With exams and final presentations looming around the corner, the fear of public speaking can be just one more anxiety added to an already stressful finals season.
To help relieve some of that anxiety, the Women’s Political League will host a workshop tonight at 8 p.m. in Houston Hall’s Golkin Room — focusing on public speaking as part of the campus-wide Political Action Week.
College senior Victoria Pisini will teach the workshop, which is sponsored by Communication Within the Curriculum, Penn’s public speaking program.
WPL decided to focus on public speaking for their first workshop based on the results of a questionnaire they sent out to their constituents in the beginning of the year.
“This is what [our constituents] said was their greatest challenge, which isn’t so surprising because public speaking is many people’s number one fear,” College junior Madeleine Stevens, president of WPL, said.
“Given that our mission is encouraging more women to take political leadership roles. A public speaking workshop seemed like a natural thing to do because it’s such an important skill for life and such an important skill for the political sphere,” she added.
Stevens also explained the “double bind” facing women specifically in public discourse. When women speak too authoritatively, she said, they can often come across as harsh or abrasive, while “if they are too conciliatory by couching their opinions in qualifiers like ‘I think that’ and ‘maybe,’ it makes them seem weak.”
Although hosted by a women’s organization, the event is open to students of any gender, Stevens explained, as public speaking is an important skill for everyone.
The workshop will focus primarily on overcoming symptoms of anxiety such as shaking hands and rising heart rate, as opposed to technique.
“Public speaking is a skill that can be learned with time and practice and I think what happens is a lot of students believe they are born this way or they’re awkward which is all false,” Pisini, who has worked as an advisor for the CWiC program for three years, said.
“So once we take them through the core of public speaking it puts students much more at ease.”
The vision of the program is to help students with class presentations, job interviews, day-to-day interactions and larger public speaking engagements.
“I’m hoping all attendees can go into their lives and public speaking engagements and feel like they have the tools to minimize their anxieties,” Stevens said.
Pisini is also confident that students can gain the tools necessary for any occasion where public speaking is needed.
“The biggest thing is that public speaking is a skill you can improve … you can use your nervousness to your benefit instead of viewing it as a weakness,” she said.