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Gifts of Gab

Gifts of Gab

Launched last fall, the Club’s youth-centric public speaking programs are already fostering their fair share of electric orators.

More than 1,000 people tuned in to watch her speech online, but you wouldn’t know it from Leilani Trapanese’s cool demeanor and steady tone.

“In conclusion, our daily habits affect our underwater friends,” summarized the 7-year-old as she calmly wrapped up her nearly four-minute speech on sea turtle conservation. “We can all help if we make simple changes to our lives. Thank you for listening to my presentation and have a great day.”

With that, the budding orator finished her first World Speech Day address. After numerous practice performances in front of her Show & Tell Jamboree peers, Leilani’s standout speech back in March was celebrated on World Speech Day’s website and YouTube channel.

“I really like sea turtles, so it was fun to do a lot of research to write my speech,” says Leilani. “I was a little nervous, but it’s important to talk slowly and clearly.”

Since last October, Leilani, her sister Mana, 9, and dozens of other emerging Club rhetoricians have soaked up similar lessons in self-esteem and public speaking at monthly Show & Tell Jamboree and Youth Toastmasters sessions, which adapt public speaking techniques for young Members just hitting their oratorial stride.

“What’s amazing is to watch their growth from one session to the next, from vocal variety to speaking without notes to using visuals,” says Pueyen Lee, president of the Club’s Toastmasters group and one of the organizers of the youth-focused programs.

For some first-time speakers, just a single session in front of a crowd can be an enlightening experience.

“I thought it was going to be super easy, but then I talked a little bit and I thought, ‘I’m done! Now what do I say?’” says Meredith Michels, 12, of speaking in front of a crowd at her first Youth Toastmasters meeting last fall. “It’s really eye-opening. I never thought I used to say ‘like’ and ‘um’ so much, but I really do. So that was good for me.”

With the fear of public speaking so prevalent among adults (studies suggest upwards of 23 million Americans quake at the thought), acclimating youngsters to the idea of presenting to crowds has been linked to improvements in everything from college graduation rates to career earnings later in life.

For now, the Club’s burgeoning Ciceros and Demostheneses aren’t wasting time worrying about anything other than their next big speech.

“I guess it’s a little scary your first time,” Mana explains for any would-be Show & Tell Jamboree attendees. “But when you’re giving a speech about something you’re really interested in, it’s actually super fun. So why not just give it a try?”

Youth Toastmasters Club 
Ages 10–18 | ¥1,100 (guests: ¥1,320)

Show & Tell Jamboree 
Ages 6–9 | ¥1,000 (guests: ¥1,200)

Words: Owen Ziegler
Top image of Leilani and Mana Trapanese: Kayo Yamawaki