A new approach to public speaking

The new speech lab in the Learning Center gives students the chance to take their public speaking skills to the next level

Each time someone opens their mouth to speak or give a presentation, they are doing some type of public speaking. However, a lot of people don’t have proper public speaking skills. That’s when the Learning Center comes in. The new speech lab inside of the Learning Center opened a few weeks ago.

Kim Fahle, the coordinator of writing services in the Learning Center, said that the topic of bringing a public speaking tutor to the Learning Center came up when faculty began to think that students needed to have a resource available to help them with oral presentations.  This is especially important since many students make formal presentations during Virginia Wesleyan College’s Port Days.

Michael Cotter is now the head of the speech lab. He has a background in print and broadcast journalism and has taught technical writing and literature courses. Cotter said he hopes that the setup of the speech lab will aid as many students as possible.

In the speech lab, students can come in to get help with any type of oral presentation that they may have to prepare for. If they are taking a public speaking class, Cotter can help students with everything from creating an outline to practicing their actual speech.

One thing that is special about the speech lab is that students can come in and record themselves delivering their speech or going over a presentation. This tool is something that Cotter has used in the past with some of his own students.

“Videotaping the students is a good way for students to get feedback on how they are doing,” Cotter said. “The only feedback that students usually get is on paper, so with the recording, they can go back and watch themselves do their presentation.”

When students visit the speech lab, they can also get help with preparing visual aids to go along with their presentation. It is important not to have too much information on the PowerPoint slides.

The lab is not limited only to those who are taking a public speaking class. Students can come in to practice presentations for any class. Multiple students can use the room to practice for group presentations with or without the tutor.

Although public speaking is not a required class at Virginia Wesleyan College, Cotter said that he believes that everyone should have some sort of public speaking assistance.

“First impressions are important. The first exposure that someone has with you is communication, when you shake their hand and open your mouth. So you need to make that first impression count,” Cotter said.

Even though it has been open for a few weeks, the speech lab hasn’t gotten much foot traffic.

“There are all kinds of student support on campus. This is just another one that’s more personalized,” Cotter said.

Cynthia Griffin