Extroverts don’t get all the limelight. Introverts can share the stage, too. But naturally, extroverts find it easy to stand in front of a crowd and deliver an amazing presentation, effortlessly. If you’re the quiet type, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be an audience member for the rest of your life. In this article, I’ll talk about public speaking for introverts and give you actionable tips on how you can become a great speaker in no time at all!
The Power of Introverts
Susan Cain’s TED Talk on the power of introverts has been viewed over 9 million times on YouTube. I highly recommend you watch it if you haven’t already. You’d realize you don’t need to change who you are (and fake your way into becoming an extrovert) simply because modern society calls for it.
Introverts tend to look for stimulation from within. Unlike extroverts, they don’t need to be surrounded by others in order to feel happy or fulfilled. They can go for a quiet walk alone, or read books in the corner, and feel totally at bliss. They’re more observant of the world around them and in general, are more empathetic. These traits may be viewed by some as a negative.
For instance, in many schools and workplaces, knowing how to mingle and participate in group activities is seen as a positive. Extroverts thrive in these situations obviously. But those who express desire not to join because they’d rather be alone are seen as uncooperative loners. Worse, they’re branded as losers.
Difference between shy people and introverts
There’s a common misconception that introverts are shy. It’s true some introverts are naturally shy. But the truth is that being shy has nothing to do with being an introvert. Shy people struggle in social situations. More often than not, they feel anxiety or maybe even fear, in some cases. On the other hand, introverts can blend in well with a crowd, but they choose not to; they just prefer to be somewhere else.
So, how does all these relate to being a good public speaker?
Well, I’m glad you asked. Because introverts tend to be more productive when working alone or with a small group of trusted friends, they tend to get a lot more done. This means they can more easily say “no” when a coworker invites them to go out with the rest of the crew. After all, they derive little to no pleasure from superficial socializations with people they’re not particularly close to.
That said, since introverts can more easily reject distractions, they now have more time to prepare for their presentation. This means getting the research done and organizing the content into something their audience will understand.
Also, this gives the introvert presenter more time to design their slide and practice their presentation. Doing all these usually require some level of solitude and concentration. Solitude is something all introverts enjoy – they’d rather be left alone than mingle with others.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. In fact, wanting solitude and being alone can do wonders for your creativity and productivity. Both of these will help you become a great public speaker in the future!
Public Speaking for Introverts: How You Can Become a Great Public Speaker
In this section, I’m going to discuss several ways introverts can conquer public speaking. Let’s begin!
- Get out of your comfort zone
Introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between, we all have our comfort zones. It’s a state of mind where we feel comfortable and secure. Anytime we venture out of our comfort zones, we feel scared and uncomfortable. Because outside this special zone is the world of the unknown.
For many introverts, the unknown could include public speaking. If you’re an introvert, you probably feel like the public speaking domain belongs to the extroverts. And introverts have no business doing such things. But alas, you can’t always live life on your own terms, especially if you’re employed.
As an employee, you may be required to go out there and do a presentation. You may say no, but it could ultimately have negative consequences for your career. If you want to advance or go up the ladder, you need to step out of your comfort zone.
- Strike up a conversation
Public speaking for introverts begins by making a simple choice. Initiate a conversation or wait for someone to talk to you. If you’re up to the challenge, make it a choice to strike a conversation with people around you. Start with people you are friends with, but not particularly close to. Engage with them and try to get to know them on a deeper level. People love talking about themselves, but often need someone to initiate the conversation.
Be the initiator and get to know others. You can also talk with people you don’t know at all, like the cashier at your favorite grocery store. Or maybe start making some small talk with the guys you see everyday at the gym.
Don’t just talk to others for the sake of this challenge. Listen to what the other person is saying and genuinely try to care. The more you talk with this person, the more likely it is you’ll find some common ground – something the both of you will enjoy chatting about.
This may not be a fun activity for introverts in the beginning. But the more you practice, you may come to the realization that you enjoy talking to others and learning more about them. Who knows you may even find your new best friends with this method!
- Believe that you can do it
Have a personal mantra. For the mantra to be effective, you need to believe in it first. Therefore, in the process of finalizing your mantra, phrase it in such a way that it’ll motivate you no matter how down in the dumps you may be.
For example, in your quest to become a great public speaker, your mantra can be something like: “I’m not afraid of getting out of my comfort zone. I will become a great public speaker sooner rather than later.”
Every time you feel like backing out or crawling back into your comfort zone, you can utter your mantra. And reassure yourself that you can, in fact, do it. Believe that you can do something, and you will achieve your goals in life.
- Turn the obstacle into an opportunity
Image source: BrainyQuote
The obstacle I’m referring to in here is public speaking. If you crush your presentation or your public speaking engagement, then you’re probably going to get plenty of requests to do other presentations!
Or, in the case of sales presentations, you may get the opportunity to close a lot more sales than if you didn’t go out there and present. If you’re doing a sales pitch for your startup, you could get additional funding in the thousands or even millions of dollars!
Think about it – how many opportunities are you missing out by hiding in your shell? Lots, I bet. But let’s not look back, let’s look towards the future. Being a good public speaker can open so many doors for you, so don’t close it before it even opens!
- Continue challenging yourself
It’s so easy to fall back into the old ways and shy away from the stage. Now, I’m not saying you need to become an extrovert so you can become a successful presenter. What I’m trying to say is that you need to shore up the energy to go out there and face the crowd.
Sure, you may need to recharge and rest your batteries every now and then. But being tired is no reason to quit. Feel free to take a break when you need to. When push comes to shove, and when it comes to chasing your dream of becoming a public speaker, it’s imperative that you continue challenging yourself. It’s really the only way to grow.
Don’t be afraid of being the center of attention. As an introvert, you may not thrive or enjoy by being in the limelight at all. But if you want to become a successful speaker, you need to step up and rise to the challenge.
- Practice, practice, practice
Public speaking may come more naturally to extroverts. But it doesn’t mean that introverts can’t gain that skill. Nope, introverts just need to work on it more and expend a lot more energy than extroverts would.
So, that being said, it’s important for introverts to practice. And not just once or twice, either. This is because public speaking for introverts don’t happen naturally. You need to practice plenty of times until you get the hang of it. Until presenting becomes like second nature to you. Of course, this isn’t going to happen overnight, or even in a week or a month’s time. In many cases, it can take years for an introvert to finally feel comfortable speaking on stage. Learn from the experience and do your best to improve as you go along.
When you practice, don’t just memorize your speech. Instead, you should know your content by heart and how it flows from one topic to another. This is important because if you just memorize the speech without knowing how topic A flows or transitions into topic B, and so on, then you could be setting yourself up for trouble. When you make a mistake, you could get flustered, and then you’ll devolve into panicking. And that’s when you’ll feel like disappearing off the face of the earth.
If you’re going to be using a visual aid, a.k.a. a PowerPoint or Keynote, then you also need to include that in your practice. Once you’ve designed your slides, you need to time it and make sure it ties in well with your speech. Time your entire presentation and make sure you don’t go beyond your allotted time. Check out this article on timing tips for successful presentations.
- Use the right visual aid
Unless you’re speaking to a room full of blind people, a visual aid is a useful tool to help get your message across. If you’re promoting a product, then a demonstration of its features and benefits would be a great idea.
If you’re going to be using presentation slides like PowerPoint or Keynote, then make sure you design it in such a way that it’s going to add to the message, and not distract from it. For example, try to steer clear from using too much animation or too much text. Keep the slide content to a minimum, don’t cram too much information.
What’s important to mention here is that you don’t need to use a slide-based visual aid. Doing so will inevitably lead to much longer practice sessions, seeing how you’d need to practice both speech and slides at the same time.
If you watched the YouTube video I shared in the beginning of this article, you’ll notice that the speaker, Susan Cain, didn’t use a PowerPoint. She just brought a bag full of books as her prop on stage. And it did an excellent job in delivering and supporting her message!
- Work on your energy and body language
Energetic speakers can work up a crowd. But getting the energy in the first place is a lot harder than it sounds. You need to be the first to believe in what you’re saying. When you do this, you can easily ‘infect’ the audience with your enthusiasm.
Don’t even bother trying to fake the energy. People can spot someone who’s faking it from a mile away. There are so many charlatans out there, you need to stand out as one of the genuine ones.
Now, the most successful public speakers have incredible energy. The thing is you don’t necessarily need to move around endlessly on the stage. A bit of movement is usually fine. But it’s in the way they move and the way they speak that can literally get the crowd to their feet. Watch videos of your favorite speakers and mimic their actions and facial expressions. With a bit of practice and lots of confidence, you can pull off an energetic presentation on your first try!
- Never aim for perfection
Perfection is in a word, overrated. In academia, a perfect score or a perfect grade is possible, yes. But in the real world, not so much. In fact, perfection is something we shouldn’t strive for in life. Why? Because aiming for high standards and leaving no room for mistakes is unrealistic. Aiming for perfection will only lead to frustration, despair, and ultimately, failure.
So, what should you aim for instead? The answer is excellence. Aim to become an excellent presenter. Being good or being great are awesome goals as well especially when you’re just dipping your toes into the presentation scene. However, as time goes by and you gain more experience, you should also increase your standards, and aim for excellence. That said, here are 15 common presentation mistakes you should avoid.
Aiming for excellence has a couple of notable benefits:
- It’s realistic and highly achievable, so you’re not aiming for the impossible (which is what perfection is).
- There’s always room for you to grow. You can always move the goalposts anytime you like, so as you gain more experience, you can aim for something better.
Even the best laid plans can go awry. You may stumble on your speech, you may run into technical problems, any of these unforeseen circumstances can pull you down if your aim is perfection. Just accept the reality that life will throw curveballs at you and make the most of every situation.
- Don’t be afraid to be honest (but try not to be too honest)
It’s okay to be nervous during your presentation. You’re not alone. Knocking knees, sweaty hands, trembling fingers, all these are healthy signs of nervousness. It means you’re ready to take on the challenge of presenting!
That said, don’t be afraid to let your audience know how you feel. Use it as an ice-breaker to let your audience warm up to you. A little bit of self-deprecating humor isn’t going to hurt anybody, plus hearing your audience laugh can put you at ease, too.
But it’s important not to get carried away. Telling them you feel nervous is one thing. But giving unnecessary details about how the inside of your thighs are sweating is most likely uncalled for. You don’t want to gross your audience out, right? Of course, this is just an example. Try to get to know your audience beforehand and determine if they can handle your sense of humor.
Throughout your presentation, share tidbits of information that your audience can relate to. Cite real-life examples, if possible, maybe not about yourself, but about your audience in general. After all, introverts are generally considered as more observant than extroverts.
Fellow introverts: are you ready to face the world of public speaking?
Yes, I am a bit of an introvert. And these tips I shared with you today did not come from purely research, many of them came from personal observation and experience. We all need our space, introverts even more so. But when the situation calls for it, don’t be afraid to go out there and conquer the challenge. Let’s make public speaking for introverts a thing!
Who knows, you might even enjoy presenting and speaking in front of an audience. Sure, doing so may drain your energy faster than the extroverts. But if you truly believe your message is special and valuable, then muster the energy to go out and present to the world!