One piece of advice that seems to have made its way into the canon of public speaking tips is “just picture the audience in their underwear.” From the Brady Bunch to the reality show The Pitch, this is terrible advice that just won’t die.
I would like to kill this advice once and for all.
In his excellent radio interview on NPR with Regina Brett, Scott Berkun traces the origins of the underwear advice possibly to Winston Churchill, who while being an excellent speaker, “was also an alcoholic, so a lot of his advice about what he did probably doesn’t apply to most people.”
There are a lot of things you can do about nerves, but adding the visual of your audience in their underwear most likely will short circuit and distract you from why you’re speaking in the first place.
OK, so what CAN you do about nerves?
- Nervousness is normal. Just acknowledging this will take some of the pressure off.
- Watch a funny video, or find something to laugh about beforehand. Nerves hate laughter.
- Practice out loud until you’ve got it down cold. Knowing your content will alleviate a lot of your anxiety
- Get some physical exercise to help expel some of your nervous energy. Even a brisk walk will help.
- If possible, chat with attendees beforehand so that you have some friendly faces to connect with.