How to Facilitate Street Speaking | Training For Change

Street Speaking


Organizing, Action, Strategy iconOrganizing, Action, Strategy




Training Tool


  • Give participants the chance to face their fears around public speaking
  • Hone participants skills in speaking toward a topic they are passionate about

How to Lead:

Announce — with delighted anticipation! — that the group is going to do street speaking. Allow or even encourage lots of emotional reaction. Ask how many people feel nervous, scared, etc. Normalize and give full permission for people to express their fears. Tell how scared you were, etc. Emphasize that dealing with fear is one objective. If the group is highly responsible and self-aware, I make this announcement before a meal so people can work on their resistance over the meal. If not, I announce right on the spot and facilitate every minute.

Describe the activity.

When and where it’s going to happen, etc. Concretizing the activity helps people deal with it. I usually say at that point that no one will be coerced into doing it, but everyone needs to prepare, everyone needs to stay together to give support, everyone needs to be part of it, etc. “Even if you right now cannot imagine yourself doing it, see if you can allow for even the remote possibility that you might do it anyway.” Keep asking for questions. Emphasize that the goal is as a training tool, rather than as a form of social action. Give your information in small bits so there is abundant interaction — this is the worst time for a mini-lecture!

Describe the design.

“Next we’ll prepare by working on our fears, then working on what we’re going to say. That way, we’ll be more ready to do it. Then, we’ll go downtown,” etc. etc.

Handling fear exercise. [OPTIONAL]

“Since street speaking as a training tool has to do with handling fear, let’s take a minute to learn from our own experience, since all of us have experience in successfully handling fear in our lives. What are some ways you have found for handling fear that work for you?” If there’s time, you can have people form threes or pairs, and tell each other “a time when they handled fear successfully.” If there isn’t enough time for that, you can simply list their ways on paper in front of the group. When studying the list, point out the variety of methods available to them. You can (depending on goals of the workshop) invite people to consider stretching by trying a new method.

Preparation of the talk.

Explain very briefly (again, interaction is great) the differences between a regular speech and street speaking in the way the talk is developed. Suggest three basic points: all talks have a beginning, middle, and end; stories are great; and anything personal is great. Quickly send them off to develop their talks, in pairs.

Roleplay the street meeting. [OPTIONAL]

Have people take turns getting up on a box in the training room, and making a brief speech. Accept very brief feedback from people on what they liked about what the speaker did. If the group is strong, a suggestion or two for change is okay.

Do the street meeting.

Be sure to give participants two turns — they are often reluctant to go a second time, especially if a large group (a let-down after the high). I find the second time is for many people the time they remember best and learn most from. If the group is larger than 16, it pays to lead half of them down the street (after the first space is “secured”) and start a second street meeting. Obviously, to do this, it helps to have a co-facilitator.


Allow lots of personal anecdotes. Ask about surprises, things they didn’t expect in their own experience, differences of self before and after, handling fear, how people gave and got support, etc. This is a good time for empowerment quotes on fear: Gandhi, Starhawk, etc. You can give them a handout of the Value of Street Speaking (see below). Ask them, “If we were doing this as a social action tool, how would we want to change it?”

Values of Street Speaking

  • Unpredictable, spontaneous
  • Brings up fear
  • Helps people get clarity on subject/content
  • Enables group to “break out” of training room
  • Bonding, community-building
  • Get feedback from ordinary people (or people of some category)
  • Can be recruiting device
  • Practice in dealing with strangers, hecklers, police/authority
  • Encourages audacity, bravery
  • Initiative-taking, pro-active
  • Puts each person on the spot
  • Encourages people to be fast on their feet
  • Make friends with courage
  • Arena for practicing giving and receiving support

Which of these are values for training and which are values for social action?

Where This Tool Comes From

written by George Lakey