Managing media: A shout-out to speech communication and drama teachers everywhere

I smiled like a Cheshire cat walking into the terminal after the continuation of Southwest Flight 812, service to Sacramento. After surviving an explosive decompression (read: hole in plane + oxygen masks) and emergency landing, I felt grateful to be alive. Plus, just t-minus two minutes until I could finally get my hands (and let’s face it, lips) on Mr. T.

Like any late evening arrival, the terminal was quiet. Only one television camera bespoke anything out of the ordinary. Until getting downstairs, that is.

In order to get a curbside pick-up at Sacramento International Airport, you must descend a set of double escalators. In my hundreds of trips down said stairs in the last few years, I always notice the friends and family waiting to pick up passengers. Most camp in seating areas at the base of the stairs, staring up to see if their loved one is coming down. A few gather at the top of the escalators eager to see their people as soon as possible. My favorite is when kidlets wave colorful hand-made signs for their parents, or when lovers reunite in passionate the-rest-of-the-world-does-not-exist embraces.

Photo from Google images.

While my favorite person waited outside to whisk me away, I searched for a path to maneuver through the throng of relieved loved ones. Before getting to T, however, I faced one last hurdle: the shiny black eyes of TV cameras and the eager microphones of local reporters.

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two? Does that seem right? To the average person that means that if they have to go to a funeral, they’d be better off in the casket than giving the eulogy,” Jerry Seinfeld.

After those three on-the-spot interviews and subsequent TV and radio conversations, a friend quipped that some folks out there might rather go through the emergency landing than ever talk about it publicly. There may be some truth there.

I credit my ability to speak well to the many drama, speech and communication teachers I’ve been privileged to learn from. Although I still get nervous–Lord knows I turn bright red when speaking in class or giving presentations–I have confidence in my voice thanks to practice and performance in other venues. (Working for Blue Mountain News also helped, of course!)

It’s part of the reason I think speech and the arts are so vital to developing good citizens. As a some time speech teacher, I know how terrifying it is. I’ve had students choke up, cry and run out of the room mid-speech. But I’ve also seen transformation throughout the course of a semester. I’ve watched students who hated to ever speak in class become confident in their voices and ideas, and be able to articulate themselves comfortably. While they may never do public speaking for a living, I’m confident that they will go into the workforce and their communities, and present themselves well.

So, college students out there: Face the demon and take a speech class (and not the online variety!). It may not be the most fun semester ever, but you will come out better on the other end, I promise.

Parents: Consider encouraging your kids to do drama and speech in school. A professor at Arizona State, Johnny Saldana, just finished a cross-generational study of former drama/speech students. He and his colleagues found that years and years and years later, people who took drama or speech in high school cited increased confidence throughout the rest of their lives as a result!

your friendly neighborhood communication teacher,

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