Stopping Stage Fright

Some people are born with a fear of public speaking. How to fight stage fright.

By Camille Chatterjee, published September 1, 1999 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Anyone who gets the jitters just thinking about speaking in class knows that imagining fellow students in their skivvies doesn't really help. According to a speech expert, some people are born with a fear of public speaking. But he's working on ways to help them overcome it.

Ralph Behnke, Ph.D., a speech communication professor at Texas Christian University, has found that the highest point of anxiety and cardiovascular activity for public speakers comes in the moment they're expected to start talking. But another nerve-shattering high comes when they're first assigned the speech, and this is where Behnke suggests that people start fighting stage fright. He recommends trying the obvious but painful: volunteering to pipe up more frequently or taking public speaking classes. "Once you have a chance to work on your presentation," he explains, "anxiety drops way down."