Presentation Skills: Don't Picture Them In Their Underwear - Do This

Posted by Elizabeth Levey
November 4, 2014

by Elizabeth Levey

“Just picture the audience in their underwear!” We’ve all heard this little gem, no? For some reason, this is supposed to make us less nervous when giving a presentation or speaking in front of an audience. And although this advice can possibly be attributed to Winston Churchill, there is a far more likely reason this credo became so ingrained in the American public speaker’s psyche:



So does it work?  In Karen Hough’s article for the Huffington Post, she writes  “I've tried it, and I've even had test subjects try it. It's distracting, makes you go blank, and leaches energy away from your passion and funnels it to a stupid technique. And there's always someone in the first row whom I really don't want to visualize in underwear. Ick.”

We at Ovation couldn’t agree more. One differentiator between a serviceable presentation and a GREAT presentation-skills-1one is the ability to truly connect with your audience, and following this outdated (but well meaning) advice may end up distancing you as you struggle to keep your composure and focus.  So what CAN you do to help keep those jitters at bay?  Here are a few tried and true tips that will serve you better than picturing Joel from accounting in his boxers:


  1. Practice: If you are doing your presentation out loud, on your feet, in front of your audience for the first time ever, you are doing yourself a huge disservice!  Practice makes permanent – invest the time to rehearse your movement, your technical elements, and your content.  Your end result will be better than anything you’ve previously done.

  2. Breathe: Someone runs into your office, eyes wild, babbling hysterically.  What’s the first thing you tell them? “Breathe!” you’d probably say.  Slow, deep breathing gets rid of toxic waste in our bloodstream and promotes mental focus and relaxation, helping to overcome anxiety while presenting.

  3. Warm up: Whether in an auditorium in front of a thousand people or on a conference call, presenting is physical work.  A physical warm up will wake up your body, including those all-important facial muscles that articulate the words you’re about to deliver.  A physical warm up also helps to distract you and keeps your mind busy.  It’s hard to be nervous while saying “Topeka Bodega” and doing neck circles!


These are just a few presentation skills suggestions, but the bottom line is this: anything that works for you personally is worth doing. Your end result will be the same — a relaxed, at ease presenter that is able to effectively communicate and impact their audience in the way they desire.  Any other suggestions for coping with stage fright?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


interesting speech topics

creative presentation ideas

Ringing Phone

Looking for help?