Montclair State is attempting to combat one of the most common fears in America: public speaking.
On Feb. 1, the Public Speaking Resource Center at Montclair State became a reality, offering the university community resources for every aspect of preparing to speak in public, from selecting a topic to conducting research, outlining and the ultimate delivery.
According to a survey published by The Washington Post, public speaking trumps even heights, insects and drowning as one of the biggest fears for Americans.
Courtney McArdle, a sophomore production and design major, can attest to the Post’s findings. She said of public speaking, “I definitely find that, when it comes to actually doing it, I get very nervous, and I get some anxiety, but I don’t let it deter me from doing what I need to do.”
The center offers help for all kinds of public speaking engagements, such as interviewing and conference presentations and, of course, preparation for speeches to be given in class.
Students, faculty and staff are welcome to use this new service and can attend as individuals or as a group.
Dr. Marylou Naumoff, Coordinator of the Fundamentals of Speech Program, said that Associate Director of the School of Communication and Media Dr. Christine Lemesianou had been thinking about developing the center for a while.
“I was hired this year as a new faculty [member] and one of my main responsibilities is coordinating the Fundamentals of Speech Program,” said Naumoff. “I knew coming in that opening the center would be something I would do.”
“[The center] is basically to fill in a gap,” Naumoff said, “because students have the writing center to go to if they need help with their written communication, but there is a real lack of aid on campus for students who need help with their verbal communication. That’s what the center is there to help students with.”
Stephanie Ravello is a freshman paralegal studies major who has yet to take the required Fundamentals of Speech course.
“I actually do have a small fear of going up in public and talking,” she said. “I get very nervous. I honestly would definitely use the center for class. It would help me a lot, because I’m terrified of speaking in public.”
Ravello said she frequently uses the Writing Center to get “a bit more of a leap ahead” on her writing and she thinks people who use the Public Speaking Center will also be able to get ahead by feeling more comfortable with public speaking and overcoming their fear.
“There’s a lot going on at once,” Naumoff said. “Not only do you have to be aware of how you’re sounding and your hand gestures and posture, but you also have the information you have to keep track of and get out in the right order. All of those combined create a lot of anxiety for people.” She thinks public speaking can be a vulnerable position to be in, which is why many people struggle with it.
“I really feel like the best and only way to get over speech anxiety is to actually speak publicly and that’s something we hope to help students with when they come into the center,” Naumoff said. “They’ll have that safe space with a consultant where they can practice and work out the kinks in their delivery so they can feel more confident and better when delivering their speech.”
Eduardo Montoya, a sophomore marketing major, said he used to fear speaking publicly, but has been able to overcome it and feels more confident. “[The center] will hopefully teach [other students] how to get over their anxiety,” he said. “Public speaking was one of my biggest fears. If you’re anxious, then you don’t know how to deal with what you’re talking about and how you’re saying it.”
Naumoff encourages the Montclair State community to use the center to become the best public communicators they can be. “We always have area for improvement in anything we’re doing in life,” she said. “Students should take advantage of all the services on campus to be the best prepared professional human beings they can be upon graduation. Using the services means you’re smart and motivated. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not using all of the available resources.”
The Public Speaking Resource Center is located in Morehead Hall and appointments with a speech consultant can be made by calling 973-655-7471 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.