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Mary Sue Coleman’s Odd Speech: Testing The Delay Explanation

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SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) - Was Mary Sue Coleman under the influence during her halftime speech during the Nebraska at University of Michigan football game?

A university statement blames the strange speech on the stadium’s sound system. They say a delay Coleman was hearing caused her to get tripped up.

We’re putting the claim to the test. How difficult would it be to deliver a speech with a delay? We found a smartphone app that simulates the phenomenon Coleman may have been experiencing. Professional broadcasters and untrained public speakers read an excerpt from the speech to see how they would perform. The results were mixed.

Skeptical of the excuse, 97.1 The Ticket afternoon drive host Terry Foster said, “She’s a public speaker!” Offering a tip, Foster added, “… just focus on one word at a time. Talk normally and don’t listen. You can block that out.” Foster quickly read the words without stumbling.

On the other hand, an untrained speaker, CBS Detroit web editor Amy Powers-Saunders had a tough time delivering the speech and had some sympathy. “That could trip you up a bit,” she said.

WWJ Newsradio 950’s tech editor could ignore the delay. He credits it to experience to a simple trick he learned announcing Albion College football games. “… there was a significant delay. And it got to the point where I just started wearing earplugs,” he said.

98.7 Amp Radio’s overnight host Tater explained handling the stress of public speaking as having “a mental concentration.” “You just have to zone in and be prepared for anything,” he said.

Another trick of the trade involves taking one headphone partially off added Wooley. In a studio environment that can lessen the effect. However, in The Big House, Coleman may have benefited from some good old-fashioned earplugs.

Get the app and try it for yourself. Android users can find the “Delayed Auditory Feedback” in the Google Play Store. Set it to 60 milliseconds, put your headphones on and speak into the phone.

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