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Helping University Students Manage Anxiety Around Public Speaking

Exercise Is One of 10 in Collection Designed to Spur Personal, Professional Development

At the Association for Business Communication’s 87th annual meeting in 2022, researchers presented dozens of classroom-ready ideas to foster college students’ personal and professional development. A new article presents 10 of those innovations, including one by a Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) faculty member that gives students useful tools to manage their anxiety around public speaking. The article appears in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly.

“This curated collection is designed to invigorate classic and new assignments,” explains D. Joel Whalen, associate professor of marketing at DePaul University, who coauthored the article. “Professors can refresh their learning goals by considering these unique assignment topics, providing their students inspiring, engaging, and useful skill-building scenarios for business communication.”

In “Pitch with a Twist: Perform Your Speaking Anxieties,” Stacy Rosenberg, associate teaching professor at CMU’s Heinz College, outlines a teaching exercise she developed and uses with students enrolled in her class, Strategic Presentation Skills.

“The exercise is designed to give graduate students tools to recognize and manage their anxiety around public speaking,” explains Rosenberg. “Our students come from a diverse array of degree programs including data analytics, public policy, as well as arts and entertainment management – yet they each find this impromptu activity energizing.”

In less than an hour, students identify what aspects of public speaking make them anxious, then describe how that anxiety shows up in their bodies (e.g., elevated heart rate, speaking too quickly, pacing). Next, students plan and practice vocal and nonverbal tactics to manage their anxiety, delivering a pitch in which they act out the nervous symptoms they typically experience when speaking publicly.

Then, students brainstorm tactics to lower their stress levels prior to speaking and manage nervous symptoms while presenting. Finally, they deliver a more confident, professional pitch, omitting the symptoms of anxiety they identified previously.

“The quality of presentations delivered at the Association for Business Communication annual conference is always outstanding,” states Rosenberg. “I was honored to have my teaching innovation showcased and selected for publication.”


Summarized from an article in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, My Favorite Assignment—A Storm Surge of Teaching Innovations by Whalen, JD (DePaul University), and Drehmer, C (De Paul University). Copyright 2023. All rights reserved.

About Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy
The Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy is home to two internationally recognized graduate-level institutions at Carnegie Mellon University: the School of Information Systems and Management and the School of Public Policy and Management. This unique colocation combined with its expertise in analytics set Heinz College apart in the areas of cybersecurity, health care, the future of work, smart cities, and arts & entertainment. In 2016, INFORMS named Heinz College the #1 academic program for Analytics Education. For more information, please visit

To explore the article in greater depth and download materials, visit or professional-communication-quarterly-my-favorite-assignment.