The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

Nervous about public speaking?

Stephen Johnson, Contributing writer

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It’s no far stretch to say that perhaps the most dreaded class during most college students’ experience is public speaking.  The very thought of having to address an audience of two dozen peers plus a professor judging you can cause rueful feelings of fear, nausea and anxiety.  For most, the experience is not as bad as they first think, and they are able to make it through in decent fashion.  For some, however, actually giving a presentation is not quite as palatable.

This may leave many students wishing there was another way to both meet the public speaking requirement all students need in order to graduate, and help them overcome some of their fears of speaking in public.  Fortunately, NKU offers a special section of public speaking that does just that.  Developed by retired NKU professor, Vicki Ragsdale, NKU offers one section of a CMST 101 Speech Apprehension class each semester.

This section of public speaking is specially designed to help students who are particularly nervous at even the thought of giving a speech.  While it meets the same degree requirement as the CMST 101 class most students will take and still requires students to give four major speeches, there are many differences.  The class size is considerably smaller and students will experience a variety of small group oriented activities; both designed to help the class get to know one another before having to speak.  Perhaps the largest difference is the time and devotion students spend on self-identifying the causes of their nervousness, then learning and practicing a variety of techniques to help overcome them.

Some of the strategies used include cognitive restructuring, where students learn to change how they think about public speaking. Relaxation and breathing techniques are also a big part of the class, allowing students to take time and calm themselves down before facing any daunting challenge. Other methods employed are extensive desensitization wherein students gradually work their way into giving a full-fledged speech, as well as detailed goal setting activities that allow students to design realistic and attainable benchmarks for success.

Unlike the typical CMST 101 class, where students focus primarily on learning how to prepare, organize and deliver a speech and then have to perform, this section frontloads the semester with coping techniques for nervousness, then focuses on preparation and organization and then delivery separately.  This gradual, focused approach allows students to acclimate themselves into a public speaking situation.  The results can be subtle or drastic, depending on the student’s devotion to implementing the strategies.

While Ragsdale can still be seen roaming the campus, as she’s teaching CMST classes as an adjunct professor, I’m excited about taking over this course.  I have been teaching at NKU for five years and have recently joined NKU as a full-time communication lecturer.  My affable personality and approachable style to teaching serve to help make students feel comfortable at the prospect of presenting in front of an audience.  I greatly enjoy getting to know students and helping them reach success in my classes.  If you feel you would benefit from this class contact me at johnsonste@nku.edu, 859-572-7678 or stop by my office in GH 428.   I would enjoy the opportunity to discuss whether or not this class would be right for you.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Nervous about public speaking?