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Speak up: Campus lab for communication

Students who fear public speaking now have help, thanks to the Florida Gulf Coast University Communication Lab run by the Department of Communication and Philosophy. Even better, walk-in help is easy to get because not many students seem aware the lab exists, given its sparse attendance, and help is available for oral presentations in any class, not just speech classes. Modeled after FGCU’s successful writing center, the lab features communication majors serving as tutors and interns to help members of the FGCU community and the general public with every aspect of preparing for public speaking. “We’re not just how to get over speech anxiety,” said visiting instructor Matthew Maddex, who assists in the lab. “We’re here to help students to develop all their critical thinking, writing (and) analytical skills.”

Dr. Kimberly Huff, director of the communication lab, said the staff assists with picking topics and outlining material. She also said students seem more comfortable working with peer tutors than approaching professors. Students can receive help with shaping debates and organizing arguments, Maddex said. “We’re all about reorganizing, critique, feedback (and) evaluations,” he said. “We don’t have the services for editing, other labs do that, but once you have we can help you rearrange it.”

Briana Jones, a communication major, tutors in the lab as part of the required coursework for her advanced public-speaking class. But she has also been on the other side of the counter and received help from the lab staff. “A lot of people think they don’t need the help,” she said, “but it helps to have an audience that isn’t your roommates, and the well-versed staff points out things you wouldn’t think of.”

The lab provides technological assistance as well, said interns Scott Vail and Jules Robinson. The staff helps with preparing PowerPoint and Prezi visual presentation aids, and they also videotape students so they may rehearse, analyze and revise their performances. Students are welcome to make multiple visits for help with the same project as it progresses through its development stages. The lab staff also offers help with group projects. Robinson said the volunteer tutors are often able to offer one-on-one help, and they adapt the techniques to fit the individual student’s needs and styles.

The lab provides fliers with speaking tips that students may take with them so they do not forget what they had learned. For more information, students should check the FGCU Communication Lab’s Facebook page for links to additional resources that the staff has vetted.

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