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It's the Dog Days of August and public speaking is going to the dogs - in a good way. Animals, especially dogs, have been used in pet therapy programs for years. Research shows that pets can help lower blood pressure, and reduce anxiety. Bonnie Auslander, who specializes in business communication, decided to use dogs to help reduce public speaking anxiety in front of an audience. Knowing that dogs are successfully used in pet therapy, Auslander applied the idea to speaking anxiety. The sessions were part of a pilot program at American University. They recruited 12 canines who were chosen for their calm personalities. Nervous business students were paired with a friendly dog.
Did it work? The evidence was anecdotal. The students reported that looking at dogs made them smile.
True confession: When I was starting out as a public speaker, I would place stuffed animals in chairs and would practice my speech as well as my eye contact. The only downside was when my husband walked into the room and saw me talking to a bunch of chairs.
The idea was to mentally remove the negative image of a scary audience and to replace it with something or someone who is accepting.
While we don't know if this experiment in reducing speech anxiety will transfer to a human audience, it can't hurt. The dogs allow the public speakers to "feel the love", and it's a win win. The public speaker reduces anxiety and the canines get undivided attention.
So I guess it's true. Every dog has it's day.