Oral Communication: a functional art form

photo credit: Samantha Feld

Although, like most of my peers, I have enrolled in Comm 101 for the sole purpose of fullfiling a graduation requirement, I recognize and respect the art and skill required to be an effective public speaker.  Currently undertaking my fourth year as a Biology/Pre-Med student at UW-Stevens Point, I have learned the importance of accurately and efficiently communicating ideas, specifically when it comes to scientific research.  I feel as though I have exceeded proficiency in my written communication, with extensive interdisciplinary writing experience; however, oral communication is a skill I continue to struggle with.

As an art form, and even as a functional way of conveying information, oral communication involves so much more than simply what you say.  This was made abundantly clear on the first day of class when we discussed Aristotle’s ideas of Logos, Pathos and Egos.  As a public speaker, you cannot simply relay information to the audience, but you must do so in a way conveys your credibility and appeals to the listeners’ logic and emotions.  In doing this, you can really reach the audience and make them feel engaged in the topic you are discussing.

 However, in order to effectively apply these three aspects, we learned that without an effective delivery, a speech will not be well-received, regardless of its credibility, emotional appeal, or flawless logic.  Through the acronym SPEAK, we are reminded of the key elements of successful delivery: Smile, Posture, Eye contact, Animation and attitude, and Kinetics.  During the lecture, it is easy to nod along and say, “Of course these things are necessary!” but the real challenge comes in applying these concepts into the discussion portion of this class.  For some reason, there seems to be a giant disconnect between recognizing why these elements are important and actually incorporating them into a presentation.  Nervousness seems to be responsible for creating this gap between theory and application.  Why so many of us dread standing up and speaking in front of a group seems like such an irrational fear, yet it is practically ubiquitous.  While this class may not be able to teach me why we are afraid to speak in front of a crowd, it will at the very least help me to overcome my trepidation so that I may effectively apply the techniques we learn throughout the duration of this class.

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