Learn to Love Public Speaking with APU’s Speaking Center

Public speaking plays a big role in the life of a student—from meetings with professors to class presentations. However, studies show that speaking in front of people is among the top fears in the United States. To help students conquer that fear, Azusa Pacific launched the Speaking Center pilot program this fall.

Marcia Berry, Ph.D., communications professor and Speaking Center coordinator, said the goal is to have those who come in develop the ability to speak clean and clear, to fear it less, and to realize that liking public speaking is an option.

Sharing a space with the Writing Center in the back of Marshburn Library on East Campus, the Speaking Center offers students free consultations to help prepare and practice for public speaking assignments like speeches or presentations.

Students can make appointments online or walk in to the center for help at any stage of the process, whether that’s brainstorming, turning a paper into a speech, outlining, or practicing delivery. Speaking Center coaches are trained students who have strong backgrounds in public speaking and working with people. “The coaches were chosen because they came with teaching insight and skill in public speaking already,” Berry said.

Coaches are trained to help students develop a well-rounded speech. “We look for content first, because if you have nothing to say, the audience doesn’t want to listen,” Berry said. “Then we work on delivery to get rid of nervous habits and things such as ‘ums’ and ‘likes.’ Then we work to help the speaker's personality come through.”

Berry said that the key to enjoying public speaking is believing in what you have to say. “Choose a topic that you want your audience learn about, and tell them why it’s important, and then give them an application or example,” she said.

Victoria Slosted, Speaking Center coach and junior liberal studies major, said what she enjoys most about public speaking is connecting with her audience. Slosted gained her public speaking expertise as a tour guide at Lake Shasta Caverns during the summer months.

Slosted gave some tips on preparing for speeches. “To calm my nerves, I always pray beforehand for peace. Then I get to the room early and practice before people arrive,” she said. “Then, once people start trickling in, I try to make conversation with each of them. That way I’m comfortable with my audience and I feel less nervous.”

Slosted said that learning to be comfortable speaking in front of people is an important skill to develop not just as a student but after graduation. “I hope to become an elementary or middle school teacher; so I will be giving lessons every day, as well as holding parent teacher conferences and meetings,” she said.

Berry said that public speaking is a vital skill that is utilized across all career fields. “The skills you learn here can transfer from addressing an audience to addressing one or two people. Not everyone will give speeches in front of groups, but doctors talk to patients, writers talk to publishers, and business people talk to clients,” Berry said. “I also think the ability to say things clearly and to provide examples and applications is one of those skills that companies want their employees to have. No matter the job, we want students to learn to be confident in what they have to say.”

To make an appointment at the Speaking Center, visit their webpage.