According to Education Week (www.edweek.org), having good oral communication skills is ranked at the top of lists of skills sought after by employers.

Public speaking is also ranked as a high anxiety experience for many people. How can we close this gap? Practice, practice, practice. In the book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell maintains that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

Jackson County 4-H offers children and youth many opportunities to get up in front of an audience. It might be a 12-year-old introducing himself and performing at the Mountain Youth Talent Contest. It might be a 7-year-old Cloverbud member standing up to lead the 4-H pledge. It might be a teenager presenting to her peers about why she is a good candidate for the role of treasurer in the Youth Leadership Council. Or, it may be an 11-year-old presenting at 4-H competition about the sinking of the Titanic.

These are all real scenarios. In 4-H we offer lots of opportunities to practice public speaking.

Do you know a child who could benefit from learning how to do a presentation? Public speaking is important in developing the next leaders. It helps increase self-esteem, self- confidence and the ability to accept feedback. Public speaking also helps youth learn skills for planning, preparation and performance. (University of California, 4-H Youth Development, Public Speaking)

Jackson County 4-H will host County Presentation Day on May 23 at 4:30 p.m. District Activity Day will be June 15 in McDowell County.

Prior to these dates we will work together to choose a presentation topic, discuss how to make the speech dynamic and informative, produce posters or a computer presentation to accompany the speech, discuss appropriate attire, and practice, practice, practice.

You do not need to be a current 4-H member to participate in the 4-H Presentation Program, and the competition is for children ages 8-18.

Younger children may participate but will receive participation ribbons rather than competition placement. Topic selection should be made as soon as possible so that youth can join the Presentation & Prep Workshop on April 25. This would be a great activity for an individual, a church youth group, a high school student who is building a resume for college applications or a homeschool student who wants to share knowledge with a larger group.

Contact Heather Gordon, 4-H agent, for more information or to participate at 586-4009 or heather_gordon@ncsu.edu.

Heather Gordon is extension agent, 4-H Youth Development, Jackson County Center, N.C. Cooperative Extension.