Don't Imagine That Your Audience Are Naked - Imagine the Opposite

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I have read an article recently in which the author ridiculed the common tip given to terrified beginner public speakers. The tip I'm referring to is the age-old "imagine that your audience are naked." I've heard it so many times that I decided to research the origins of it and found the following quote taken from Dorothy Sarnoff's book Speech Can Change Your Life (1970):

"Winston Churchill overcame his early fear of audiences by imagining that each of them was sitting there naked."

So now we know. I don't know about you but if I imagined certain members of my audience naked, I would completely lose focus on what I am meant to do, which is share valuable information and present it in an engaging way. By shifting your focus onto the gentleman or the lady in the first row (for whatever reason), you stop engaging with the rest of your audience. I am beginning to believe that the person who popularised that tip used it as an excuse to stare at people.

Most beginner public speakers feel that they have to behave in a certain way in order to look and sound confidently. They think that they have to do something to make themselves look interesting and worth listening to. There are indeed techniques that can help you present better and voice training is a must if you want to be able to project, sound clearly and stay in control when the PA system has stopped working.

However, no matter how hard you learn your public speaking craft, you will never be a good speaker if you try to be someone else. Whenever I speak in public, I don't imagine my audience naked. In fact, I imagine the opposite. I don't feel naked in the literal sense of the word (that would be a problem). I feel naked in the sense that I am right there in front of everyone, put on the spot so there is nothing I can hide. All my insecurities go away because if I can't hide anything, then why bother trying? And that's when I am 100% myself. Hence, whenever I speak in public, I'm having the time of my life!

It is said that most people fear public speaking more than death. Perhaps it is because we're afraid to show others who we really are...

Anna-Jane is a Career Coach and Leadership Development Consultant, who likes to inject fun and creativity into her work. She is currently writing her first book "Job Hunting Can Be Fun. Helping you play the recruitment game and win it."

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