Fear of public speaking — or glossophobia — is estimated to affect as many as 75 per cent of the population, making it one of the most common phobias around. In the world of work, the ability to stand up and present with confidence is a highly sought-after skill, and yet one that many people remain nervous about.
I regularly speak with business leaders across a variety of industries and time and time again they cite presentation skills as one of the key attributes for a valued employee. But with such a large number of people afraid of public speaking, how can we nurture the next generation of workers to be confident in this discipline?
As with so many aspects of life, the earlier you can learn a skill, the more confident you will become over time. And presentation skills are no different. This is something that the International Baccalaureate (IB) system places huge importance on. This is why at Southbank International School children from as young as three all the way up to aged 19 are regularly tasked with presenting an idea, actions or research to their peers.
Whether it’s recounting an experience or presenting a particular concept, we ask our students to come up with the subject matter, prepare what they want to say, and then stand up and deliver their presentation in class, using whichever tools they choose to support their delivery.
“How can we nurture the next generation of workers to be confident in their presentation skills?”
The high expectations around presenting foster confidence in young people, as well as introducing them to independent and research-based learning, more akin to university than many UK schools.
Following each presentation, students are questioned and often given constructive feedback from their peers; they critique one another’s work and ideas, encouraging a sense of inquiry and enabling students to take on board other viewpoints and consider alternative perspectives. Not only does this encourage independent learning and inquiring minds, but crucially it builds strength and resilience – two vital attributes for succeeding in the real world.
Since the start of the global pandemic, employment across certain sectors has been shattered and the reality is that for many young people entering the workforce, finding a job in these uncertain times will be no easy feat. Make no mistake — competition is fierce and employers will be looking for standout candidates that can demonstrate determination and the confidence to stand up and deliver their point of view with conviction.
“Employment across certain sectors has been shattered and finding a job in these uncertain times will be no easy feat.”
With less emphasis on rigid external exams than the UK curriculum, the IB programme includes a series of presentations throughout the different grades, with the Primary Years Programme (3-11 years) and the Middle Years Programme (11-16) both culminating in a presentation of each student’s research topic.
Moreover, the Diploma Programme (16-19 years) concludes with external examinations, internal assessments and extended essays on the students’ research topics, further consolidating the skills in public speaking that they have developed throughout their school career.
We also encourage children in the Early Childhood Programme (3-5 years) to develop their presentation skills, instilling confidence from the outset while removing any early signs of phobia before they can take hold. They embark on tasks called Plan, Do, Review, that provide the building blocks from which students can further develop practical skills and grow in confidence in presenting to others. At the same time they nurture the resilience to take on board feedback and appreciate different perspectives from their own.
“If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that education based on rigid exams is not the best way to determine student success.”
In an increasingly globalised and richly diverse society, never has it been more important for young people to champion diversity and to respect other points of view.
The truth is, national rhetoric in the UK continues to focus on knowledge-based learning and academic success based on achieving the highest exam grades, accomplished in many cases through the short-term learning of facts and information.
And if events from the past two years have told us anything, it’s that education based on rigid exams is not the most effective means to determine student outcomes and success. Of far greater importance should be a focus on creativity, innovation and real skills for the working world, with the development of presentation-skills among the most important of all.