By Alyssa Dandrea
“The fear of public speaking is more commonly reported than even fear of death,” reads a 2010 health.msn.com report on top phobias.
In an effort to assuage these fears and reach out to students, the UMW Speaking Center developed Octoberfest, a month long celebration and promotion of the public speaking services offered at the university.
The Speaking Center, located on the first floor of Combs Hall, is a place where students can practice speeches, debates and presentations in any discipline.
According to student consultant Rachel McGuirk, “[the Speaking Center] gives you the tools and tips to be more confident.”
The staff is made up of consultants, all students trained to assist with public speaking, and is headed by Dr. Esther Lee Yook.
Karl Livingston, another consultant at the center said, “the main idea is to get the Speaking Center’s name out there. There are people on campus who don’t know where it is or that it’s student run.”
Three different workshops are planned for the month of October as a way to aid students who know little about the Speaking Center or don’t want to come in alone.
Each workshop is around an hour long, open to the public and held in Combs 237 with dinner and light snacks provided.
The first one took place on Oct. 6 and was an introductory lesson on the basics of writing and delivering speeches.
The next one on Oct. 14 will address overcoming speech anxiety and the final workshop on Oct. 21 focuses on how to give a presentation in a foreign language.
Octoberfest also includes a short writing contest about the most memorable speeches students have heard and a t-shirt design contest to find a new logo for the Speaking Center.
“We want to target people from art and graphic design classes too,” said McGuirk. “We don’t just service the English and language majors.”
There will be a scavenger hunt the final week of Octoberfest where contestants will search for numbered cards hidden in academic buildings. Each number corresponds to a prize that can be claimed at the Speaking Center.
Prizes include gift cards to local restaurants and an iPod Shuffle.
Student consultants have put in a lot of hard work to make Octoberfest a memorable and exciting event, not only for the Speaking Center but for the whole campus.
According to McGuirk, Dr. Yook has been an integral part in planning the activities, forums and competitions planned for October.
“This is a community-building event that will eventually benefit the UMW students in helping them to become more competent communicators,” said Yook.
Yook’s statement defines the ultimate goal for Octoberfest. The Speaking Center offers its services to the UMW campus for free. The staff wants each and every student to know and take advantage of this fact.
“We are here for all students:” McGuirk said, “ESL, theater, English, debate, anyone.”
Stacey Peros, another consultant, agrees. “The Speaking Center is one of the friendliest work places I’ve ever been in,” she said. “We’re like a family.”
For more information about Octoberfest, look for the bright yellow fliers around campus or stop by the Speaking Center.