Speaking in Your Underpants

If you’ve ever asked for advice on how to overcome pre-speech nerves, no doubt you’ve heard the sage advice: “Just imagine your audience is wearing nothing but underwear.”

Helpful advice? Maybe for some. What’s interesting to me though, is how this advice masks what’s really going on when you step on the stage.

When you step up to speak you’re the one who feels under-dressed, not your audience.

Sitting in the audience is safe. Speaking is an act of vulnerability.

It’s because of this exposure that we reach for a podium or wear our best suit and tie when we’re up there. Anything to hide. Anything to cover up our underpants.

But if you want to give a great speech, vulnerability is absolutely necessary. For the sake of connecting with your audience and inspiring the change you desire, you must expose your humanity.

As Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is the most accurate measurement of courage.”

If you’re stepping up to give a speech, we applaud you for your courage. Feel the breeze, take a deep breath, and go for it.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt