Speaking Center Opening for Personal Consultations

New center helped faculty, staff and students adjust to online speaking

Elizabeth Moore, director of the UM Speaking Center, gives feedback on a presentation by student Leah Hughes, who is practicing a virtual presentation in front of a green screen. Photo by Logan Kirkland/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi‘s new Speaking Center helped students, faculty and staff sharpen their virtual speaking and presenting skills last year as most people were adjusting to online learning. 

The center, on the fourth floor of Lamar Hall, is staffed with student and faculty consultants who are prepared to help with a variety of public speaking areas, from writing a speech to the final delivery and every step in between.

“Organization is the No. 1 thing people come in for,” said Elizabeth Moore, director of the Speaking Center and lecturer in speech. “We helped most with putting together a solid intro, three major talking points and a conclusion, which, for me, is all about the transitions.”

Consultants also helped with speaking anxiety, language use and the creation of PowerPoint presentations, Moore said.

For Speaking Center consultant Alandria Eppenger, it was anxiety and transitions that gave her the most trouble when she began public speaking.

“When I took Speech 105, I was told I speak too fast and my transitions were fluid,” said Eppenger, a political science major from Como. “That and nerves. I hate the nerves.”

But once she began fixing her mistakes, Eppenger wanted to use what she’d learned to help others.

“Even though I was still nervous, I wanted to show other students what they are capable of, too,” she said. “What I like most about public speaking is that it strengthens me as a person and gives me more confidence. Going into pharmacy school next year, I’m terrified. This is one more way to prepare.”

The center, which was set to open for in-person consulting in 2020, was forced online by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But moving services online was a blessing in disguise, Moore said.

“We ended up being even more successful because people got to know us online,” Moore said. “A lot of students and faculty reached out to us in terms of online presentations, which is a whole other world. We talked about lighting, framing, on-screen eye contact, avoiding striped and brightly colored clothes, backgrounds, and checking technology capabilities.”

The Speaking Center is a general education initiative operated by the Department of Writing and Rhetoric and serves anyone with speaking needs in the Ole Miss community.

Anyone in need of a public speaking consultation can get assistance beginning Monday (Aug. 23). Appointments can be made online, but walk-ins are also welcome 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.