Scared Speechless?

By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 18, 2007

They are three strapping men in mid-career -- a salesman, a real estate broker and an officer in the military. All are at ease around a table in a casual setting, but put them behind a lectern or in front of a crowd, and their breathing quickens.

Their chests tighten.

Their voices start to tremor.

A quiet panic builds to a roar.

Stage fright is something that fells giants. These three men, tired of surrendering themselves to nerves, are sitting at a table in a basement in Alexandria. They have enrolled in Stagefright Survival School.

"Does anyone know the secret to tightrope walking?" asks Burton Rubin, the school's director and a lawyer by trade.

"Don't look down," the broker says.

"Yes," Rubin says. "Now does anyone know the secret to overcoming stage fright?"

Silence.

Then the salesman gives the correct answer: "Don't think about yourself."

* * *

"I read a thing that speaking in front of a crowd is actually considered the number one fear of the average person. Number two was death. Number two . That means if you're the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy."


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