TwainContinuing with our “Ode to Poetry Month” theme, I have included an audio clip of a story originally told by Mark Twain. Yes, even Mark Twain battled stage fright. I was surprised to learn this little factoid about him, given his special gift as a storyteller.

Below is an audio clip of Twain’s stage fright story that he shared with an audience in 1906. The most important lesson in his story is to not give in to the nerves. Make a “hard-and-fast contract” with yourself to see it through – even if your knees shake so bad you don’t know whether you can stand up. As Twain said, “I had stage fright for the first and last time” that one night in San Francisco.

If putting yourself out there will take more than willful determination, do what Twain did – have all kinds of contingencies ready to rescue you from mishaps that might befall you: have your notes at hand, friends in the audience to start laughing when you say something remotely humorous – whatever it takes to get through “the first agonizing five minutes.”

Speaking in public may have been optional in years past. These days, it’s an essential element to a rewarding career.

– Barbara

Barbara Roche