Starting kids on the path to public speaking mastery could be the secret to their success.
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There is an ongoing battle in my household.
My husband played division one sports at UCLA. I was a national competitor on the speech team in high school and college. We have two young kids. And though we are years away from anything beyond pee-wee soccer and “dance recitals,” the battle has begun. Will the kids play sports like dad? Or will they compete on the speech team like mom?
And while there is a good case to be made for both, there are specific qualities essential to entrepreneurship that gives “speech kids” a head start on everyone else.
Here are four reasons putting your kid on the speech team could be the secret to raising a successful entrepreneur and help build entrepreneurial muscles in a way athletes don’t.
1. Speech teaches kids how to handle feedback
In case you’re unfamiliar with the ins and outs of a speech meet, let me debrief you. Each season you develop a speech and then deliver it at a meet three different times in front of a judge and up to 10 fellow competitors. While you speak, the judge takes notes, the competition stares at you blankly and at the end of the round, the judge ranks you, hands you a piece of paper with their feedback and sends you on your way. Some judges go easy while others take pleasure in crushing the dreams of 16 year olds with criticism that would make NFL players weep.
Sheryl Sandberg recently said an individual’s ability to handle feedback is the most important factor she looks for to determine if someone can scale with a company. The speech team teaches you early on how to handle feedback, criticism and rejection–a skill extremely valuable for aspiring entrepreneurs.
2. Speech teaches what it really takes to build a brand
My coaches didn’t call it personal branding, but that’s what they were teaching us–more specifically that we were being judged, always. Not just while we were on stage, but from the moment the meet started to the moment we stepped on the bus to head home. The world is always watching.
I remember one horror story of a competitor bad-mouthing a judge in the bathroom, only to have the judge emerge from the stall next to her and then end up judging the girl again in the final round. It didn’t end well.
If you want to be a champion speaker, you had to be a champion person. Consistently excellent even when no one (appears to be) watching. That is a not an easy lesson to teach a child. Fortunately, the speech team will teach it for you.
3. Speaking as a second language
Research points to the value of learning a second language at a young age. The same logic applies to teaching kids to become comfortable with public speaking early in life. Presenting in high-stakes environments every weekend throughout high school and college desensitizes speech kids to the fear of public speaking. So when everyone else is sweating the next big presentation or pitch, these entrepreneurs are cool, calm and comfortable; a huge advantage.
I recently heard James Altucher say on a podcast that if you took any skill and added the ability to speak well in public, you could essentially create a successful career. The speech team will set kids up for early success.
4. Speech meets are all day Saturday…
… And parents aren’t really invited.
So if you yourself are an entrepreneur and wish you could sneak a few hours of work in on Saturday but you can’t because you’re running Johnny to baseball, Abby to soccer and Matthew to golf, keep this in mind:
Speech kids get dropped off at the bus at 6am and picked up at 8pm.
Of course, the “ongoing battle” in my home is all in good fun. As a parent, I will encourage whatever extracurricular activity my kids seem most interested in and will happily cheer from the stands.
Though I do remind my husband from time to time that while his playing days are done… I still do a lot of speaking.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.