Friday, February 13, 2009

Take this inventory of platform poise and mastery

In the fall the students enrolled in the Fundamentals course in the Department of Speech at Michigan State were given an Inventory of Platform Poise and Mastery. They were asked to answer the following 20 questions either TRUE or FALSE. Which of them would you answer TRUE?

1) I have spoken to audiences many times.

2) I have spoken to audiences a few times.

3) I have appeared before audiences very little.

4) I never fear the public speaking situation.

5) The nervousness or fear I do have never handicaps me.

6) I feel nervous about speaking, but quickly get over it.

7) I can speak more fluently before an audience than in private.

8) I have been unable to continue a speech on account of fear.

9) I have been able to speak but feel uncomfortably nervous about it.

10) I have refused speaking engagements on account of fear.

11) I have always dreaded to appear before an audience.

12) I have talked faster than I should on account of fear.

13) My heart beats faster when I speak.

14) My voice quavers when I speak.

15) My throat seems to fill up when I speak.

16) I seem to lack for words when speaking to a new audience.

17) My nervousness causes me to play with a pencil, fumble my notes, or rest on the furniture.

18) I fear I will forget while speaking.

19) My knees shake when I speak.

20) I consider overcoming undesirable nervousness the most important feature of this course.

For question #20, 220 of 244 of the students (or 90%) answered TRUE.

Did these questions all sound contemporary to you? I think that they do. However, they actually came from an article that is over 70 years old! Back in the November 1938 issue of Western Speech magazine J. D. Menchhofer put them on page 11, at the end of an article on the Causes and Cures of Stage Fright.

Over time the terminology has changed from “stage fright” to “communication apprehension” or “public speaking anxiety”. The symptoms remain the same, and they still motivate people to seek training in public speaking.

Other more detailed sets of questions to measure communication apprehension were developed later, like the Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety (PRPSA).

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