Services include assistance in the following areas:

  1. Coping with speaking anxiety
  2. Choosing and narrowing your presentation topic
  3. Creating an outline for your presentationCreating engaging speech introductions and powerful conclusions
  4. Improving delivery skills in both verbal and nonverbal communication
  5. Integrating audiovisual aids in your presentation
  6. Organizing group presentations
  7. Preparing presentations for professional meetings and conferences

What happens in a Ferguson Center session?
One-on-one assistance is given in both the preparation and practice of speech making. The preparation step involves working with a consultant, if necessary, to prepare a well-organized outline for your presentation. The practice step begins with videotaping your speech. You then have the option of watching the videotape on your own, or, preferably, with the speech consultant. Discussion of your presentation will focus on the strong points of your presentation as well as areas that may need improvement.

What items should I bring to the session?
Please provide a copy of the assignment, information about how the presentation will be evaluated, and your research and notes for the presentation. If you have an outline, bring that as well.

What about the Honor Code?
It is not a violation of the Honor Code to receive assistance in the Ferguson Center. Remember, consultants in the Center will not do your research or write your speech for you; they are happy to assist you after you have done your preliminary research and work.

How do I make an appointment?
Stop by the Ferguson Center in the Bortz Library and sign the appointment book, call the Center at 223-7151, or simply drop by the Center when it is open. The first available consultant will be happy to assist you.

Tutoring Schedule

Online Tutorials:

Speaking Anxiety

The physiological and psychological changes that occur when a person faces a potentially threatening task -- speaking in public, for example -- are an indication of the body's readiness to respond. In this sense, some "stage fright" is a good thing -- its presence indicates that the speaker is gearing up for a task that matters -- one that demands his or her full concentration and effort. Speakers can learn to use this natural, heightened sense of readiness to their advantage by incorporating these tips:

Choose the topic wisely. Find something that will appeal both to you and your audience.

Prepare thoroughly. Give yourself enough time to research, organize, and practice your presentation. Stop by the Ferguson Center for one-to one assistance with all areas of speech preparation.

Be yourself. The audience wants you to succeed! Audience members are concerned with what you have to say, not with how you say it. A natural, conversational style coupled with a professional approach will help you to feel at ease.

Focus on the message, not the audience. What do you want the audience to gain from listening to your speech? Focus on that.

Use eye contact with the audience. Look at them and connect. Not only will you make the audience members feel important, you'll be able to see their responses so you can adapt your message if need be.

Incorporate gestures and movement if you wish. This is a great way to expend some of the excess energy you'll be generating.

Slow down. Give the audience time to process the information.

Incorporate visual aids in your presentation. Used wisely, visuals are a good way to break up the speech and take the focus off of you for a bit. Be sure to practice with the visuals so that incorporating them does not throw you.

Check out the performance space ahead of time. If possible, rehearse your presentation in the actual space.

Practice. Recruit friends, teachers, co-workers, or family members to serve as your rehearsal audience. Even better, come by the Ferguson Center and work with a consultant. If you'd like, the consultant can videotape your rehearsal and offer constructive feedback to help you improve. 

Ethical Speaking:Respecting the Honor Code

Public speakers have the opportunity to impart knowledge, change opinions, and prompt an audience to take action. The ethical speaker uses ethical means to achieve his or her ends and is careful to earn and maintain the trust of his or her audience. Everyone can cite examples of public figures who have misinformed or misled the public through unethical actions.

What constitutes ethical communication? What are the moral obligations of speaker to audience? Brydon and Scott in Between One and Many: the Art and Science of Public Speaking, offer the following suggestions based on the work of classical rhetoricians and modern scholars:

1. Be truthful. Learn the facts about your subject and present them honestly to your audience. Remember that omitting or distorting evidence can be as harmful to your credibility as a speaker as lying.

2. Show respect for the power of words. Be respectful of individual and cultural diversity -- avoid inflammatory and discriminatory language.

3. Invoke participatory democracy. Give your audience accurate information; present both sides of a controversial issue along with a refutation of the opposing view, and respect audience members' rights to disagree with your viewpoint.

4. Demonstrate tolerance for cultural diversity. Different cultures have different ethical standards; keep this fact in mind as you are formulating the presentation of your ideas.

5. Avoid plagiarism. Since listeners do not have the benefit of consulting your bibliography, you must cite the sources of your information orally. Failure to do so is a serious ethical offense and, if discovered, will destroy your credibility with your audience. You must cite ideas that are not your own, direct quotes from others, and the sources of your supporting evidence.

6. Build goodwill and trustworthiness with your audience. Let your audience members know that you are concerned about their needs and concerns. Doing so will enhance your credibility as well as your effectiveness as a speaker.

(Brydon, Steven R. and Michael D. Scott. Between One and Many: The Art and Science of Public Speaking. Third Edition. Mt. View, CA: Mayfield Publishing, 2000.)

Group Presentations

Working in a group to prepare and present information is a challenging opportunity that can be both rewarding and frustrating. The benefits of sharing ideas and sharing the workload can be diminished when a group member fails to carry his or her load. Thorough planning, adequate prep time, and open communication among all group members are the keys for a successful group experience. Many of the steps outlined in Preparing and Delivering Your Presentation apply in the preparation of a group project. Your group may also benefit from a visit (or several visits) to the Ferguson Center for Public Speaking where a consultant can assist you throughout the preparation process. You can videotape a practice run of your presentation if you'd like and then review it with a Ferguson Center consultant.

Preparing & Delivering Your Presentation

Preparing and delivering an oral presentation may feel like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be! By following the steps reviewed in this section, preparing your oral presentation can be virtually painless. The key to success is allowing yourself adequate time to accomplish each step. Stop by the Ferguson Center at any point during the process of preparing your presentation for one-to-one assistance with your project.

The major steps involved in preparing your oral presentation include:

  • Narrowing Your Topic
  • Researching Your Topic
  • Organizing and Outlining Your Presentation
  • Rehearsing and Delivering Your Presentation

Types of Oral Presentations

Informative Speaking has audience learning as its primary goal. An informative speech may explain a concept, instruct an audience, demonstrate a process, or describe an event. In an academic setting, the informative speech may take many different forms:

  • Individual or Group Report
  • Oral Briefing
  • Oral Exams
  • Panel Discussion
  • Oral Critique

Persuasive Speaking is used to influence what an audience thinks or does. Brydon and Scott in Between One and Many: The Art and Science of Public Speaking outline four goals of persuasive speaking:

  • to reinforce the attitudes, beliefs, and values an audience already holds
  • to inoculate an audience against counterpersuasion
  • to change attitudes
  • to motivate an audience to act

(Brydon, Steven R. and Michael D. Scott. Between One and Many: The Art and Science of Public Speaking. Third Edition. Mt. View, CA: Mayfield Publishing, 2000).

Persuasion is a very complex process that combines three essential elements: ethos, the credibility of the speaker; logos, the logical proof and reasoning presented in the words of the speech; and pathos, the use of emotional appeals to influence the audience. Several forms of persuasive speaking exist in the college environment:

  • Analyses of current events/institutions/policies, literary criticism, scientific data, etc. in an attempt to persuade the audience to accept a particular view
  • Debates, within the classroom and the college community
  • Task-force groups
  • Advocacy presentations
  • Professional interviews
  • Role-playing or simulations

The consultants in the Ferguson Center are available to assist you in preparing your persuasive presentation. Make an appointment today!