A man is terrified of snakes. He avoids them at all costs. If he sees a snake on TV, he gets anxious. If he encounters a real live snake, he’s overcome with anxiety.

An effective treatment for this kind of fear is exposure therapy. It’s pretty much what you’d think: gradual exposure and desensitization to whatever is causing the fear response. At first, a patient might be asked to look at pictures of snakes. Later, he might take a trip to the zoo and spend a few minutes in the herpetarium. Eventually, he might hold a live snake.

It’s simple and effective.

But most of us aren’t scared of snakes. We’re scared of far more important things, like speaking up, leading, and sharing our work.

Exposure Therapy In the Real World

Virtually all college students have to take Public Speaking 101.

And thank goodness.

The main point of Public Speaking 101 isn’t to teach students how to structure a speech, how to manage body language, or how to listen attentively (though these things are important).

The main point is to make college students speak publicly a lot.

The best way to develop the crucial skill of public speaking is to be exposed to it, to have to do it over and over.

Whatever you’re afraid of, resist the urge to shy away like a college student skipping class on speech day. Expose yourself to the object of your fear, and your fear will diminish.

It doesn’t ever go away, so don’t wait for that. Even Renée Fleming gets nervous. But you can get better at sharing your ideas and your work.

And you do have something to share, or you wouldn’t read blogs like this.

So share it.