17-32 Segment 1: Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking


Many of us have glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, when the idea of having to appear in front of a large group seems daunting or even impossible. Larry Ventis, Professor of psychology at the College of William and Mary, says, “Fear of public speaking has its roots in what the audience is thinking about the speaker. There may be different reasons for different people because fears aren’t one kind of thing. But, I think, basically, people are concerned about how others react to them, evaluate them, what they think of them, that sort of thing. Fear of public speaking is kind of a reflection of social anxiety and social fear.” Many teachers who are just beginning their careers may feel nervous because they aren’t confident that they know all of the answers, or will be able to anticipate the needs of their students. Bosses may be worried that their employees won’t understand them or be interested in what they have to say. Ventis says that confidence and experience are highly beneficial, and understanding the root cause of fear helps us to overcome it.

Michael Port, author and speaking coach, suggests treating a public speaking scenario like a performance. Preparation and practice helps a great deal, as does memorization. When you know everything that you’re going to say, you won’t feel as rushed or hesitant. Port offers lots of advice, including a reminder to not to discredit our work by saying something like, “If you take one thing away from my speech, let it be this…” because that tells the audience that their time was just wasted. Although public speaking may be intimidating, it can be managed overtime with practice.


  • Larry Ventis, professor of psychology at the College of William & Mary

  • Michael Port, speaking coach, author of the book, Steal the Show: From speeches to job interviews to deal-closing pitches, how to guarantee a standing ovation for all the performances in your life

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17-32 Segment 2: The Mysterious World of Plants

The world of botany is a deep and elaborate one. Many plants that we are familiar with today have hidden uses and secrets that our ancestors knew well. Author Michael Largo has spent a great deal of time examining and studying plants to learn more about them and their uses. One plant that he finds particularly interesting is absinthe, which was vilified in history as a hallucinogen. Made out of the wormwood plant, it is very bitter and Harper’s Magazine even dubbed it “The Green Fairy” in 1879. Largo shares that absinthe was actually one of the reasons for Prohibition, because it was said to be ruining many minds. Artists who lived and worked around the turn of the century were inspired by the drink, and Van Gogh painted the famous The Starry Night while under its influence.

Another notable specimen is the Yew plant, an evergreen bush with bright red berries. The wood of the plant stem was widely-used by ancient Celts for divining rods, and William Tell used a longbow made from Yew when he shot an apple off of his son’s head in the legendary folktale. This plant is found all over the United States today, largely in residential areas, despite it having poisonous berries. Largo says that the plant, often eaten by animals, developed the poison as a defense mechanism. Other plants such as the Amazonian Water Lily and the Suchona Tree have medicinal uses that have been used for centuries, and many more can be found in Largo’s book titled The Big, Bad Book of Botany: The world’s most fascinating flora.


  • Michael Largo, author of the book, The Big, Bad Book of Botany: The world’s most fascinating flora

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Culture Crash 17-32: Amazon’s “Catastrophe”

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Emmy nominations always bring with them some disappointing snubs. With only one nomination, the show Catastrophe has largely been overlooked this year. We explore what makes the series special.


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