Public speaking is many people’s #1 fear. In fact, 74% of Americans suffer from some sort of public speaking anxiety, and 5.3 million have a social phobia.
Studies have shown that the presence of dogs can decrease anxiety and stress, so it just makes sense that dogs can help with public speaking. In fact, they’re so effective that the American University in Washington, D.C offers a free class (but not for credit, sorry folks!) that students can take. It’s a program put on through the Kogod Center for Business (KCBC). What do they study? The art of public speaking.
Students in this class give presentations, practicing their public speaking skills, but instead of a human audience, they give their speeches to an audience made up of dogs.
Where do we sign up?
Patryk Chervonay, a student in the class, says he thinks the exercises actually work: “I think it de-stresses me and helps with my presentation skills.”
The program pairs local dogs with students wanting to practice their presentation skills. Each rehearsal lasts 30 minutes, and is said to be beneficial for students looking to overcome anxiety related to public speaking.
It’s not just the students thso shw what I was going to say.” He picked Ellie, a Bernese mountain dog with big brown eyes. “And when we met, it was all about: ‘What is the chemistry that we have?’” Founder Bonnie Auslander says that dogs are the best candidates for this program because they have very little judgement. And even dogs that do have judgement aren’t able to express it, making them perfect for speakers who are scared or nervous. A good pup can settle anyone’s nerves just by looking at them with those classic puppy dog eyes.
But it’s not just their comforting and friendly presence that helps students. They exhibit behaviour similar to real audience members, and are easily distracted, which is a great tool for students trying to hone in their public speaking skills: trying to keep your audience engaged. Although dogs respond better to treats than people do, tone of voice, posture, and eye contact can all be practiced and improved with a dog audience.
What about a feline program? Bonnie Auslander says it’s not entirely out of the question, but it’s function will be very different. “There will be a cat program in the future,”says Auslander, “For people who are overconfident and need to be taken down a peg.” Sounds like for anxious speakers, dogs are the much better choice. But you knew that anyway.