Communication Apprehension Lab aimed at easing public speaking fears
Contact: Elise Doster Stolzle
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OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF SPEAKING -- Southeastern Louisiana University graduate students and communication professor Suzette Bryan test heart rate and pulse measuring equipment in the university’s newly developed Communication Apprehension Lab. The lab is aimed at helping students overcome public speaking fears. From left, are Andreia Monteiro, Hammond; Brittney Baptiste, Baton Rouge; Micha Blanchard, Gonzales; Bryan.
Under the direction of Graduate Coordinator Suzette Bryan, graduate students in the Department of Communication will teach students valuable cognitive and visualization tactics they can use to ease public speaking anxiety, considered the most common fear of adults.
The lab will also provide communication graduate students with important research experience in an area that Bryan said is “groundbreaking” and, to her knowledge, unique to Southeastern.
Located on the third floor of Southeastern’s D Vickers Hall, the lab is open to any student who would like to overcome the fear of public speaking.
“I have taught a lot of students with extreme communication apprehension, especially associated with public speaking,” said Bryan. “Although some past research has said the fear of public speaking is too embedded within human personality to be changed, recent research has shown that cognitive approaches can help change the brain patterns associated with fear.”
Bryan, who has an educational background in speech pathology and organizational communication, said people have the ability to overcome public speaking fears if they are highly motivated and willing to put forth the effort.
Lab participants will initially complete a series of apprehension surveys and present a prepared speech in front of a volunteer audience. Using a “mini logger,” a non-invasive apparatus similar to a heart rate monitor, graduate research assistants measure the participant’s communication apprehension by recording heart rates and patterns.
After the assessment, participants are assigned one of three anxiety- relief techniques -- visualization, cognitive restructuring and skills practice -- which have been shown to strengthen public speaking skills and increase confidence.
Following three weeks of individual, daily training and journaling, participants return to the lab for a follow-up session and their assessment is repeated.
“We want to see if the anxiety-relief tactics help ease communication apprehension and if three weeks in enough time to make a difference,” Bryan said.
Bryan said the experimental research and collection of data will give communication graduate assistants the opportunity to present their findings at various conferences and submit their work to scholarly journals.
“One of the things that is sometimes a roadblock for graduate students who want to go into a doctoral program is not having enough background in research,” she said. With the Communication Apprehension Lab, they are able to really jump into research and become a part of it. All we need now are customers.”
Graduate research assistant Brittney Baptiste, who was responsible for creating the experimental protocol, said the lab is an effective device for linking Southeastern students and faculty.
“Working with Dr. Bryan in the development of the lab has shown me that instructors do create opportunities to further their students’ academic careers,” Baptiste said. “Our lab can give students the tools they need to build on their communication skills and I’m looking forward to the results.”
The lab is open on Tuesdays and Thursday. Students interest in participating may call 985-549-5060.