Beyond Stage Fright

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Post's take on public speaking ["Scared Speechless? Public Speaking Doesn't Have to Be So Terrifying," Sunday Source, Feb. 18] provided an incomplete look at the common fear of public speaking. Stage fright is but one possible cause of the jitters.

Those who hope to overcome their fears must attack them at the root. The cause may be stage fright. Or it may be something altogether different, such as shyness, insecurity, uncertainty about one's topic, fear of being judged, lack of passion or another cause.

Among other causes is receiving bad advice. The article mentioned a real clunker: prescribing beta blockers or anti-anxiety drugs. It makes no sense to gulp down unnecessary medication that clouds a speaker's mind at the very time the brain and body demand peak performance.

The recommendation to clutch the lectern and squeeze it for dear life is also laughable. Nothing displays a speaker's anxiety quite as vividly as the sight of white knuckles on hands gripping a lectern.

The article's best advice is offered, ironically, not by the "experts" but by a student. Lee Harbin suggested that "the only way" to improve "is to practice." Clearly, there is much more to any sensible improvement strategy. But practice is a far better starting point than drugs.

-- Ed Barks

Berryville


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