Reduce Speaking Stress with this Mark Twain Quote

Reduce Speaking Stress with this Mark Twain Quote

This post was written by Amy Fenollosa, Director of Learning at The Latimer Group.

Have you ever been stressed as you prepare for a meeting, and wondered if you’d be able to remember the details? Worried about an important presentation and panicked about forgetting what you had to say?

Often in our workshops, people are really nervous about delivering their presentations. We see many participants who practice and commit their presentations to memory. Time and again, I’ve seen people who stumble over their words because they’ve lost their place while recalling a memorized presentation. Or worse, we see people completely disconnect from the audience because they’re so focused on recalling the words they want to say. A glazed look comes over their faces and they seem to be in another place entirely. When you memorize a presentation, the audience loses your connection.

During a recent workshop, when we were discussing preparation, a participant spoke up. He shared a Mark Twain quote:

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” 

When we’re asked to speak – whether it is to deliver a lengthy formal presentation or stand up and present at a meeting, we typically know our material. We’re the subject matter experts of our content. What makes us nervous is the fear of forgetting. Mark Twain’s quote was an excellent reminder — we can speak the truth and be confident in our knowledge, without memorizing.

It helped me when I delivered a formal speech this week. Simply tell what you know. Yes — we all need to prepare. But rather than trying to memorize your words verbatim, think about the feeling you want to elicit in the room. Think about the impact of your words. And prepare by reminding yourself of two or three key points you want to emphasize on each slide.  It’s tempting to memorize, but think of Mark Twain, and tell the truth. It will be liberating.

At The Latimer Group, our individual Coaching services are highly customized and designed to help you achieve your specific goals. Typical engagements focus on developing skill sets in Leadership Communications, Public Speaking, and Executive-Level Business Presentations. To learn more, e-mail us at

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