Your Dog, The Speech Coach

Whether or not dogs are man’s (and woman’s’) best friend they have certainly risen on the popularity scale recently. You see dogs everywhere you go from city streets, to office cubicles to airplanes not to mention dog parks and front yards. They are good companions and playmates and in some cases excellent emotional and physical support animals. But did you know that dogs can also be a great audience for your presentation rehearsal?

When you have an important speech to deliver it’s critical to practice out loud at least three times. Typically, I recommend that you practice alone in a room, or in front of a mirror, or in front of a friend, family member or colleague. I don’t believe I’ve ever recommended practicing your speech in front of your trusted canine but apparently I’ve been missing out on a great resource.  Students at American University in Washington D.C. are intentionally using dogs to practice speech making and as it turns out it’s an effective practice method.

AU has kicked off a pilot program that pairs anxious business school students with friendly dogs. According to a program brochure, “Addressing a friendly and nonjudgmental canine can lower blood pressure, decrease stress, and elevate mood—perfect for practicing a speech or team presentation.” 

Since dogs are used successfully in therapy, having them provide support to a nervous speaker doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for them.  Jessica Lewinson, an AU sophomore struggles with nerves when she gives a presentation so she was willing to practice her speech out loud in front of two “locally sourced” dogs, Ellie and Teddy. She said that practicing in front of the dogs distracted her in a positive way and made her smile. She felt more relaxed, was able to work through her nerves and completed several rounds of practice. She also mentioned the wonderful side benefit of snuggling with the dogs at the end of her practice session. What could be better?

The more I think about it the more I like the idea of having your dog “play” audience. We all know that practice makes perfect but it’s hard work and we can struggle to commit the time and energy. So if practicing in front of a dog or two makes practice fun rather than a chore and gives an anxious presenter something to look forward to, I think it’s worth a try. With a quiet room and a friendly pooch, you too, may find that a little canine companionship makes public speaking a lot easier.