Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

Integrating Public Speaking into the Advertising Curriculum

Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

Integrating Public Speaking into the Advertising Curriculum

Article excerpt

Recently, my advertising copy students said they were put off by the number of times a guest speaker said "OK," "um," and "uh." Another group of advertising students had as much to say about presentation skills as they did strategy and creative after observing district competition of the American Advertising Federation's National Student Advertising Competition. I credit these students for tuning in to the not-so-mysterious featuresofagreatpresentation.Theyhavelearned to value that spark of electricity that passes between speaker and audience in a well-prepared, well-rehearsed, and well-executed presentation.

When CEO Scott McNeally banned Microsoft PowerPoint at Sun Microsystems a few years back, it wasn't just because of a rivalry with Bill Gates (Nunberg, 1999). Relying solely on technology bells and whistles to carry a presentation can be a career stopper. "Try to imagine the 'I have a dream' speech in PowerPoint," says Cliff Nass, Stanford communication professor (Nunberg,1999). Body language, eye contact, voice, visual aid management, and content, among other things, separate "pros" from "amateurs," my students reported after the AAF competition.

From presenting their portfolios in job interviews to pitching new accounts, advertising students will need strong presentation skills. Every "big idea" eventually has to be presented. But public speaking may not be emphasized in the advertising curriculum. In my experience, advertising students who have elected to take a public speaking course-significant numbers in my classes-still have to be taught the connection between making speeches for a grade and the "real world" of advertising.

In this essay I argue the need for a public speaking component in the advertising curriculum and share a relatively painless method for teaching presentation skills in almost any advertising course. Below I discuss:

1. the role of presentation skills in advertising,

2. the merits of speaking-across-the-curriculum approaches to the classroom

3. a process for adapting advertising assignments to include presentation opportunities.

Oral Presentation Skills and the Advertising Curriculum

Advertising professionals say they want more "real world" training in advertising education (Kendrick, Slayden, & Broyles, 1996; Robbs & Wells, 1999). Yet, with our emphasis on writing skills in mass communications education, advertising educators and professionals may be overlooking equally important oral communication skills. As Doris Drucker (2000) observes, because we learn to speak long before we go to school, we tend to assume "that we speak perfectly" (p. 71).

Advertising trade publications have visited the topic of presentations from time to time, although rarely regarding oral communication skills and never in reference to formal education. Instead the trades have focused on dos and don'ts for new business pitches, from briefing to follow-up (Brichta, 1993; Claggett, 1987; Cullen, 1994; Farrell, 1993; Hoff, 1978; Weinberger, 1992). Townsend (1984) reminded AdvertisingAgereadersthatadvertisingisabout presentations, "and like it or not, a presentation is a performance" (p. 48). Executive trainer Steve Hess reported to Adweek's Marketing Week that training for on-camera media relations "goes beyond the media interview and translates into improved sales presentations" (Winkleman, 1989, p. 65). With technology and professional talent so readily at our disposal, Drucker (2000) believes we have little incentive to "cultivate the art of speaking" (p. 71). But the anecdotes in Moriarty and Duncan's 1989 (revised 1996) Creating and Delivering Winning Advertising and Marketing Presentations demonstrate that "good speakers and presenters become important, even powerful, because of that skill" (p. 3).

When educators have asked about the relative importance of presentation skills in advertising, the professionals were more forthcoming. However, through a quirk of the literature, we have tended to ask the question more often of creatives and, even then, only as ancillary to the primary research question(s). …

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