The fear of public speaking is all too common but fortunately it can be overcome. Here is one cause and a way to beat it.
To persuade, a speaker must talk fluently with courage and confidence. When fear or timidity becomes evident, an audience loses confidence in a speaker’s ability to persuade. Obviously, if he cannot control himself how can he hope to persuade others?
Frequently the cause for stage fright is the fact that a speaker who feels it simply has not spoken to audiences often enough. New situations may be frightening. Remember the first time you asked for a date, or when you were asked for one? Were you nervous or unduly tense about the situation?
Notice the apprehension of a new driver. Although he wants to drive and likes it, he breathes easier when the traffic is not so heavy or when he gets out of the car. That first time, or maybe the first few times you rode in a plane, you would have liked to have dragged your big toe on the ground a bit longer before taking off. But after several flights getting into an airplane is as easy as walking into the kitchen.
Emerson’s statement, “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain,” is true. Appearing before an audience once or twice may not enable a speaker to control fear. But if he will con¬tinue speaking on various occasions he cannot fail to defeat stage fright. George Bernard Shaw, for instance, was afraid to face audiences but over a period of several years he forced himself to speak at every opportunity. He conquered fear. But his method was haphazard. One adequate speech course should enable a student not only to control his fear, but also to enjoy speaking. During the course each student should have numerous opportunities to deliver-short speeches and to participate in many speech drills. Making many short speeches is far more helpful in overcoming fear than delivering only a few long ones. Much oral work is needed. Notebooks and term papers can serve a purpose in speech training but they are of little or no> value in conquering stage fright. A person can no more learn to face audiences without actually appearing before them often than he can learn to swim without getting into water. .
So speak often even though you may have to kick yourself a few times to keep at it.
You only need to start small to gain confidence in speaking. Look for every opportunity to speak and your fear of public speaking will diminish.