Undergraduate Blog

COMM 4643: Advanced Business Speaking

Professor Marcia Pentz’s Advanced Business Speaking class has been one of fourth-year Gabriella Schmidt's favorite UVA experiences so far. Even in an online setting, she says, Pentz's vibrancy shone through, and Schmidt was able to connect on a deep level with all of her classmates. Below she shares some of the fun and challenging activities that students did to improve as public speakers.

So, we’ve all had classes that intimidate us right off the bat. Maybe there’s a huge first deliverable, or you dive right into technical content on the first day after zooming through the syllabus. If you’ve been in the Integrated Core Experience, maybe that initial participation-heavy environment was intimidating for you. I’ve been in all of those situations, but I think the most intimidating first assignment I’ve had was in the Advanced Business Speaking class I took this past semester. Our first assignment was to sing a cappella for 30-60 seconds, on Zoom, in front of the whole class. I was shocked–what did singing have to do with business speaking? In case it wasn’t already obvious, I’m not really a good singer, which is why this was so off-putting for me and so many of my classmates!

But, strangely enough, it really wasn’t that bad. Most of us weren’t exactly “singers,” but we all cheered for each other and laughed at ourselves. That exercise was designed to set a tone of vulnerability for the class and also to get the “most embarrassing” thing out of the way. For a lot of us, public speaking might create anxiety. By singing in front of each other before giving speeches to each other, it made speaking less scary.

Throughout the rest of the semester, we did an array of different speeches. We did a “Story of You” speech, a technical speech, a motivational speech, and even Shakespeare monologues. Through all of this, we became very close as a class. I had my hesitations about taking this class–it is an elective and doesn’t go towards my concentrations, but I thought it sounded fun–because it was all on Zoom. But, in the world we’re living in today, it was helpful to learn how to present in a meaningful and compelling way in an online format.

What struck me the most was how close I felt to my classmates, even though I haven’t seen any of them in person. We shared personal things through our speeches, whether it was about ourselves or the things that were most important to us. There were moments that I had tears in my eyes from the speeches my classmates gave, and there were also times where we were all in fits of laughter as we realized unexpected things we had in common. Professor Marcia Pentz has masterfully organized this class to evoke vulnerability and confidence all at the same time. I never thought I’d sing, recite Shakespeare, and do stand-up comedy in a Commerce business speaking class, but I did! I learned so much and I grew as a public speaker through these diverse experiences.  This class was a big bright spot in this pandemic-ridden semester, and I would highly recommend it to everyone, and especially to anyone who is looking to become more comfortable with public speaking.

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