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“Just picture everyone in their underwear.” “Wait, what? How is picturing my audience in their underwear going to help calm my nerves?” I’m sure you’ve heard this saying many times and asked yourself that same question. While the idea may sound strange, it has merit. Okay, before you stop reading, let me explain. This concept is based on mental imagery. The use of mental imagery before speaking can help minimize nervousness and anxiety. So, the above saying is coming from a good place! Let’s explore how mental imagery can help calm your nerves before a public speaking event.
This technique is also called visualization, guided imagery, or competency visioning and has been used for years by top athletes. It consists primarily of a mental rehearsal in which you visualize the performance, behavior, or skill you want to achieve. In all honesty, it’s about changing your mindset or your way of thinking. Instead of thinking you’ll fail, change your thoughts to those of success.
There are a few ways to practice mental imagery. If this is new to you, I’d suggest using a YouTube video (or something similar) scripted specifically for public speaking. This way, you have someone walking you through your visualization.
If you feel comfortable practicing on your own, without the aid of a video or audio recording, here are the seven steps:
1. Find a comfortable space where you can sit, close your eyes, and relax. If you need help relaxing, try some brief breathing/relaxation exercises ahead of time. You can also use soothing meditation music to help create a relaxing environment.
2. Imagine yourself speaking in front of your audience as if you were viewing a motion picture in your mind. Be very detailed, from the clothing you are wearing to the layout and lighting of the room.
3. Visualize yourself delivering the opening of your speech or presentation.
4. Imagine yourself feeling confident and successful while you are visualizing your performance. (You are standing straight with your shoulders held back, you have a smile on your face, and you are holding your head high!)
5. Visualize your audience smiling and giving you non-verbal encouragers such as head-nods, a thumbs-up, and clapping. Notice, I did not ask you to visualize them in their underwear!
6. Continue to repeat the visualization until you can imagine a good performance with ease and clarity. You can also practice any time you have a few moments to yourself like during a break or at lunch.
7. Open your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and feel the nerves melt away!
Even though I’ve been facilitating for over 15 years, I still get nervous. So, for me, I like to use mental imagery even on the days I’m not speaking in front of an audience. This allows me to get into the practice so that it’s more natural on the day of my workshop.
Visualization techniques can be very helpful to lessen anxieties when in front of an audience. But let’s say goodbye to the awkward and uncomfortable saying of “Picture them in their underwear” and change it to “Picture yourself as comfortable, confident, and successful!”
We focus on mental imagery and other techniques to minimize nervousness and anxiety in our Instructional Techniques for New Instructors workshop. Have a look!