I Plead the Fifth


One of the biggest fears college students face involves having to deliver speeches, so many avoid taking a public speaking course in college.

Only communication students are required to take COM 2129, which is the public speaking course, although it is an elective for many campus programs.

As stated in the Kennesaw State University course catalog, “COM 2129 covers methods and practices in effective oral communication with an emphasis on speech preparation and presentation.”

Kerry Welborn. Photo by Selena Maddox.
Kerry Welborn. Photo by Selena Maddox.

Kerry Welborn, an adjunct professor at KSU, has been teaching the public speaking course for about six years. She feels that public speaking is the staple of the communications department.  Welborn does feel that the public speaking course should be required for all students to take no matter what field of work they enter.

“I understand there are other important requirements too, but I see usage [of public speaking skills] no matter what you do for the rest of your life,” said Welborn.

One reason why many students try to avoid taking the public speaking course is because they experience high levels of speech anxiety. Students don’t want to experience the feeling of being judged, graded and/or videotaped when presenting a speech.

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce speech anxieties. Welborn said that the best way to reduce speech anxiety is to practice. Practicing and knowing one’s speech will help students focus more on the material they are presenting instead of focusing on the audience and other distractions around them.

Aubrey Spivey, a student at KSU who has taken the public speaking course, said she feels that it has helped her become a more confident speaker. Spivey experienced speech anxiety because she has a speech impediment in which she mixes up the sounds of words.

“I realized if I slowed down and thought about the words as I was saying them, then they would not all come out at the same time or in the wrong order,” said Spivey.

Also while delivering a speech, Spivey holds a paper clip in her hand to help her focus more on the paper clip and less on the distractions around her.  The main thing Spivey wants students to know is that they can overcome their speech anxieties and they should not get caught up in the moment when giving a speech.

Students are not the only people who get anxious about giving a speech. Welborn used to work at Cartoon Network during the day and would teach at KSU in the evenings when she first started teaching. She would use her lunch break to go over lecture notes, but one day she had too much going on at work to stop for lunch. She was unable to review her notes before class and felt unprepared. Welborn said that this was one of the only times she has ever felt that she was anxious about speaking in class.

For students who are questioning or dreading about taking the public speaking course, Welborn wants you to know that you are not being judged and that the professor is there to help coach you. Also, everyone struggles with some form of speech anxiety which is perfectly normal.


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