Saturday, December 5, 2009

Do you have a high level of anxiety about public speaking?

What do you mean by high? Also, how on earth would I find that out?

First, just ask yourself the following two silly questions:

1. Which of the above photos describes your mental image for a speaker’s platform:
a) the short one on the left
b) the tall one on the right

2. If you could avoid giving a speech by paying money, would you be willing to spend:
a) $1
b) $100
c) $10,000
d) $1 million
e) $100 million

If you answered question #1 with b), and question #2 with e), then you have a VERY high level of anxiety.

Seriously, there is a simple self-test that you can take to see how your level of anxiety compares with other people. It is called the Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety (PRPSA). The PRPSA first was described back in 1970 by James C. McCroskey. It has 34 multiple-choice questions. You can take it and score it yourself in less than an hour. Then you can compare your score with the norms and see if your level of anxiety really is low, high, or just normal.

Some public speaking teachers routinely use the PRPSA at the beginning of courses in order to spot students with a high level of anxiety. Then they have their students take it again near the end of the course, so they can see how much their level of anxiety has decreased.

Some textbooks incorporate the PRPSA. For example, you can find it in Public Speaking: an audience centered approach by Steven A. Beebe and Susan J. Beebe, on page 20 of the sixth edition from 2005. If your textbook does not discuss it, then you can download this sample of Chapter 2 from Confident Public Speaking by Deanna D. Sellnow from 2004 which tells you to take the PRPSA and then discusses anxiety.

So, ignore articles from coaches that spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt - like this one from last year about Public Speaking Anxiety: Can Public Speaking Training Make It Worse? Take an hour and find out for yourself where you stand!

No comments: