Speech workshop teaches students anxiety control

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Speech instructor Susan Cunningham teaches a speech anxiety workshop, “Standing on Shaky Ground,” Sept. 5 in McCreless. Cunningham gave tips on how to handle nerves while speaking publicly by following SPROUT: start strong, practice, relax, open body, understand it is OK and think about the message. Cunningham suggested not to practice in front of a mirror, not to tell yourself you are nervous and not to picture your audience naked. Deandra Gonzalez

Four additional workshops on public speaking are scheduled.

By James Russell


People who speak in public can learn to overcome anxiety by taking advantage of the adrenaline rush they experience, a speech instructor said Sept. 5 in McAllister Fine Arts Center.

Susan Cunningham spoke to about 30 students, including some enrolled in speech courses as well as other students trying to improve their public speaking.

She led the first of a series of five speech workshops sponsored by the fine arts department.

Cunningham opened with a quote from Mark Twain, “There is two kinds of speakers, those who are anxious and those who are liars.”

The quote shows everyone is anxious.

“Even the best performers have anxiety,” she said.

Cunningham proposed the question to the audience, “Why does anxiety happen and what is happening to your body? Once you understand it, that is going to give you power.”

The adrenaline rush people get standing in front of an audience puts the speakers in a vulnerable position, she said.

She involved the audience by instructing them to demonstrate a power stance with hands on hips expanding their bodies.

This technique is used to increase adrenaline in a person’s body.

Taking control of these emotions and using them to advantage is the key to becoming a good speaker, she said.

Cunningham gave tips and tricks for dealing with anxiety, which should not stop someone from talking.

For example, if a person has sweaty hands, keeping eye contact with the audience while wiping their hands on their pant leg could help.

If a person has shaky hands, walking around the stage while giving the speech could help.

Cunningham explained why she and the other speech faculty members continue to present speech workshops.

“We wanted to give students more of an opportunity than what’s in our classes,” she said. “These workshops allow us to expand on topics, and we feel that students deserve an opportunity that goes deeper than just their teachers’ point of view and a really good chance to give them more.”

The reason instructors teach students to speak in public is so their voices can be heard. Having the ability to communicate messages orally allows students to share those messages.

“If you don’t have a voice, what is the point? You can’t influence people unless you can speak, and you have a right to influence others,” she said.

Mortuary science sophomore Monica Weidner said she learned valuable information from the workshop, such as keeping her adrenaline under control.

Additional workshops will be “It’s as easy as 1, 2, iii,” 3-4 p.m. Sept. 18 with speech Instructor Esther Pais; “Say it with Style,” 3-4 p.m. Oct. 3 with speech Instructor Justin Blacklock; and “Conversational Skills” 3-4 p.m. Oct. 24 with speech Coordinator Ashley Click. These workshops will be in Room 203 of McAllister.

The final workshop with a guest speaker will be 3-4 p.m. Nov. 13 in the theater in McAllister.

Students in speech classes may receive extra credit for attending the workshops.

Call Click at 210-486-0481.


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