Joe Kowan has severe stage fright, which he has largely overcome. We all tend to be anxious about something; what scares you? In this talk, Kowan speaks and sings about his fears and reactions.

Why you should listen:

Joe Kowan is a Boston-based musician and graphic designer who has been struggling with stage fright since he first started writing songs at age 27. Despite his adorably expressed fears, he charms audiences with his own style of quirky folk and acoustic hip-hop, by turns poignant, salacious and comical.

Who is he:

By day, Kowan is a senior graphic designer on State Street Global Marketing’s Brand Strategy team. With a BFA in sculpture and design, his work explores diverse areas of design including scenic, print, environmental design and wayfinding. In 2009 he released the gangsta’ arts and crafts video for his original song “Crafty,” and in 2011 he was a finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition.


  1. Kowan’s first public performance was embarrassing, both personally and for the audience. What was his first plan to overcome stage fright? How did that work out for him?
  1. How did Kowan embrace, rather than avoid, public performance?
  1. Kowan said, “…by embracing and exploiting my problem, I was able to take something that was blocking my progress, and turn it into something that was essential for my success.” How could you use this approach in your own life?
  1. Kowan charms his audience by trading on his vulnerability. Why is that counter to expectations?
  1. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. How did writing and performing the stage fright song change this dynamic?
  1. We tend not to expect performers to admit vulnerability. Can you think of others who use a perceived weakness as a strength?

How I beat stage fright with Joe Kowan


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