The SAIL program hosted a workshop entitled “The Art of Public Speaking” last Wednesday, March 22, in Sykes Room 209, to discuss strategies and problems students experience when speaking to a group.The hour-long workshop, which ran from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., was run by Rachel Silbaugh, a grad student and current GHD of McCarthy Hall and attended by a small group of students seeking to better their public speaking skills for a variety of reasons. The students received coaching and participated in confidence-building exercises throughout the workshop
“I’m here because I have a test in Public Speaking tomorrow,” said Jackie Aliotta, who went on to mention that she is also trying to become a certified Student Leader.
Also attending were several students running for Student Government offices. Although they already considered themselves good public speakers, “there is always more to learn,” said Meghan Moretti.
Silbaugh asked the students what worried them most about public speaking.
Answers she received included, “I never know where to put my hands,” and “It’s alot more difficult to stand in front of a group than to be sitting down at a meeting.”
Silbaugh said that all of these fears are self-inflicted and all stem from the same place. “You think people are judging you. They think you are going to make a mistake.”
Megan Moretti said, “I like having that friend in the audience you can look at for reassurance. The one who always smiles and nods.”
Also discussed were the aspects of what makes a good public speaker.
“A good public speaker has charisma,” said Less Cardinal. Less is running for parliamentarian this semester and when asked to describe what he meant by charisma he answered, “charismatic people can light up a room with their presence.”
Other aspects listed were good eye contact, posture, relating to the audience and projection of the voice.
Silbaugh said, “Knowing your audience is huge. There is a lot more to public speaking than what is coming out of your mouth.”
She also talked about nervousness and how every speaker experiences at least some measure of it. “You are more aware of everything that could go wrong… we all get nervous and we all have anxiety.”
Some statistics indicate that many people fear public speaking over death. Public Speaking is a required course at West Chester. So basically the general consensus would favor having “death” on their class schedule than “Public Speaking.” Silbaugh stressed that public speaking is not something to be feared.
“The audience came to hear you speak. They are your friends, not your enemies,” said Silbaugh.
Silbaugh said that a good way to start a speech is to have a hook or attention getter to draw the audience in. She clarified that an attention getter is different from an icebreaker in that an icebreaker is used to get a group of people to start comfortably interacting while an attention-getter rivets the audience on the speaker.
Silbaugh said that for those who tend to talk too fast, listening to yourself and making sure to breathe is very helpful.
The students left the workshop feeling more confident about upcoming speeches they had to give and many praised Silbaugh for her public speaking prowess.
“I though it was a really good presentation. I liked the way Rachel spoke with her hands,” said Jackie Aliotta.