While many Salt Lake Community College students who take a public speaking course have no problem using their voices, a select few get the opportunity to demonstrate their ability in a public forum.
Once a semester, the SLCC Communication Department assembles six student speakers to give a speech in front of their peers and instructors during the Speakers’ Showcase, made possible by funding from the ACE Grant.
“For the [communication] studies department that focuses on interpersonal, intercultural, public speaking … our big event every semester is this Speakers’ Showcase,” says Sarah Billington, assistant professor and member of the Speakers’ Showcase chair.
Billington says students can learn some of the important traits that good public speakers possess if they enroll in COMM 1020, the public speaking course at SLCC.
“Organization, solid content, delivery skills, being an effective speaker normally includes a combination of those,” she says.
There were 37 different sections of COMM 1020 this past semester, including the concurrent classes. Instructors from those classes pick students who they feel may have had an outstanding speech or shown growth from the beginning of the semester to now. The selected students submit a speech video from the speech they wrote to additional instructors to be judged. The pool is then narrowed down to six finalists.
Candice Cameron, Whitney Stewart, Valeria Ampuero, Zaida Libertini, Olivia Kavapalu, and Liliana Basaldua were selected to present at the spring 2018 Speakers’ Showcase. Each student walked away with a $100 gift card as a prize.
“I really recognized how important communication is, regardless of it’s a presentation, or just one-on-one communication and how effective you can use those tools to be a better person in the workforce,” Kavapalu says. “A lot of the non-verbal messages play a big role in how people perceive you and I really didn’t pick up on that until this course.”
Each of the six finalists had their own level of comfort with public speaking from the beginning of the class until the end. Most admitted to being nervous about speaking to crowds, but overcame their fears and delivered speeches to a nearly full auditorium.
“Honestly, at the very beginning, I couldn’t speak in public … it was kind of sad,” Cameron says. “The major things I struggled with were just being nervous and not having confidence in myself. And sometimes that’s just stuff where they have to let you know that you’re worth it, that you’re giving great information, and you look good on stage. That’s how they helped me boost my confidence a little bit.”
The students were able to gain additional confidence thanks to the encouragement and constructive criticism of their classmates and professors.
“I got a lot of feedback from my classmates and my professor and that all helped me feel better about my speaking, even when I was having that low self esteem thinking that I completely bombed it,” Stewart says. “They would tell me what I did well and what I could work on so I could adjust. My next speech was always an improvement. I felt like I improved over time, it was nice and extremely validating and an honor to get selected for this.”
As the rest of the world shifts more towards digital and online interactions, Billington emphatically explained the importance of still being a strong public speaker. Things like job interviews and daily personal interactions require some level of public speaking skill.
“I’m scared that in the future [public speaking] could be missing, but I don’t think it should,” Billington says. “There’s a huge difference between having to be face-to-face with someone and talking to them and just communicating on the internet. Even if it’s video, there’s just still a huge difference with that face-to-face [interaction]. … I hope that students don’t lose that ability.”
To participate in the Speakers’ Showcase, students must be enrolled in a public speaking class, either online or in person. You do not have to be a communication major to be in the class; of the six finalists, only one chose communication as their major.
“[The showcase] is really important to us,” Billington says. “It’s something that we’re really proud of, and it’s something that we want to keep pushing and promoting, and making other people aware that it exists.”
COMM 1020 is open to all who want to sharpen their speaking skills. Contact the SLCC Communication Department for more information about the public speaking class and the Speakers’ Showcase.