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If you missed the summer camp, it's still not too late to step into public speaking with the fall classes. Future Leader Academy's first summer public speaking class is now in full swing at its Lexington campus. In 2001, Darren LaCroix, the World Champion of Public Speaking, out-spoke 25,000 contestants from 14 countries to win that title. Darren may have been “born without a funny bone in his body,” but he possessed the desire to learn and the willingness to fail necessary to achieve his dream. As a keynote speaker since 1994, he brings his incredible story to conferences around the world.
Darren LaCroix told his inspiring and hysterical story so well that he out-spoke 25,000 contestants from 14 countries to win the World Championship.
If funny people think differently, then doesn’t it make sense that if you want to be funnier, you have to think the way they do?
In high school, Darren LaCroix was considered “Least likely to ever be funny.” In 1992, he took the stage at a Boston Comedy Club and bombed miserably.
Darren distilled his experience down into seven humor secrets and exercises that help people Get More Laughs. When he studied the ten years World Championships, he discovered that they had three things in common that you can include in your next presentation. Students anxious about speaking in public appreciate the advice of School of Communications instructor Pam Hopkins, in a special section of business and professional communication designed specifically for students who experience overwhelming anxiety about performing before an audience. Fear of speaking before an audience plagues many ECU students who must complete a public speaking course to meet requirements for their major. Students such as these have always thought, a€?Ia€™m never going to be able to do this,a€? said communication instructor Pam Hopkins, who teaches the course. Hopkins said that speech phobia or anxiety usually arises from the fear of the unknown (such as how the audience will respond), or from negative perceptions (such as anticipation of failure based on previous public speaking experiences).

While encouraged to deliver their first presentation from a standing position, students are given the option of sitting at their desk in front of classmates. While all public speaking sections cover speech anxiety, discussion of this topic is extended in the special section.
Hopkins emphasized that the special section is not limited to those who are required to take public speaking.
The self-proclaimed “student of comedy” is living proof that humor is a skill that can be learned. His ground breaking program Get Paid to Speak By Next Week® has helped many people get their very first check. Without a funny bone in his body and a willingness to fail, he went on to become a comedian and won the World Championship with a very funny speech.
Students experience fear before, during and even after a presentation a€“ as they question how well they will perform, how the audience is reacting, and how successful their effort was. They might suffer from severe panic attacks before a presentation, become physically ill from fear during the class or even feel unable to enter the classroom on the date of their speech.
For these reasons, she said, the process of presenting to an audience helps students replace lack of experience or negative thoughts with practice and a positive outlook. She started the specialized section after years of witnessing students whose anxiety inhibited their ability to excel in the course.
This allows a more intimate atmosphere than typical public speaking sections with as many as 25 to 28 students.
As students take steps toward improvement, they are encouraged to incorporate new aspects of public speaking, such as increasing eye contact with the audience.
The learning process begins with discovering the causes of anxiety, she said, followed by ways to manage that anxiety. One student wrote, a€?This class helped me to put things into perspective and overcome my anxiety so I could not only deliver speeches effectively in COMM 2420 but in other classes as well.

Students have grown more confident in public speaking, and they have shown great improvement in their presentation skills.
Since that victory, Darren has traveled the world demystifying the process of creating a powerful speech. To help those most anxious about the course, the School of Communication has begun offering a special section of COMM 2420: Business and Professional Communication, geared for students who experience extreme anxiety about making oral presentations.
Sweaty palms, shaky hands, fear of a€?going blank,a€? or butterflies in the stomach are normal reactions. In severe cases, some have signed up for and then dropped the class one or more times in spite of their desire to do well academically.
Requirements for the course are the same as in other sections, including a group presentation, an interview, and an informative and persuasive speech. The course is held once weekly, because the longer block of class time facilitates a somewhat slower pace, Hopkins said.
He has roused audiences in faraway places like Saudi Arabia, China, Oman, Malaysia, and Taiwan with his inspirational journey from first-rate chump to first-class champ, proving anything is possible if you are willing to work for it. For instance, students may request a break just before or after they give a presentation, to help alleviate anxiety. Many students were dragged to class by their parents in the beginning, and now they are anxious to come to the class.

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