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“Imagine your audience naked”: Plain terrifying or useful strategy?

Ginger Leadership Communications

This piece of advice is supposed to make you feel less nervous because it supposedly brings your audience ‘down to size’ (pun intended) and makes the situation seem less intimidating. But the truth is, it probably makes you completely forget what you were going to speak about because you’re trying to undress everyone! Talk about a misuse of multi-tasking!

When someone tells you to imagine your audience naked or in their skivvies they just mean to help calm your fear of being on stage.  Rumor has it that this idea came from Winston Churchill, who used this technique (among others) to overcome his fears of speaking in public (he also apparently recommended that people practice their speeches in front of a mirror). Even though there’s no confirmation that Churchill was the source of this advice, it’s repeated often enough.

This is one recommendation that you should be wary of following, unless you’re speaking to a supermodel convention and even then you’ll probably be too distracted to get a single word out. Truly it’s just incredibly silly. Don’t we have enough trouble trying to remember what we should be saying without the extra mental effort it would take to disrobe each audience member? Picture this… you walk onto the stage, see your co-workers and esteemed colleagues in their birthday suits and faint straight away. Even if you COULD manage all that skin whilst talking how would you ever be able to talk to them again with a straight face?

It’s just NOT nice!

Let’s get down to the point here people. This advice is unsavory because it not only demeans your audience but it puts a barrier up between you. Exactly the opposite of this is your goal: Connecting with them!  If you’re afraid or condescending towards your audience you’re definitely not connecting. If you’re not connecting then odds are they won’t pay attention to you.  Any kind of barrier to the audience makes for a lackluster presentation. Audience members will understand at a gut level that you are not confident about yourself or your message. People are incredibly skilled at reading body language, even if they are not quite aware of it at an intellectual level.

The best way to connect with an audience (and get over your nerves) is to focus on THEM.

Servant Speaking

Normal public speaking can focus more on taking from an audience:

  • I need them to listen to me;
  • I need them to look interested in what I’m saying;
  • I need them to laugh at my jokes;
  • I need them to affirm my expertise;
  • I need them to know how good I am.

Servant speaking is all about building a community:

  • I have something important to give – I’m not only ‘taking’ Instead of just ‘getting through’ my material,
  • I want to give my community what they most need to hear.
  • I believe that my message will bring benefit to those listening.
  • I want the people listening to me to feel a part OF not apart FROM. 

Your presentation should be about informing, engaging, and persuading your audience. It’s not about the tricks you need to fool yourself to be less nervous. Remember, your audience is probably filled with people just like you — a nice, friendly person who hopes to get something valuable and worthwhile from the presentation. With practice and preparation, you’ll be able to face your (fully-clothed) audience with confidence!

If you’re eager to become a more inspiring speaker, Ginger has a multitude of courses just right for you! From freebies to e-courses, books to workshops, jump in to Ginger! Click here for a full list of Ginger courses and resources.

Ginger Leadership Communications

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