So, you’re meeting a group of children or young people for the first time. You are keen to know young people’s thoughts on your project, but you’re feeling slightly nervous as to how you will come across. Firstly, we’ve all been there. It can be daunting walking into a room of people you don’t know, no matter what their age. The good thing is, you’re there because you recognise the importance of youth voice, and by taking the time to meet with young people, you are providing them with opportunities which they may not have heard about otherwise.
Before you meet with the group, ask the worker in charge, if any of the young people participating have specific needs you need to take into consideration. This will help you to formulate and tailor your session accordingly; helping you plan and keeping you mindful in delivery.
Wherever the setting (be it in a school, youth club etc), it’s so important to be accommodating. You may be visiting for a one-off consultation or perhaps you are looking for volunteers to be involved in a longer-term project, either way, take the time to build a rapport. Now, we are not saying you need to bombard young people with a million questions or intrude on their personal conversations (please don’t do that), instead, think about what you’re saying, find a way to connect, ask open ended questions and give young people the time to respond; making sure no one feels put on the spot or forced to speak.
Go in with a smile, it’s so important. Be kind. Be genuine. Be you.
You don’t need to try too hard to ‘fit in,’ or make false promises to ‘gain respect.’ Instead, be honest and manage expectations appropriately. Children and young people will appreciate this. If you can, arrive earlier or stay for pizza (if invited), use this time effectively, taking the time to get to know the young people you’re working with. Small talk can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be.
Enjoy your time out of the office!
Another tip is to bring treats. This isn’t a bribe, it’s just nice to do as a token of your appreciation. We like to bring chocolate (it’s all about balance), accounting for health and dietary needs. We will give you more ideas for incentivising opportunities in another of our blogs so watch this space!