somewhere in the middle. And sometimes kids love to be first because then they can just get it out the way, they can relax and they don't have to be nervous for the whole event. Other kids like to go last because they like to watch the other kids, see what they do and learn from them. But that requires a level of self-analysis that only an older child and a more mature child is capable of. And actually it can be confusing because sometimes children will look at what other children do, for example using gestures and then they think, maybe I should be waving my arms around too. This comes down to good training though right? These are the things we need to help our children with, to believe in themselves, so they don't just follow and copy other people. I have said “don't compare”, but I have also put identify role models. By that I mean people like a news presenter for example.
I'm just going to move through these points quickly. How should my child prepare for an event? So we've talked generally about creating an environment for your child to be a strong communicator and a good presenter. Now let's talk about specific events. When do we need to present? At interviews, speech festivals, exams. These are the kinds of events where you must perform in a certain way. So how do you help your child prepare? Discuss the assignment. What is it? Is it a competition? Will there be lots of people in the room? Do you have to memorize the piece or do you have to read the piece? Or are you going to present it from cue cards? Or are you just going to talk to someone in a chat style? Will there be an activity involved? So just make sure you understand the assignment. But don't make it into a huge deal. Just talk about it over dinner. Make it part of your normal conversation. Talk about your child's feelings. Your chlid may not care about it. You as a parent probably feel worried because you think, oh my gosh, my child doesn't care so they are not going to prepare properly. You might want to make it clear well there will be some people watching you so maybe you should think a bit more about how you do this. Or if a child is very nervous about it, talk to them about their feelings and how they can perhaps not be so nervous about it. May be do more preparation.
I don't know how many of the parents here have had their children involved in a speech festival. The Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival is coming up in November, December. I just want to make this point because people often make this mistake. There is a category called prose, which means memorizing a passage from a book, and there's a category called reading aloud, which is reading a passage from a book. They are two different categories because they are two completely different skills. A newsreader is reading the news, they haven’t memorized the news. It’s a very particular skill set to read, but also to look up at the audience at times and to still engage with them. I'm just making this point because it's a common mistake and that's what I mean by understand the assignment.
Other steps to take include preparing in advance, practicing and role play connection with the audience. Also as parents we should give a lot of encouragement, but please don't put your stress into your child. Don't put your desire to win into your child. Don't put your fear of public speaking into your child. Children are so sensitive to us. They know how we're feeling right? So just try and let your child be who they are. They're not an extension of you. The other thing I think is important is learning to live with discomfort. Learning to feel uncomfortable but knowing that it's okay. So obviously many of us adults included would rather not do public speaking. It makes us feel uncomfortable. And no human wants to be uncomfortable. But if you can get used to that feeling and if your child can get used to that feeling, I know that they can overcome it. Every time they do something like this, it gets easier. It really does. It just gets easier and it becomes a good habit for them. And discomfort can come from different ways. It could be from joining a sports team, it could be doing a speech, it could be many things but for a child to learn to overcome this, will set them up for future success later on.
Cristy Almeida: When a child is preparing for an event and it may be the first one that they've really encountered, sometimes it’s difficult for them to understand just how uncomfortable those feelings will be when they eventually get up on stage. They may just not be able imagine feeling really nervous and not understand needing to prepare for that panic state. If you're the parent watching that child, and when it comes to presenting and they’re suddenly experiencing these really intense feelings of discomfort as they’re about to go on stage, what do you say to them in that overwhelming moment?
Joanna Hotung: There's nothing worse than going into something unprepared. I mean, if you feel nervous and you're unprepared, then it's the worst feeling in the world and it’s because you have something to be nervous about it. So I really would be prepared. Help your child do the whatever preparation is required, whether it's memorization and practice. Speak in front of Mummy and Daddy, but also speak in front of Grandma, and Grandpa, speak in front of a friend. Spread that circle wider. If you're doing a talk and you're an older child, practice with your cue cards. Practice with your props if you have them. And again practice with someone outside of Mom and Dad because that will give you that sense of having to step up a bit.
At a speech festival, there are some children who have prepared, they've memorized everything, they've had classes, they've told the poem to multiple people. And then suddenly when they get to the venue and get up to the front, they can't speak. In that situation, if truly the child can't perform, the best thing to do is don’t force them to stand there for a long time. There is a judgment call there where you want to encourage them to do it. But if they really just can't, remove them from the stage. It's fine. We all have to learn about failure. Now I hate that word “failure”, whatever we call freezing. But the lesson that they will learn then as a child is much better than learning it as an adult in in a formal work presentation. That's why it's good to do these events. That's why it's good to put your child out there. But sometimes it's not going to work for your child at that particular time, and that's when they need a whole lot of love and hugs and attention and praise for even having had the guts to go up there. It's not the time for our emotions to take over, we really have to learn to control ourselves. It's not about us. It's about the child and their experience. When your child falls off a horse, you want your child to get back on the horse, right? Because you don't want them to be scared of riding a horse. This is the same thing. It's completely fine. You have to make them recognize that failure happens to everybody. I can tell you it happens a lot. At the Speech Festival a lot of three-year-olds stand up and they can't remember anything. But hopefully they'll come back the next year when they're four and they'll do better because they’ve had that experience of having done it before. So the preparation is really important.
Taking a breath before you speak. Trust me, that's such a good thing to do. It calms you down physiologically. It slows down the adrenaline production. Also make sure you know what you're going to say first. Even if it's just “hello everybody”. Also say your first words immediately. As soon as you open your mouth and speak, you'll feel better. It really does work. And then also be natural. You don't have to be a different person to do a presentation. You don't have to behave in a different strange way. But it's difficult for children right? I mean, what does being natural mean for them? It just means being yourself and try to look at different people. Tell them the story, tell them the poem. Make a connection with them. Keep the sentences short. If you memorized a difficult prose, there may be some long words, but the fact you’ve memorized it will help. But if you're creating a presentation of your own, use simple words and short sentences to get through to the audience.
I keep talking about being natural and I just want to make one more point because parents often ask me about gesture.When you're presenting, should you use gesture or should you not use gesture? Gesture is wonderful when it's natural but it's very distracting when it's fake. If I'm talking and I use my hands, it’s natural for me because that's how I talk. If I'm expressing myself in a certain way and I'm quite angry about something, I tend to clench my fist and it's natural. And that’s wonderful because it adds to the colour and the value of the presentation. What is not good is when you add fake actions to words thinking that it adds to your performance. Every examination board, every speech festival, every communication authority that I have ever been connected with (and I've been connected with a lot of them), do not want a child to fake gesture. For example, if you're talking about a sad poem and the child is fake crying, it's so distracting. But if the child looks really sad because they're talking about a poem about pain and loss, then it looks like they really understood the work and connected with the meaning. And that is perfect gesture. It is sharing the connection with the audience. So the best nonverbal cues are gestures that are natural.
Cristy Almeida: Joanna, we’re on your last slide. What are your top tips for kids that you’d like people to take away?
Joanna Hotung: Make communication and presentation an every day event. It's not for special events. Communicate everywhere. Incorporate it into your roles at home, your conversations around the dinner table, on the bus, wherever you go. Increasingly the world is has become a place where we need to speak up to be heard and for people to notice us. It's very difficult now to be a very quiet person who just does our own thing. That's just not the way the world is these days. But as I say, you don't need to change your personality. You can be a naturally quiet person, but you need to know when to communicate and how to communicate.
Remember to listen. That's more of a message for us. Try to give our children the benefit of our time and listen to them and what they're trying to communicate to us rather than telling them what we think they should be saying. Allow them to speak and listen to them.
Get used to feeling a bit uncomfortable. We as parents can demonstrate that right? We are our children’s role models. You know, I don't want to jump into a cold swimming pool. That makes me very uncomfortable. But maybe that's something that I can do to show my child this is something I’d rather not to, but it’s Ok and I’m going to do that. And then I'm proud of myself for doing it. You should find your own examples of things to do within your family based on your rules, your lifestyle that demonstrate it’s OK to feel uncomfortable at times. I feel very strongly that if you can create this environment, then your child will naturally evolve into a strong, confident communicator and presenter.
Cristy Almeida: We have a question from Rosita. She asks how will AI affect our children's communication skills?
Joanna Hotung: This is such a great question and of course, nobody knows for certain. But I think the good thing about AI is that if we use it correctly, it will do a lot of the boring tasks for us such as writing contracts and documents. So where do the humans come in? Humans are still needed to analyze the information and decide if it’s true or false. We still need to solve the problems. We may have the information much more easily at our fingertips, but how we use it and apply that information is going to be important. And to apply the information, we’ll still work in teams. We work in teams in most schools. And to be a good team member, you have to have something to offer. You can't be that quiet person that just sits there and doesn't do anything. And even universities now have participation requirements in the US and other countries. So back to the AI point, it's all the human skills that we bring that will still be so important including the way we interpret the information and how we communicate with each other.
Cristy Almeida: As the CEO of a technology company, I have to say that the AI models that I've seen are only as good as the information that's being fed to them. When you test some of these models, what is really interesting is they have no ability to be able to differentiate true from false data. I was trialing the Google equivalent of Chat GPT called Bard. I fed in a question, read the response and thought, that answer doesn't sound quite right to me. I then checked the date and found it was totally incorrect. The way these models currently work is if they don’t have an answer to a question, they will totally just make up a response. So I think the role of humans will continue to be exercising judgment and using subjectivity to interpret results. These contributions are not going to be diminished by AI anytime soon. So, actually I see even more of an emphasis on communication skills and higher order thinking, and less emphasis on just pure knowledge.
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Joanna, thank you so much for sharing your time, particularly on a public holiday. I hope everyone has found the webinar very informative and that your children directly benefit from this discussion. Thank you so much to everyone for joining.