What I Learned from Speaking to 70,000 Young People

Welcome to our Feature Series, bombshell!

While I’m blissfully away on maternity leave nurturing my bundle of joy, we’ve invited incredible leaders from different fields to speak about what they know best. I hope that the stories shared will inspire action and reflection within you, as they undoubtedly have within me.

Today, Kyle, an author and past client, is sharing his story of speaking to over 70,000 young people during his nationwide book tour last year.

Make sure you make him feel right at home with lots of love in the comments. 


Last year I spoke in front of over 70,000 young people at over 80 different venues.

Even for seasoned speakers and thought leaders, the middle school set is a tough crowd, bringing it’s own set of challenges {and delights!}.

Here’s what I learned along the way.

#1. Make A Joke

Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to pull out the rubber chicken {!} but a few quips, self-deprecating or otherwise, will warm things up and get the audience on your side right from the start.

My go-to?

A not-so flattering photo of me at middle school. It’s a great ice-breaker and let’s them know that I’ve been exactly where they are.

#2. Take A Joke

As it happens, middle school hasn’t changed all that much since I was there. It’s still a melting pot of hormones and insecurities where a little heckling can be expected.

As with any criticism or curve-ball during an interview or speech it’s how you react that matters. With this group, the key is to simply laugh it off and try not to take the comments, or yourself, too seriously.

#3. Know Your Mission

Knowing your big why and crafting a mission that is greater than you as an individual allows your message to resonate with every audience on a deeper level.

Through sharing stories about my work as founder of Sparking Literacy, a non-profit dedicated to lowering the high school drop out rate, my audiences knew that I was committed to them and to their success. I believed in them and it showed.

#4. Use What You Know

As speakers we aim to educate and inspire but when we step out onto that stage we also become entertainers. We want to catch and hold the attention the crowd so that we can share our message with an open and receptive audience.

As an improv comedian, I use impersonations to flavor my speeches. You might play an instrument, sing, dance or act. You might use theatrical moments of silence to your advantage or color and clothing to light up the room.

This is not about smoke and mirrors. Rather, by using tools that help you to embody your message and to show your personality, you’ll connect with the crowd on a whole new level.

#5. Kids All Want The Same Thing

It can be easy to get caught up in tweaking and tailoring your speech for every new group that you’re set to meet but what I’ve come to know is that, not unlike adults, kids all want the same thing.

They want to feel safe in the knowledge that you believe in them. 

They want to know that they have the ability to follow their dreams.

They want to take steps to reach their potential.

The Flames headshot colorKyle Prue is an award winning author, actor and comedian. Kyle wrote The Sparks: Book One of the Feud Trilogy when he was just 16 years old. Kyle has spent the past year on a national book tour visiting over 80 middle and high schools and meeting 70,000 students. Kyle is now a freshman at the University of Michigan, studying acting and creative writing. He still visits schools and is a keynote speaker for conferences.

Kyle is the founder of Sparking Literacy, a non-profit dedicated to lowering the high school dropout rate by inspiring teens to read, write and follow their dreams. An actor and comedian, Kyle trains at Second City Comedy Club in Chicago, where a number of SNL actors have gotten their start. Kyle currently lives with his family in Petoskey, Michigan.

Pop your questions and insights in the comments below or reach out to Kyle directly over on Twitter. We can’t wait to hear from you!




P.S. If you liked this, take a peek at my guide to telling a powerful story and get ready to captivate your next audience!



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