That guy in the front row, the one with the unkept beard that some today are calling lumbersexual. See him? He’s wearing boxer briefs. You know, the play-on- images variety made popular by American Eagle. They have Christmas nutcrackers on them.

Between those, the farmer’s tan, and a nipple ring, I’m conflicted on what is going to have me snort out loud in laughter before this 40 minutes is up. I close my eyes and silently curse whoever it was a few years back that suggested picturing your audience in their underwear as a way to relax before speaking, and to see them as normal, everyday people.

They were wrong. I’m worse than before. Will I destroy my credibility by laughing at the wrong moment? By throwing up all over the stage? Will I just back quietly away? Or can I power through this, and give the best talk of my life?

Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon. And too many public speakers have discovered why it was such poor advice. After all, imagining a boss, co-worker, or colleague in their underwear is not just uncomfortable, but creepy. Especially if you have a vivid imagination.

Instead, walking boldly on stage and meeting the eyes of those in the audience with a friendly smile will do much more for your confidence. Smiles are often contagious and easily returned. And just that quickly you’ve got silent support, and a few people you can focus on as you deliver your presentation and turn politeness into interest.

You might be thinking, “That’s great for you. But my stomach doesn’t seem to work that way. It takes confidence that I don’t have.” Don’t worry. There’s an old adage that says if you tell yourself something often enough, you’ll believe it. That goes for good as well as bad. And while it may seem silly, it is an adage because it actually works.

Try it for 21 days, the amount of time that studies say it takes to break a habit. Every time you are alone—in your car, shower, office, wherever—tell yourself the same thing out loud. Maybe it’s something simple, something basic. “I can do this.” Or, “We’re all the same.” Even the practical, “I will not be sick” might be part of what you train yourself to believe.

For others, it could be a bit more advanced. Telling yourself, “They’re going to love me. (Or your product.)” Perhaps saying, “We’re all the same. Equals. I’ll stay calm and get all my ideas across clearly.”

As long as you’re well-prepared and well-rehearsed, something that is easy to do all on your own, all you have left to do is gain experience in front of an audience. If you have the chance to get a few friends, family members, or co-workers to sit for a run-through, that can have a huge effect on your confidence level as well.

Of course, if public speaking is something you will be doing regularly, you will want to take it to the next level with advanced techniques. I can help with that!