Public Speaking & Debate for Teens

Parent Q&A

  • Hello:
    I am wondering if anyone has any reviews/information to share about their experience with the POI Debate Institute summer program at UC Berkeley?  I am looking at the program for my son, who is entering 8th grade next fall, and would appreciate hearing from anyone whose child(ren) attended.  

    Thanks in advance,
    Sharyn F

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Speech and Debate Coach for high school junior

Dec 2013

I'm looking for a reasonably priced, yet fantastic speech and debate coach for my son who is now a junior in high school. It's his first year in speech and debate, and he needs a few pointers to help him out. I checked the archives and have already contacted two, but as a single mom we really need someone for less than $50 an hour. Thought I would ask all of you kind people for referrals. Thank you!
Hopeful Mom

What type of debate is your son doing? My son, also a junior in high school, has been competing on the national circuit in Varsity Policy Debate since freshman year. He also debated in middle school and now judges middle-school parliamentary debate and helps coach middle-school debaters. If your son is doing Policy Debate, my son may be able to help him. (Reply back with your email so I can contact you privately.) If Public Forum, Lincoln-Douglas, Congress, or Individual Events, you will want to find someone else. In that case, you might start by finding out who the top high-school debaters are to see if any of them would be willing to work with your son. (Actually, I do know a couple of local L-D'ers who might be interested if your son is doing Lincoln-Douglas.) There are many benefits to going with another high-school student: in addition to relatability, they are also currently immersed in the topics that your son will be debating, and of course they will be less expensive. Good luck! debate mom

Public speaking anxiety- 14 yr old

Sept 2012

We are in Marin and 14 yr old daughter is terrified of presenting in front of her Peers. It's beginning to threaten her academic performance. Does anyone know Of a toastmasters group in Marin Count or nearby That would be appropriate for teens. Any other suggestions would Be helpful.

A slightly different approach -- have you thought of improv classes? My daughter has taken classes at Bay Area Theatre Sports (BATS) in Fort Mason, They were great -- the teachers have a lot of experience with kids -- but there may be improv classes closer to you as well. This may be a fun route to go. Wendy

Hi! I work for the Y in Berkeley, but I would suggest contacting the Marin YMCA about their Youth & Government program. One of my sons participates through the Albany Y and there are lots of opportunities to practice speech in a very comfortable, caring environment with quite a bit of support. Good luck! Eden

Hi, I used to teach a class called, Public Speaking with Confidence. I can offer a few tips. It helps to be prepared with what you are going to say. There are tons of books on how to create and deliver a good presentation. It's also helpful to watch a great speaker, like perhaps a TED talk ( See if your daughter is okay with you videoing her doing a presentation. Then use some of the guidelines you discovered in reading, or the things you noticed working well in good speakers.

Chances are part of the issue is the challenge many teens have regarding peer acceptance vs. rejection.

Specifically, good speakers stand comfortably, do not slouch, rock or fidget. They make eye contact with people in the audience, use appropriate hand gestures. It's important to project so people in the back can hear. Being familiar enough with the material so you don't need to read it is important because you lose eye contact and are boring when you just read. I recommend just having a few notes or an outline on numbered index cards. Smiling is good. Breathing is excellent. Stop and breath before starting and again before exiting. (No one will ever say, ''Wait, was she breathing?'') Breathing is also a good way to pause rather than saying um. Hope this helps. Sydney

Speech coach for high school debater

March 2012

My daughter is doing well on her high school debate team. She feels her arguments are solid, but would like some tutoring on speaking and presentation. Does anyone know a good tutor for debate or public speaking? Thanks for any ideas

My daughter found the Stanford Debate Camps inspirational and as a HS Senior won the California State Championship with her debate partner. Do a Google search for: Stanford National Forensic Institute. The students live in the dorms @ Stanford (wonderful setting)and meet interesting students from around the nation who attend this camp. The best part is being around other kids who share their passion for speech and debate. SNFI debate Camp dates:

Date: Jul 29th - Aug 4th Grade: 9th-12th Location: Stanford University Resident:$1,285.00
Date: Aug 5th - Aug 11th Grade: 9th-12th Location: Stanford University Resident:$1,285.00

Mom of Debater

How to help teen speak up for himself

Sept 2011

Hi, My teenager needs to learn how to more confidently speak up for himself and speak his own mind. I'm not sure how to support him in achieving this. Assertiveness training? If so, anyone know of any classes? thanks in advance

my youngest is a tentative kid. she attended a public speaking camp through education unlimited and it was a positive experience for her that i would recommend to others. but i don't think this is a quick fix. my youngest remains reluctant to speak up in class, despite being a very strong student. i am planning to write to her teachers this weekend so that they are aware of our concerns. while i wish my youngest were less tentative, her sweetness is also lovely. my super-assertive oldest is not always the easiest to get along with. we have to love them as they are and encourage them to grow when they are ready. good luck. p.s. toastmasters may be another organization to look into. judith

Learning to speak assertively starts at home. Our teens learn to ''ask for what they need'' by practicing with us. We can learn to be really great listeners and, hopefully, on the journey they open up and explore their feelings in a greater way. Learning to speak freely comes from feeling safe to share our feelings but first we have to be able to recognize what they are. Many of us have a hard time putting words to feelings. We can help our children by really listening to the message and clarifying what we are hearing, so they can feel recognized. Notice I didn't say agreed with, but ''recognized''. I recommend a book called ''A changed Mind'' by Dr. John McKinnon. Excellent parenting too. jan

Teen summer debate programs?

May 2008

Does anyone know of good summer debate programs, prefer Bay Area or LA.

Thanks orindafamily

Everything in the country (as far as I know) is collected at this link: