Presented With An Opportunity

Presented With An Opportunity


“That’s the trouble with young people today”.

So begins a complaint heard all across the land…

“The trouble with young people today, is that they all want to be TV PRESENTERS”.

“Either that, or they want to be famous”.

I take a slightly different view. 

I think that all young people should want to be presenters.

Going further, I think that all young people should be presenters.

Madness?  Here’s my thinking;

Two weeks ago I was standing in a San Francisco hotel room, flicking through what seemed like several hundred TV channels.  My eye was drawn to PBS (the non-profit network), possibly in a misguided attempt to avoid the adverts.  Tuning in, I saw what I assumed to be a highly polished actor championing the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.  Blast, I thought.  An advert.  Our hero explained that Diabesity is coming to get us (and our little dog, too).  He was slick.  But he was an actor.  Wasn’t he? 

He wasn’t an actor.  He was a medical doctor.   And he was very, very good at presenting.

The thought niggled me the next day as I watched a series of British companies present their wares to a room full of Silicon Valley investors.  Every one of them had something fantastic to offer.   Every one of them saw their presenting skills improve, with practice, as the week went on.

Which brings me back to schools: We teach young people to read and write, with arithmetic thrown in for good measure.  We don’t, as far as I’m aware, teach them to speak.  If we do, we don’t go far enough. 

School pupils should be taught how to speak in public.  To pitch themselves and their ideas. If we don’t equip them with this basic ability, we are letting them down.  This shouldn’t be reserved for the few, as they blow the dust off the lectern during debating society.  It should be experienced by every pupil, in every class, in every school.  It may well require outside helpers to support the teachers and give constructive feedback.

What is the use of aspiring to be the most inventive nation on earth if we can’t communicate with the rest of the world?

Having visited dozens of schools and having had the most incredible conversations with hundreds of pupils, I’m worried. 

I’m worried that we’re turning into a stumbling, mumbling country,  too distracted to clarify our thoughts and too inhibited to share them.

Next time you hear someone say they want to be a TV presenter – see it as an opportunity.  Have a think about what a fantastic course would look like,  taking that ambition and turning it into something great.

All young people should be presenters.  Whether or not some of them make it in TV is another matter.


What do you think?  Have we got something to worry about?  What is already out there which develops public speaking skills in young people?  Please leave a comment, either anonymously, or in your own name.

15 Replies to “Presented With An Opportunity”

  1. Well Oli- I could not have put that better myself! I think the problem actually goes a little further than this. I think the problem is that people, particularly those starting businesses, find it hard to articulate themselves in general- both written and orally. I look at hundreds of funding applications each year, I go to many pitching events and talk to hundreds of young entrepreneurs each year. Seldom do I actually hear (or see) the entrepreneur give their business the presentation it deserves. This is a real shame- as there are so many businesses worth shouting about. I think most people start off petrified at the thought of speaking in front of people, but as people like you and I know- this one really does come with practice! You eventually get to the point where you love doing it.

    I am totally in agreement on this one, young people should be taking every opportunity to present and speak. There is no point having a killer business idea- and not being able to tell people about it and get them interested.

  2. Yes, agreed – all young people should be presenters! A way to express themselves, be it in person in front of an audience, their peers, strangers, or even digital presenters via social media (which might be somewhat counter to your entire point BUT, as “easy” as it may seem to present yourself in social media, the live persona should be able to speak clearly, coherently, and effectively!

    I ran a program that was like a mini Apprentice for youth in underserved communities- where no one gets fired and everyone gets hired (minus Branson or The Donald). We spent a solid 2 hours with one AMAZING coach on how to present. These students gained confidence, the concept of how to best organize a presentation, and opportunity to present. Check out some of the results – By providing a ‘safe’ environment to try, fail and succeed, with caring adults, and context, young people will grow and exceed expectations we might have for them.

  3. Completely agree Oli. I was terrified myself when first asked to present at University having never done any sort of presentation work at school (back in the 80s). That said I have been a teacher for 15 years and have had 2 other jobs in education that required me to present on a regular basis and it’s absolutely true that presentation skills improve with practise. My experience means that I am really keen to encourage my students to develop their presentation skills in the classroom although it can be difficult to find the time to do this well in the context of the curriculum. I really believe that it is a tremendous skill that we should be providi

  4. Oh no, didn’t finish! Anyway, as I was saying, a tremendous skill we should be providing all young people with and a fantastic confidence builder if they are provided with a ‘safe’ environment in which to practise. Presentation skills are highly valued for all young people – those who are academically able and those who are less academic and in my experience while many young people dread the prospect of presenting they would all like to be better at it and recognise it as a valuable and useful skill.

  5. Oli for Education Minister! We really need to look at what we teach young people and how we prepare them (or not) for life. As well as emphasising the importance of presenting skills (VITAL), we should think about teaching young people how to read balance sheet, how to be a good parent, how to be entrepreneurs, and how to have good relationships…

  6. Totally agree Oli. Presentation skills will be key in any line of work in the future, and already are in many cases. And presentation skills involve both being comfortable and articulate in front of an audience, as well as creating coherent narratives and supporting visuals/items.
    Have you followed the TEDx events for kids? Some of them have kids speaking, and kids curating the program.

  7. Lovely article Oli, pleasure to read and to be reminded of the importance and value of this skill. When I started out as a designer at The Partners, a creative agency based in London, every week I presented a ‘Book of the Week’ to the entire company. This nerve-wracking experience was the way I gained the confidence to present in front of peers, which I’ve always found (and still do) a much tougher gig than presenting to clients or strangers. The other good memory I have about this is that it gave me the opportunity to mix things up a bit and try different ways of doing things, some of which went well and some of which went very bad. So YES YES YES all young people should be presenters even if it’s as simple as recommending a book to look at or read; okay or a Blog!

  8. Maybe rather sweeping, having been in the presence of two teens last week who could out-present all of us..but ‘generally’ agree. Increasing neural pathways via ICT skills of this emerging generation has rather dumbed down the face to face talents. On the advice of one of the ‘said’ young people, we’re installing a Pitching Pod in newest hub to provide just the training you describe. Great observations as ever Oli – can’t better previous commentator who said ‘Oli for Education Minister’!

  9. Thank you for such thoughtful comments! Great to get your perspective from across the pond Julie, and yours as a teacher Nicki. Bruno, will certainly check out TedX for kids. Shed, Fay – on a positive note I have imagined for the first time the combined firepower of Easton-Simove as a political force! On the downside, I fear I may disappoint you on the political front… 🙂 Thanks Dom too, and Stu – let’s plot soon!

  10. Another great blog Oli…

    One of the critical factors when engaging young people in new skills is to place it in a context that resonates. Television presenting is an accessible and engaging way of helping young people become better communicators. We have been doing this since 2008 through SKILL!, using insight from TV presenters to help young people become better communicators. We even get young people into TV studios to reinforce the concept of effective presenting and its wider significance. It delivers quite remarkable results, and few gravitate towards a career in the media thereafter. Instead they recognise the importance of good communication in other environments.

    Crucially, employers are demanding strong communication and presentation skills from those coming into their organisations. So regardless of the method, we need to engage young people in the importance of effective communication as early as possible.

  11. We are so on the same page with this. I used to deliver for a company called The Speakers Trust who ran the largest speaking competition for young people in Europe. I have since gone on to include speaking and debating as part of the Leadership programme we offer to schools.

    it is amazing how inarticulate and lacking in confidence many young people are and to be honest so are many professionals. Definitely keeps me in work but the sad thing is that it shouldn’t be so.

    I have no problem with all young people wanting to be TV presenters, just as long as they know what it takes to be there. to be honest though with popular channels like charlieiscoollike and sbtv getting 100s of millions of hits on youtube, I can also understand why they want to be.

    Cracking post Oli!

  12. Hi Oli. I was that TV presenter for 13 years!
    It was terrifying at the beginning but it taught me many valuable lessons.
    1. Listen, listen and really listen (without thinking about the next clever thing you are going to say)
    2. Put your audience first …tell them what they need to know – not what you want to say
    3. Say more by saying less.
    todays technology allows us all the be TV presenters now. I agree that all schools/collages should include a module on impactful communication. I teach on the Skill programme for 14-16 yr olds in London, Manchester and Bristol where we set up a mini dragons den day. The students are amazing and have brilliant ideas but many could be even better if they studied the importance and craft of effective communication. Thanks Oli

  13. Oli

    I do love your ability to turn a negative sentiment into a positive focus. I think it’s largely been said in the comments above.

    We sometimes mock the Americans for their brashness but the truth is they do a much better job of instilling confidence to present and self promote in their young. As a nation we seem to encourage modesty and are far to quick to criticise those that put their head above the parapet.

    I certainly think there’s a place for learning presentation skills in school but above all it’s about giving young people more confidence generally. Being better equipped to present and articulate in public will unquestionably help in building that confidence.

  14. The ability to present effectively is undoubtedly a critical life skill and one in a rather long list of skills that is almost entirely absent from curricula and formal learning experiences around the world.

    Developing this skill – along with all the other skills and ‘qualities of mind’ – some of which are directly related such as self-confidence, authenticity, listening skills, self-expression, assertiveness, etc – needs to be made explicit in everyone’s education.

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