Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author, essayist, lecturer and humorist who wrote a series of famous books including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In 1888, Mark Twain was awarded the Master of Art degree from Yale University.
How I Conquered Stage Fright - by Mark Twain
My heart goes out in sympathy to anyone who is making his first appearance before an audience of human beings. I recall the occasion of my first appearance. San Francisco knew me then, only as a reporter and I had to present myself to San Francisco as a lecturer. I knew that nothing short of compulsion would get me to the theatre. So I bound myself by a hard-and-fast contract so that I could not escape. I got to the theatre forty-five minutes before the hour set for the lecture. My knees were shaking and I had my doubts that I will be able to stand on them. If there is an awful, horrible malady in the world, it is stage-fright and sea-sickness. They are a pair. I had a stage-fright then for the first and last time. I was seasick only once, too. It was on a little ship on which there were two hundred other passengers. I--was--sick. I was so sick that there wasn't any chance left for those other two hundred passengers to be sick.
In the theatre, on the stage, it was dark. I peeped in to the auditorium through the holes of the curtain. The auditorium was dark and empty. By and by it lighted up, and the audience began to arrive. I got a number of my loyal friends, who were to spread themselves out in the audience, armed with big clubs. Every time I said anything they could possibly guess I intended to be funny, they were to pound those clubs on the floor. On top of this, a kind lady, the wife of the governor, and a good friend, was supposed to be seated in a box up above. She was to watch me intently, and whenever I glanced toward her she was going to deliver a gubernatorial laugh that would lead the whole audience into applause.
At last I began. I had the manuscript tucked under a United States flag in front of me where I could get it, in case of need. But I managed to get started without it. I walked
up and down. I was young in those days and needed the exercise--and talked and talked.
Right in the middle of the speech I had placed a gem. I had put in a moving, pathetic part
which was to get at the hearts and souls of my hearers. When I delivered it they did just what I hoped and expected. They sat silent and in awe. I had touched them. Then I happened to glance up at the box where the Governor's wife was--you know what happened.
Well, after the first agonizing five minutes, my stage fright left me, never to return. That was the moment, it struck me… In life, whenever you come face to face with FEAR, you are always left with 2 alternatives… FIGHT (Face your Fear) OR FLIGHT (Run away).
How to Fight your Fears?
Sometimes debilitating fear of public speaking, technically called “glossophobia”, affects a large portion of the population. It is known in medical communities as a type of social anxiety, similar to “stage fright”. When you get up to the podium, notes shaking in hand, feet nervously fidgeting, it seems like all the information you know well and rehearsed, delivering has just gone whirling away with your confidence. At that moment, staring at your anticipating audience, all you really want to do is flee. However, the right thing to do is to Fight your FEAR. You have to overcome it someday, Why not now?
“To run away to fight another day” may be a wonderful survival strategy. However, to suddenly flee from a discussion or a speech is not a very good socially accepted behaviour. So in such situations, if you are willing to face your fear, examine your body language. Then confidently tell your body/mind that you are staying, not fleeing.
Take a deep breath, shaking off your other thoughts, holding your head high and having the attitude of, “I will handle it” and with determination and confidence, and start your lecture.
Always Face and Fight your FEAR.