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How to be a Spokesperson
for Youth Rights

The prospect of publicly standing up for youth rights may seem daunting at first, but there are many ways to spread awareness and encourage people to get involved. Talking to your neighbor, your senator or representative, or giving a class presentation are just a few of the opportunities to spread the message about youth rights or a specific campaign.

 

Elements of being a successful spokesperson

Whether someone is listening to you for a few minutes or an hour, your goal is to give them an understanding of the problems facing young people and motivate them to take action. Here are some things to keep in mind when discussing youth rights in front of an audience:

  • State the problem. It is important that your listeners understand the issue at hand. Provide enough background information about the topic to educate and engage them. It might also be useful to use resources from the NYRA website or from other reputable organizations, since many in the audience will be unfamiliar with the subject. In turn, they can educate others with these resources in the future.
  • Tell a personal story. Telling your personal story helps people connect with you. Research shows that people remember personal stories more than statistics. Try to include the following information:
    • Why you care about the issue/community you’re discussing;
    • How the issue affects you;
    • Why you joined NYRA;
    • Why people you know are involved in the campaign;
    • What it would mean to you personally if change was implemented.
  • Learn a few talking points. These can be statistics, quotes, or other facts. Try to keep them relevant and memorable, so that your listeners don’t become bored or confused. With simple yet important facts, your audience will be prepared to take action and share this information with others in the future.
  • Offer solutions. People don’t just want to hear about the problem. They also want to know how they can get involved. This may involve a simple request (signing a petition, for example) or a more direct call to action (like participating in a protest). This call to action will depend on the topic and type of resources available in your area.
  • Respond to questions. Ask questions to keep your listeners engaged, and listen to their questions as well. This makes it easier for youth rights issues to resonate with them, since their views and thoughts are being respected. Input can be solicited from larger audiences as well by asking for shows of hands or requesting that a volunteer offer an opinion. You may be asked basic questions such as, “How am I supposed to make a difference as a young person?” This should be a topic you address beforehand, but be prepared to further outline the ways in which youth can get involved.
  • Anticipate criticism. The key to being a good spokesperson is having knowledge on an array of youth rights issues. You don’t have to be expert on all topics, but you should certainly understand the basics — for example, what ageism is, and why young people should be given more rights in general. You want your listeners to consider you a credible source of information. You will, however, most certainly come across skeptics who disagree with your cause. Be prepared to address this criticism by reiterating the most important points of your argument, and why this particular issue is so crucial to youth.

 

Workshops and small groups

In workshops and small groups, you can have substantive discussions with other people interested in your cause. Friends from your school could gather for an informal brainstorming session or workshop, but depending on the topic and level of interest in your area, it may be difficult to form such a group to meet in person. However, with social media you can easily create online groups or blogs to enlist people from all over the country who want to help. For example, a discussion group on Facebook may allow you to share ideas about activism and education with youth advocates from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences.

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