COLA Connections Newsletter: Winter 2017

Sharpening Public Speaking Skills at the ECC

One of the most intimidating things for many students when they get to college is having to give a presentation for class.  According to a 2016 study at Chapman University, a fear of public speaking was ranked as the #2 Personal Fear people have, falling behind only a fear of reptiles, while surpassing fears such as insects and spiders, deep lakes and oceans, enclosed spaces, needles, blood, animals, ghosts and clowns.  Despite this fear, public speaking is an important skill to hone for success both in and outside the classroom. Strong verbal communication and public speaking skills are often a top-cited ability that employers want in the people they hire.

To help students overcome this fear, or to polish their abilities, RIT created the Expressive Communication Center (ECC).  Located on the second floor of the Wallace Center, the ECC offers support or training to students, both graduate and undergraduate, giving presentations or speeches. 

Dr. Kelly Martin, an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication, is an enthusiastic supporter of public speaking and in charge of assessment, marketing and research related to the ECC.  We spoke with Dr. Martin and Alexis Collazo, a third-year Advertising and Public Relations major with a minor in marketing and Spanish who has used the ECC.

What services does the ECC offer? Who should take advantage of the ECC?

Dr. Martin: Both individual students and student groups may meet with a trained communication consultant for one-on-one help with all phases of presentation preparation and delivery, including:

  • topic selection
  • outline construction
  • audience needs
  • slide/visual design
  • language use
  • delivery techniques
  • anxiety management
  • delegating roles as a group

Students can also use the recording equipment in the room so that they may review their delivery afterward and continue to make improvements. Both undergraduate and graduate students are welcome! Undergraduate students often use the center for presentations for coursework and many graduate students use it to prepare for thesis defenses or conference presentations

What does an average session at the ECC entail?

Alexis: You could literally take any part of a speech or presentation to the Center. For example, if you needed to write a speech, you would go with your idea and talk it over with the tutor. They would then give you a way to start structuring your speech and create main talking points. If you actually have a presentation ready and you want to practice, you could go there and do that, as well. Basically, any part of a presentation that you need help with, you can find it at the ECC.

What are some advantages of improving Public Speaking skills? How can students benefit from better public speaking skills, in both their academic and professional careers?

Dr. Martin: Numerous industry workforce reports, university alumni surveys, and academic studies have long stressed the importance of strong communication abilities for all college graduates. Strong public speaking skills are really what will distinguish candidates in job interviews and when it comes time for promotions. Technical skills and content knowledge are often expected as a given from RIT graduates, but the students who can also demonstrate excellent communication abilities are the candidates who really stand out. Working on public speaking skills while still in college gives students a jump start in their academic work. They present ideas and arguments more easily and confidently.  This carries over when it comes time for them to enter the workforce, too.

How does the ECC help students in and out of the classroom?

Alexis: Public Speaking is so important. People miss out on opportunities to participate in open discussions and in class if they’re afraid to speak out, or don’t feel confident doing so. If you’re getting some practice one-on-one with a tutor, you’ll gain the skills and confidence to do that on a normal basis with anyone. I think that the ECC is really amazing. The time blocks are only 30-minute sessions and you can schedule them as you need. The tutors are great! They know what they’re talking about and will give you good feedback.

What would you say to students to encourage them to use the ECC?

Dr. Martin: The very best way to better your public speaking or presenting skills is to get experience actually doing it! The ECC offers a low-stakes way for you to get that experience and really stand out, or simply feel a lot more comfortable in front of an audience. Out of all the booked appointments this past fall semester, 100% rated the overall experience as positive (either good or really good) and 94% said they intended to return. Based on this feedback, I can confidently say that students will find coming to the ECC really helpful and worthwhile.


Interested in trying out the ECC? Learn more at: