Picturing Your Audience in Their Underwear—That’s a Stupid Strategy

After my podcast show on overcoming the fear of public speaking, I was curious how many people still think that it is a good idea to picture their audience in their underwear.

So I asked a question to find out if people already knew that there are better ways to overcome their number one fear. Man, I was dead wrong. I got comments about picturing the audience members as watermelons, pandas, and, of course, in their underwear. You’ve got to be kidding me! Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of cool underwear. I got dozens of them, but I don’t think this is something you want to have a mental picture of when speaking in front of an audience.

Here’s the deal. What if you, like many speakers (including me), feel more nervous and embarrassed to picture the audience half-naked? Is there a more effective solution? Oh yes! The reason most people fail to overcome their fear of public speaking is that they are not willing to do the quick and dirty work. Because of this, many of us struggle for the rest of their lives.

The Illusion of Picturing Your Audience in Their Underwear

There is a difference between picturing and fantasizing. If you imagine your audience taking all their clothes off and remaining only in their underwear smiling at you, that is not picturing; that is fantasizing. Don’t do it in front of your audience. That’s not the kind of picturing that gets over your public speaking anxiety.

A Better Way to Picture Your Audience

Picture that you are talking to your friends in the living room; you share interesting life stories and see your friends enjoying every moment of your speaking. They applaud and say, “You’re amazing!” How do you feel? I don’t feel nervous. I don’t feel embarrassed. I feel confident. I feel relaxed. I feel comfortable.

Next time when you feel nervous about speaking in front of an audience, picture your audience as your friends:

  1. You are sharing a life-changing message with them.
  2. Your focus on helping the audience improve their lives.
  3. You are having a conversation with them. With this transformational mindset, you will overcome the fear of public speaking and build your confidence quickly.

Now, it’s time to paint a new mental picture. This time, get your audience fully dressed. Picture your audience as your friends, and watch yourself speaking with confidence.


About Jonathan Li

Public Speaking Coach and Author, Jonathan Li helps online entrepreneurs overcome the fear of public speaking. He is the host of The Expressive Leader, a weekly podcast that interviews successful entrepreneurs including Chris Brogan and Nancy Duarte. He believes every online entrepreneur can overcome the fear of public speaking. In his book, The Expressive Leader, he discusses how to deliver your message effectively, confidently, and have the impact you want on the audience. Want to see Jonathan in action – then watch his speech as a TEDx speaker.

You can receive effective and powerful public speaking training from Jonathan at http://TheExpressiveLeader.com.


4 Traits that Distinguish Confident Speakers from Nervous Nellies

Back in 1990, Ron Hoff wrote a popular book about public speaking entitled I Can See You Naked.  The idea was that if a speaker looked out at the audience and imagined everyone sitting in their birthday suits, he would take a scary crowd and turn it into a docile nudist colony, thus defusing their power to intimidate.

For many people, that kind of visualization worked wonders in building confidence. But for the Nervous Nellies among us, it actually backfired. For them, the image is reversed. Instead of the speaker looking out at a group of meek naked people, they imagine an entire audience who can (gasp!) see the speaker naked!

That’s what can happen when you let your nerves get the best of you and put your anxiety on parade.

When you act like a Nervous Nellie, your audience really can see you naked. But when you act like a confident speaker and do the things they do (even though you may still be nervous), the audience feels more comfortable and responds accordingly.

Here are 4 traits that distinguish confident speakers from Nervous Nellies:

1. Confident speakers are proud.

They stand erect, hold in their stomachs, pull back their shoulders and lift their torso. They stand tall and strong, showing the audience by their posture that they are poised and credible. The confident speaker is aware of the positive impact of strong posture on others and expresses their personal pride through posture.

2. Confident speakers are compassionate.

They pay attention to the audience as a person, not a crowd. They don’t categorize or stereotype. They care about others. This means the speaker looks at people’s faces, uses penetrating eye contact, shows a blend of serious and lighthearted facial expressions, and tries to connect at every level—verbal and non-verbal.

3. Confident speakers are spontaneous.

They plan and prepare their presentation and put in many hours of rehearsal, but they also know that is just the beginning. Once on-stage they follow their intuition, understanding the importance of “reading and relating” to the audience in the moment.

They comfortably adjust the planned speech whenever necessary to make it more relevant and meaningful.

4. Confident speakers are generous.

There really is something to the phrase “giving a speech.” The world has been turned in a more positive direction because of brave people who spoke out—think Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Gloria Steinem, Margaret Meade, Eleanor Roosevelt, just to name a few.

But it has also been turned by the everyday speaker who decides to be more persuasive and passionate.

All of us have a point of view and set of beliefs that can also change the world. So the next time you give a presentation, if picturing the audience naked helps, by all means do it. But if you’re a true Nervous Nellie, keep your audience fully clothed and make a commitment to use the traits and strategies that confident speakers employ.

Be proud, compassionate, spontaneous, and generous, and then dare any audience to see you naked. That’s the surest way to conquer your fears in the midst of any crowd.

About the Author:

Angela DeFinis is the founder and president of DeFinis Communications, a presentation skills training company that offers a curriculum of professional public speaking programs and services for Fortune 1,000 companies in all industries. Specializing in executive speech coaching, DeFinis helps business leaders find solutions to their presentation challenges so they can successfully compete in a demanding marketplace. For more information, visit www.definiscommunications.com

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