Kay Heald introduces her ‘introverted’ public speaking toolkit
Introversion refers to a particular way we energise ourselves. Extroverts are energised by being around people. Introverts can also enjoy the company of others, but this uses up their energy so at some point they will need to take themselves away to recharge.
What does this mean for presenting and contributing?
Rather than thinking of introversion as an impediment, actively look for ways to turn this trait into an asset.
1.Preparation is Key
Take your time to prepare a structured and well-crafted presentation, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Think about your audience so what you want to say will interest and be of benefit to them. This preparatory process is excellent for calming the nerves of an introvert, as it provides the infrastructure for a speech that acts like a virtual ‘comfort blanket’ for when you are both rehearsing and delivering your talk.
2. Speak from the Heart
The world is full of great introverted speakers, but their introversion is rarely noticed. Barack Obama is one of many high-profile introverted orators who overcame public speaking anxiety. He did this by focusing on a mission that had greater importance than his own nerves. When you talk passionately about your subject, not only will the content be easier to remember, but you’ll feel more confident too.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
Become familiar with the content, the pace and style of your presentation, by practicing frequently. Include practice in front of a mirror, onto a mobile device and in front of a couple of carefully chosen friendly faces. This enables an introvert to convert their speech into a performance, allowing them to develop a suitable persona that gives them the necessary inner-confidence to step into the limelight. I like to think of my public speaking persona as my more confident (and slightly extrovert) virtual twin – still recognisably me, but with a few less introverted characteristics.
4. Play ‘Let’s Pretend’
You can control the negative and catastrophising elements of your brain, by visualising helpful cues and positive images to create a more conducive environment in which to carry out your performance. This helps combat the natural tendency of introverts to want to escape from a position of vulnerability and exposure. You can use a popular visualisation technique, for example turning the heads of an audience into cabbages. Have a play with this. I found turning them into friendly emojis made all the difference!
5. Keep Learning
Treat any meetings and presentations as ongoing learning opportunities. Speaking at meetings is rather like trying to master a traditional craft that requires continual practicing, nurturing and refinement. This longer-term approach suits introverts well, as they tend to be over-critical of themselves and can easily undermine their confidence at an early stage.
I have found it useful to occasionally have a friendly colleague, tucked away from my direct line of sight, who can help me review my presentation afterwards over a cup of coffee.
6. Remember to Re-energise
Both extroverts and introverts will experience an adrenalin surge and be rewarded with dopamine when completing a successful presentation. However, it is important that, as an introvert, you recognise the drain this will have on your energy levels, so you must build in quality time, preferably away from others, that allows you to re-energise afterwards.
And, finally …
Introverts need to recognise that great presentation and speeches are not so much about bravado and bravery, but thorough preparation and good technique. Using these tips will build your confidence. That means you can both answer questions confidently after a presentation and offer insights as an audience member with greater self-assurance as well. You can use your introvert traits to overcome your fears and you may even find yourself looking forward to sharing your knowledge and passion in your next presentation.