Public speaking is one of people’s greatest personal fears, and a new facility in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Communication and Information provides tools to help students tackle their anxieties and become better communicators.
The Public Speaking Center, in Room 260 of the Communications Building, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 2.
“The fear of public speaking is consistent across a number of studies,” said John Haas, associate professor and director of the School of Communication Studies. The center provides facilities and technology to allow students to practice and improve their skills. Haas said the center has been in the works for nearly three years.
It is an example of how funds raised for the College of Communication and Information Campaign are helping to provide state-of-the-art facilities for UT students. The college launched the public phase of its $15 million Journey to the Top 25 fundraising campaign Nov. 11.
Funding to renovate the suite of rooms and outfit the Public Speaking Center with technology was provided in part by a gift from football great Peyton Manning, who graduated with his bachelor’s degree in communication studies in 1997 and received the college’s Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007.
A banner in the room acknowledges Manning’s role in the center’s creation. Students recorded brief thank you messages for Manning during the event.
The center is expected to be a widely used facility. The room’s primary users will be the 1,750 students who take Communication Studies 210 and 240 each year. About 90 percent of undergraduates from all majors take those courses during their time at UT.
The center’s main room is flanked by three practice bays equipped with podiums, microphones and cameras where users can practice giving speeches and record them for viewing and critique. Computers and screens in the shared area provide a ready viewing area. The center also includes a presentation room with a large table and chairs, a computer, projector and screen, and a glass board.
Haas said it’s important for those using the room to work with communication studies staff and mentors so they learn proper techniques before rehearsing.
“Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make permanent,” he said.
The Public Speaking Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.