Critter Keeper Helps ECPI University Students Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

Seth Holding a Spider
Seth Holding a Spider

Greenville campus student Seth Hill boldly embraces Rosie the tarantula, an arachnid who effectively taught a lesson in public speaking

Like so many people around the world, there are always some students in Amanda Capps’ communication class who suffer from glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking. A recent guest speaker visiting her Greenville campus classroom actually uses another type of anxiety to help students overcome that fear. Randy Miller, better known as the Critter Keeper, shared a few extraordinary animals, along with his take on appealing presentations.

“Of course, I have the critters to break the ice for me, but it’s essential for any speaker to know his or her material,” says Miller. “There’s nothing wrong with a couple of notes. You can even read a short passage for emphasis, but you don’t want it to be a crutch.”

Miller learned to engage others in the Navy where he served for 22 years as a corpsman. Providing safety training to military personnel, he developed a knack for identifying the most threatening venomous creatures in any given region.

While speaking to students, Miller challenged Kayla McAbee to face her fear of arachnids and befriend Rosie, his favorite tarantula. Other featured critters included Slim, a boa constrictor who was happy to coil around anyone who would hold her, and Buford, a South American Cane Toad.

Capps, who has a background in journalism and speaker training, said she brought Miller to the class to energize the group and to show them that even the most entertaining orators make speaking look effortless because they’re prepared.

“Randy teaches by both instruction and example,” says Capps. “He has a plan, but he adapts to the audience. He knows when to use humor and what type would be appropriate. He rehearses but never sounds stale. Together, those elements build trust with an audience.”

After a few shrieks and a little quivering, McAbee held Rosie long enough to be photographed, and the class walked away knowing much more about how to hold the attention of an audience.