A couple of years ago, I was invited by Sanford Meisel, an adjunct design instructor at CCAD, to write a short article on public speaking. Here is the result, called “Public Speaking To Naked People: How To Present To A Group.”

“Look at the audience and imagine them as if they were naked.”

Naked. That was the first advice I ever received about public speaking. My speech teacher wanted me to avoid being intimidated by the audience. “Sure, they outnumber you,” he said. “So you win the upper hand by imagining them as vulnerable. And there are no people more vulnerable than naked people.”

In the decades since then, as a public speaker, professor, advertising executive, stand-up comedian and college actor, I have addressed thousands of audiences and imagined tens of thousands of naked people. Perhaps even you. (Sorry. Hope you enjoyed the speech.)

So, look at them as naked people. It works. It makes you smile and relax, so you can speak well, without fear.

To avoid fear, here’s my schedule before I give a speech.

One Month Before

I write the speech and practice it a lot. I’ve been praised as someone who can speak without notes, off-the-cuff. It’s not true. Nearly every word I say before an audience is something I have said before. It all looks spontaneous, but it was prepared over the years.

You need to prepare. Here’s why: if the first time you say the words are when you are in front of the audience, you’re going to sound like an amateur. And you will think you are not a public speaker. That’s not accurate. You are a public speaker; you just aren’t prepared.

If it’s worth hearing, it’s work writing. Even if you put it on the back of an envelope, like, say, The Gettysburg Address.

Underline the words that you need to enunciate carefully. Write “slow down” on a few pages, to remind you that speed kills.

Then practice it in front of a mirror. And in front of your best friend. Become confident with the words.

I can’t stress this point enough. If you aren’t prepared, you goofed. Shame on you.

One Week Before

I call the person who invited me to speak and confirm the time and place where I’m speaking. This makes them less nervous, which in turn makes me less nervous. And I ask for directions to the place where I’m speaking, because nothing makes me more nervous on the Big Day than getting lost along the way.

And I give the person a script to use when introducing me.

Two Days Before

I get a haircut. Do NOT get a haircut on the day of the speech or you will keep imagining stray hairs falling into your shirt.

Paperclip each page of your speech to make it easier to turn pages. Put your speech and all your materials in a big box. So you have your poop in a group. And so you can use the box as a podium if you need one.

That Morning

Wear comfortable clothing. Don’t wear something for the first time or you will be preoccupied by how you look. You look fine in clothes that are worn-in.

Twenty Minutes Before

I arrive early and go right to the person who asked me to speak. Again, just to let them know I’m there and they can stop worrying about that. Then I get out of their way.

I set up my equipment or portfolio, fill my glass (which I bring) with water.

Ten Minutes Before

I go to a private place, like a bathroom. I take my speech with me, because if someone moves it, I might lose my calm.

In private (in a bathroom stall if that’s the only place I can be alone), I stretch my face, opening everything as wide as possible. Then I scrunch every thing closed tightly. I figure all my expressions will be somewhere in between – and I want my face to be animated. Then I say “Rubber baby buggy bumpers” and “The sheik’s sixth sheep is sick.” This reminds me to go slowly.

I smile into the mirror. That smile looks a little scary because it’s forced, but a funny thing happens. My mind and soul always think that I’m relaxed and happy when my face smiles. But mind, body and soul don’t remember: am I smiling because I’m happy, or am I happy because I’m smiling? So, I’ve found, if I smile when I am unhappy, my mind and soul are misled into feeling happy whenever I force a smile.

I wash my hands. I primp (and get over it). I check my fly twice. Once to make sure it is closed. Then to make sure I remember it’s closed. I turn off my cell phone. And double check that it’s off.

I return to the room and try to introduce myself to absolutely everyone there. I don’t chat; I move around to say to everyone, “Hi, I’m Artie Isaac. I’m the speaker. Nice to meet you.” That way, I’ll be speaking to friends. I can even start by saying, “I think I met most of you on the way in.”

While Being Introduced

Look at the speaker. Appear interested and grateful. Pick up your water and speech. Go to the podium.

Delivery [The easiest part, really.]

Acquire the podium. It’s all yours, baby. Look at the audience. They’re naked. Smile.

Place speaking notes on the podium. This eliminates noticeable nervousness – when your hands are shaking, so are your speaking notes.

Pause. Allow a little silence. Grip the podium and keep your feet planted.

Start. Go slower than you think you should. Enunciate the underscored words. Look up and let them see your face as often as possible.

Gesticulate, if you are a natural gesticulator. But don’t force it.

Possible Crises

Someone enters, leaves, sneezes or whispers. Ignore them.

If you are sputtering words, slow down.

You are nervous. Good. Channel your nervous energy toward productive performance.

If heckled, smile.

A cell phone rings. Pause and wait for the commotion to end. No explanation is necessary.

Questions and Answers

Invite them to ask questions. Then ask the first question yourself. “Many people ask me.…” Record the questions as they are asked and, later, note any changes you made to the speech. These notes can help you improve next time.

After a few minutes, or after a few questions, or at the first silence (more than seven seconds), close the show. Before they applaud, announce: “Please take a copy of my materials. They describe our services in greater detail. They are well written and we’d love it if you’d pass them to a friend.” Thank everyone. Be sure to do this last, because it will start the applause.

Acknowledge the applause by silently mouthing, “Thank you.” Fold up the script and put it away. Otherwise, you’ll leave it by mistake. You’ll want it later. Get off the stage or away from the podium.


Immediately, as people come to greet you and thank you, give them a copy of the printed materials.

Thank them. Let them talk. (Relax. You’ve already earned your dinner.)

Accept your performance as perfect. Don’t criticize yourself. You did fine. And, at least, you got to see a lot of naked people.

To learn more, read The Quick and Easy Way To Effective Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie.

Most importantly, prepare beforehand, speak up and slow down. I hope I’m in your audience. I’ll be the one in the front row. The one who is really naked.