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Fear of Public Speaking

March 17, 2024 | McAvoy Lane

What Would Mark Twain Say?

Public speaking is one of mankind’s greatest fears. A young lady once told me that she would rather have a coyote gnaw on her arm than to have to speak in public. This does not have to be. Once you understand that the public does not care to hear a message, but would love to hear a story, it’s like wrapping your dog’s medicine in a treat, and the public speaker need only wrap her message in a story.

        As our mutual friend Mark Twain tells us, “A good story should have a little humor in it. The comic story is English, the witty story is French, and the humorous story is American. The English and French stories depend upon the matter for their effect, where the American story depends upon the manner for its effect. 

Here’s an example of an English story…

In the course of a battle a soldier whose leg had been shot off appealed to another soldier who was hurrying by to carry him to the rear, whereupon the generous son of Mars, shouldering the unfortunate, proceeded to carry out his desire. The bullets and cannonballs were flying, and presently one of the latter took the wounded man’s head off—without, however, his deliverer being aware of it. He was hailed by an officer, who shouted:

“Where are you going with that body?”

“To the rear, sir—he’s lost his leg!”

“His leg? You mean his head, you booby.”

Whereupon the soldier dispossessed himself of his burden, and stood looking down upon it in great perplexity. 

“It is true, sir, just as you have said. But he TOLD me it was his LEG!” 

(It’s enough to make you want to renounce joking and lead a better life.)

  No, the humorist’s job is merely to show us the good-natured side of the truth. And the humorist is not looking for a laugh. The humorist is looking for a nod of acknowledgment, or the hint of a smile. There is a vast difference between the comedian and the humorist.  The comedian’s job is to make us laugh, and laughter is good for us, it’s like massage on the inside, it’s like money in our pocket because it cuts down on the doctor bills. But laughter, without a thread of philosophy woven into it, is but a sneeze at humor, genuine humor is replete with wisdom. Yes, the humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular. So don’t be afraid to use it while public speaking. Tell your story from the heart, and it will be well received.  

As is our custom, we shall leave the last word to Mr. Twain: “If a piece of humor is to last, it must do two things, it must preach and it must teach. If done effectively, that piece of humor will last forever -which is thirty years.

Audio: https://open.spotify.com/show/7Fhv4PrH1UuwlhbnTT23zO

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