According to communication instructor Michael Guilkey, “The most challenging aspect of public speaking is the anxiety that is associated with the actual ‘ACT’ of public speaking.”
At Front Range Community College, a communication credit is required for all students pursuing degrees. Students can choose between interpersonal communication and public speaking, the communication department’s most daunting offering.
Most public speaking professors want to help students overcome their speaking anxiety. “We work on overcoming the fear and anxiety and try to focus on trusting ourselves and the message we have to convey,” Guilkey wrote in an email. “By believing in ourselves and our message we can gain confidence. We also talk about the ‘worst that can happen’ and start to realize that the world does not end just because we give a bad speech.”
Front Range Community College’s public speaking professors cultivate environments of trust in their classrooms. Dustin Woods, another communication instructor shared that, “By the time we are giving speeches, the class feels more like a group of friends and less like a group of strangers.”
Despite the commonality of speaking anxiety, many students do not take the easiest and most necessary step to avoid it. “For most students, the biggest challenge is learning that good organization and preparation will alleviate their biggest concern: speaking anxiety. Nothing will inflame nervousness like being in front of a group while woefully unprepared,” wrote Woods.
Guilkey added that relieving physical tension also relieves mental stress, which contributes to speaking anxiety. “Meditation, visualization, isometric exercises are all used in my class as a way of teaching students how to relax.”
Front Range Community College student Stacey Perry overcame her speaking anxiety and earned an “A” in her public speaking class. “Public speaking is just like talking to [a] cool group of people; you’re trying to make friends… The best advice I can give is to pick subjects that you are interested in,” she said.
Although public speaking anxiety dissuades students from enrolling, the class focuses on pertinent skills. “The skills learned in researching and formulating a strong message is useful in almost every profession and job market that today’s students will be facing,” Guilkey wrote.
Guilkey and Woods recommended that students take both communication classes to fully develop their speaking skills.
“Public speaking teaches individuals strategies and develops confidence and critical thinking skills that are essential when dealing with workplace situations,” Guilkey wrote. “Interpersonal Communication teaches strategies that help the student recognize the subtitles and meanings behind the words used when dealing with any type of exchange, regardless of the relationship that exists between everyone involved.”
Plus, Woods explained that, “Public speaking and other communication skills are of tremendous advantage in the workplace, and understanding how we relate to various roles in our interpersonal experience is also important to being a competent communicator.”
Speaking anxiety burdens most humans, but overcoming it allows people to speak on behalf of their beliefs across various mediums.
As Mark Twain said, ““There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.”
Written by Kayla Klein and Dylan Ferrara
Photo from Psychology Today