Getting Your Butterflies In Formation

Alexander Gent

Students, Faculty, and members of the Riverbend community gathered at the Reid Memorial Library for a seminar about public speaking presented by D.C. Cooper, on Feb. 7, 2019.

The seminar was aimed at helping attendants to “become better at public speaking”, as Cooper’s presentation focused on different scenarios of communication, and why less public forms of communication feel more comfortable to engage in.

“Communication is going to be an asset for you,” Cooper told the crowd. As a member of Toastmasters International, the president of the Toastmasters club at St. Louis University, and a long time orator and public speaker, Cooper knows just how valuable of an asset that communication can be.

Not many hands were raised when Cooper asked the crowd if anybody felt comfortable speaking in front of the public.

“Why is that?” Cooper asked the crowd.

“Anxiety”, one attendant replied saying, “all the eyes on me make me nervous”.

Cooper also explained that speaking with an audience of more experience and knowledge on a subject for instance, an expert, can cause nervousness as well, and went on to explain techniques to help address and eliminate speaker’s anxiety.

Cooper explained there was a number of techniques a speaker can employ to help reduce one’s anxiety before giving a speech. Techniques on the list included: getting comfortable with the surroundings, loosening up the muscles while taking relaxing breathes, finding a relaxed posture, and drinking water and staying hydrated.

Cooper also offered techniques for dealing with perceived criticism from judgmental audiences. It is important for the speaker to consider the value of the knowledge they are presenting. This helps to give confidence to the speaker.The most important technique to relieve anxiety, according to Cooper, was to be prepared.

“Get those butterflies into formation so they’re not running into your stomach, it’s all about preparation,” Cooper said, mentioning that pre-speech anxiety is often described as “butterflies bouncing around in your stomach”.

Cooper described the feeling of confidence students may feel before taking a test they had thoroughly studied for, and suggested anyone making a presentation should try to achieve this feeling.

When asked about his introduction to public speaking, Cooper said he was inspired to perform because of numerous recommendations that he should be in broadcasting. He also credited the development of his public speaking abilities in part to his membership in the Toastmasters International Club.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization established nearly a century ago that strives to promote the development of public speaking and leadership skills through a network of worldwide clubs.

Lewis and Clark Community College recently began offering a Toastmasters club to students under the coordination of Dr. Mumba Mumba.

“The Toastmasters group here is comprised of diverse community members of varied ages and professional backgrounds,”  Mumba said. “We meet every second and fourth Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Our next meeting is on Feb. 12.”

Cooper then gave a brief Q and A session in which he offered additional advice for keeping composure during mishaps as well as a few anecdotes involving some of the mishaps he had encountered in the past.

“You have to watch other people performing public speaking,” said retired SIUE Assistant Chancellor and attendant Paul Pitts, offering advices to the crowd. “TV newscasters, radio broadcasters, etc… there is something you can appreciate about each. Listen and learn”.

To close out the workshop, Cooper gave an inspiring performance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech in commemoration of Black History Month. Cooper has been performing the speech here on campus for nearly a decade and explained how the speech had inspired him to get into public speaking so many years ago.

Anyone who interested in improving their public speaking and leadership skills may inquire with Dr. Mumba via email at or, by phone at (618) 468-4759, about membership and meeting schedules.

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