Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who said to picture your audience naked?

In a post yesterday on his Speaker Confessions blog Scott Berkun asked where the questionable advice about picturing your audience naked came from. He said he had already tried the following and come up empty:

1.Asked Toastmasters International Headquarters
2. Tried various Google/Internet searches
3. Looked in over 50 books on public speaking
4. Asked some presentation experts

I took a crack at his question, and found an answer via Google Book Search. It makes sense, since that source was someone very well-known for his mastery of public speaking.

In Dorothy Sarnoff’s book, Speech Can Change Your Life, 1970, on page 199 it says that: “Winston Churchill overcame his early fear of audiences by imagining that each of them was sitting there naked.”

A similar quote (with two additional celebrities) also appears in Dorothy Leeds book, PowerSpeak, 2003, on page 33: “Winston Churchill liked to imagine that each member of the audience was naked. Franklin Roosevelt pretended that the members all had holes in their socks. Carol Burnett thinks of them sitting on the commode.”

I much prefer Franklin Roosevelt’s image choice. By the way, the cartoon above is a color version of the only nude image we have sent outside of our Solar System (the little plaque on the Pioneer 11 spacecraft).


Clover said...

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Robert said...

You will find what I think is the earliest reference to this advice in imagining someone naked as a way of reducing your sense of their intimidation of you in the 1932 French novel, Voyage au bout de la nuit. In the English version, Journey into the Middle of the Night, the protaganist must confront a priest. He decides to imagine the priest naked and then advises:

"It's a good habit to get into: when somebody comes
to see you, quick, reduce him to nakedness, and you'll see through him in a flash, regardless of who it is,
you will instantly discern the underlying reality, namely, an enormous, hungry maggot. It's good sleight-of-the-imagination.
His lousy prestige vanishes, evaporates. Once you've got him naked, you'll be dealing with
nothing more than a bragging, pretentious beggar, talking drivel of one kind or another. It's a test that
nothing can withstand. In a moment you'll know where you're at. There won't be anything left but ideas,
and there's nothing frightening about ideas. With ideas nothing is lost, everything can be straightened out."
Whereas it's sometimes hard to stand up to the prestige of a man with his clothes on. Nasty smells and
mysteries cling to his clothes.
This Abbé had very bad teeth, decayed, discolored,