• Chunichi Shimbun


People who have stage fright often find their hands shaking, face turning red and minds going blank when they have to make a public speech.

Making matters worse, a lot of people suffering from performance anxiety are actually required to speak in front of a large audience in their line of work, including lawmakers, lawyers and priests.

Tetsuya Miyaki, 61, a former official of the Nagoya Municipal Government who also served as mayor of the city’s Atsuta Ward, was one of those people.

But now he hopes to use his experience in overcoming stage fright through training to help others like him.

In June, 10 men and women attended a class conducted by Agarisho Kokufuku Kyokai (Association For Overcoming Stage Fright) held in Nagoya’s Higashi Ward.

Miyaki, who passed the test to become a certified lecturer for the association last month, sat in a corner of the room, practicing the speech he prepared.

The session started with vocal exercises, followed by speeches from participants.

Miyaki later asked the lecturer to take a video of him delivering the speech so he could check his speaking speed and eye contact with the audience.

“I heard that even United States President (Barack) Obama worked on his speech manuscript in Hiroshima until right before the presentation,” Miyaki said.

Miyaki first went to a speech school, which later evolved into the association, four years ago when he was working for the Nagoya government. At that time, as head of a department, he had to make presentations to the municipal assembly and on other occasions, but he said his voice trembled and he couldn’t express half of what he wanted to say.

His opportunities to give speeches increased drastically after he became mayor, and he would take his speeches to the class and practice them repeatedly.

“Honestly, I feel like I barely made it through my term,” he said.

The association now holds over 30 lectures nationwide, attended by high school students and workers practicing for interviews, as well as city assembly members, doctors, priests and company executives.

“There are actually quite a lot of cases where those who have many chances to give speeches in public because of their profession are secretly suffering from stage fright,” said Asayo Toritani, 45, of Nagoya’s Mizuho Ward, who founded and heads the association.

Toritani, who suffered severe stage fright herself, started a speech class in a cafe 12 years ago. She was surprised to see the number of people who needed help.

The class started with a few students, but has grown to more than 4,000 participants all up since the school became an association two years ago.

The class starts by letting participants look back at their traumatic experiences. In Miyaki’s case, it was his thesis presentation, which went horribly awry due to a lack of preparation.

Miyaki said that after attending the speech class for four years, he realized that his stage fright can be conquered with preparation and public speaking techniques.

“If I can find one person in the audience nodding to my speech, I will feel reassured,” he said.

According to the association, having your video taken is also one way of training to get used to being looked at.

Another trick, Miyaki learned, is to take notes while waiting for your turn to make a speech.

Miyaki, who retired in spring last year, said he still felt nervous when he gave a speech during his oldest son’s wedding last fall.

But now he hoped to let others who are in a similar situation know there is a cure for stage fright.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on July 29.

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