Click here for COVID-19 updates affecting the campus community

Presentation Skills Center to promote public speaking in students

Lesley Withers, director of the presentation skills center, explains the variety of classes available that will teach speaking skills to students on Oct. 2 in Charles V. Park Library room 319C.

The Presentation Skills Center officially opened Monday, Oct. 2 in the Charles V. Park library.

The center operates from 3-8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday.

The center is a place where students can receive help from staff in creating a speech, presentation or pitch, said director and communications professor Leslie Withers.

“One of the most common fears people have is public speaking,” Withers said. “We hope to help reduce the anxiety involved and provide constructive feedback.”

Staff members talk with students about where they are in the presentation process. They then look at what can be done within the allotted time and determine the next step based on what was covered. 

“Some of the things we do is listen to speeches, provide topic ideas and help find supporting research,” Withers said. 

Students can also record their speeches for use at the center or at home.

The 30-minute appointments are scheduled by students online or via phone. Walk-ins are also allowed if there are no existing appointments. Off-campus appointments are also available through Skype and WebEx. 

“The idea for the center has been talked about for several years, but it had not been a sure thing until a year-and-a-half ago,” Withers said. 

After a soft open Sept. 19, Withers says that the turnout was good, with 16 students coming to the center for help.

It was possible to put the center in the library due to the third floor being used primarily for non-library support centers, according to Associate Library Dean Kathy Irwin. Other centers on that floor include the math and writing centers.

A committee was formed to bring the center to life. Withers, as well as other staff and faculty within the communications department, met throughout Summer and Fall 2016. 

Kirsten Weber, communications faculty member and member of the committee, said they developed the framework and dealt with the logistics of its formation, including a proposal to the university. Once the proposal was approved, the university gave the Department of Communication and Dramatic Arts the funding it needed.

Dean of Libraries Jeff Luzius is considering expanding the center, depending on the continued turnout. 

“Right now, the (center) is viewed as a pilot project," Luzius said. "Once we have an idea about usage we can determine future space needs."