Presentation Skills Center provides presentation aid for students, faculty

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Assistant Director Brandan Bilski speaks with students at the Presentation Skills Center on Feb. 6 at Park Library.

Since opening Oct. 2, the Presentation Skills Center has provided students with a resource to better construct their speeches and presentations.

The center aims to help students, faculty and the Mount Pleasant community with their public-speaking skills. 

Students can schedule appointments ahead of time, but people are allowed to walk in any time during the center’s hours of operation, which are 3-8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday. The center is located on the third floor of the Charles V. Park Library.

Center director Lesley Withers has been pleased with how it has been received so far.

“We have had fabulous feedback,” Withers said. “Students find our service to be really helpful — it helps them feel more prepared and more confident.”

Escanaba freshman Maxwell Dagenais, who had six appointments with the center during the Fall semester, said he used the center for COM 357: Introduction to Public Speaking. 

Dagenais said he lacked confidence with public speaking, as well as narrowing down a topic to speak about.

“The first half hour appointment was spent brainstorming topics and finding what I was passionate about,” Dagenais said. 

Withers said more than 150 students have visited the center since it opened, with an average of about 15 appointments made per week. She said about half of the students who visited returned a second time or more.

The center provides multiple ways to help someone with their presentation. Withers said when students make an appointment and come into the center, they are given a half hour to work with the staff. There, the student sits down and plans out what will be done in the appointment, based on what they need help with. The center allows students to practice their presentation, record themselves and receive feedback. Staff members can also help brainstorm ideas and research.

Helping students with their confidence and organization of speeches is what Withers had in mind for the center, she said.

“We are not the sage on the stage, we are the guide on the side,” Withers said. “It’s about making sure that we’re asking the right questions that help our clients find the answers within themselves.”

Lansing freshman Philip Nguyen said the center helped polish his speech and pacing. Although he has only visited once this semester, he said he feels much more confident with giving a speech and plans to go to the center more in the future.

It’s not just students who make appointments at the center — teachers will bring entire classes there for lectures or student projects. Withers said last semester the center helped a business class with “Shark Tank” sales pitches, where groups of students had to give presentations of a product idea.

While Withers noted the center has mostly helped with academic-related projects, she said it can help with much more — like sales pitches, job interviews, play auditions or informative speeches.

“If you have a performance or presentation to give, and you want to practice, this is a great place to do it,” Withers said. 

Wither said she also talks with teachers and professors from a variety of subjects to gauge a better understanding on how to help with presentations.

The center also reached an important goal this semester, with the addition of undergraduate consultants. These consultants act as peer mentors for the people who walk into the center. Withers said last semester they only had graduate students helping out in the center. 

Now the center offers a class titled Communication Facilitation (COM 495), which is a semester long, three-credit course. Students who enroll in this course will spend three hours a week learning how to work in the center and another three hours a week in the center helping with clients. 

Withers said the program is like an internship and a class wrapped up in one, since the positions are not paid.

The center is willing to accommodate any clients who need more time, and will schedule them for another appointment, which could even be on the same day, Withers said. 

Withers said she would like the center to be open five-to-seven days a week once it has enough staff.

When it comes to the center’s future, Withers said she has a big goal in mind for the end of the semester — being certified by the National Association of Communication Centers, which supports college communication centers around the country. Withers said this would involve ensuring the staff is well-trained and the center provides quality service. Being certified would bring prestige to the center, she added.

“It helps to establish the quality of our center in a national playing field,” Withers said.