Conquering the Fear of Public Speaking in UGBA 191C

Many of you have probably heard the statement that public speaking is the most common fear among adults, even greater then the fear of death. The National Institute of Mental Health shows that 74% of Americans suffer from speech anxiety. The technical term for this fear of public speaking is glossophobia. This word comes from the Greek word glōssa, meaning tongue and phobos, meaning dread or fear.

If you find yourself getting nervous that your professor may call on you in class or dreading your end-of-semester presentation, you may suffer from glossophobia. Luckily for us, Haas offers UGBA 191C, “Communication for Leaders,” whose primary focus is teaching the public speaking skills you will need in today’s business environment, and leaving you with the strategies and confidence to address any audience. This two-unit class is offered both fall and spring semesters and presents the perfect opportunity to step outside your comfort zone in a supportive, safe environment.

Metaphor Speech Fall 2014
Me (Kendal Madden) working on my metaphor speech in UGBA 191C

Students of all skill levels take this course and the small number of students in each discussion section help form a close-knit, encouraging setting for students to give speeches, present debates, and receive honest, constructive feedback. I questioned my classmates about why they think public speaking is an important skill. Many students responded with their belief that public speaking is a skill that will help them advance in their career. One classmate contributed, “If you cannot sell yourself and your skills effectively, your skills go to waste and you will miss many opportunities.” Other students held a vision of using this ability to elicit change: “to make a change in the world, you’ll need people who will join hands with you and help realize that vision. Public speaking equips you with the skills to convince people to act with you.” There seemed to be a consensus that public speaking helps an individual become a better leader and enables them to empower the people around them.

In UGBA 191C we gave two persuasive speeches, one metaphor speech, one debate, and a variety of smaller in-class activities. My classmate Nnaemeka shares, “The debate was my favorite activity. It helped me learn about leveraging opposing arguments and how to best address them.” Many students agreed with him explaining how it helped make them more comfortable with being able to think on their feet. Another classmate, Daniella, shares her favorite activity: “My favorite speech was the metaphor speech because it brought out my creative writing abilities and allowed me to create more beautiful speeches that grasped ‘awe’ from the audience.” The challenge of crafting a speech with a metaphor woven throughout, equips students with another powerful and effective public speaking tool.

As the semester comes to a close and we reflect on the class, I asked students what their most valuable takeaways were. My classmate Bogart shares the popular opinion that, “The most valuable takeaway from this class is the knowledge that confidence is key.” By practicing that “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude we all learned to appear cool and collected even when our stomachs were turning somersaults before giving a presentation. My classmate, and German exchange student, Fabian, says that for him, “the most valuable takeaway was learning how to structure a speech in the U.S. and learning how personalize stories and metaphors work to enhance authenticity within a speech.” I feel that even the students who signed up for this class expecting they already knew everything about public speaking learned something, and walked away with a new bag of tricks full of ways to appear authentic and persuade even the most adverse audience member.

If you find yourself among the 74% who dread speaking in public, or just want a safe place to improve you public speaking skills UGBA 191C is the place for you.

Kendal Madden

Class of 2016

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