“Good public speaking is based on good private thinking.” ~Scott Berkun
The dreaded act of public speaking may send shivers down any introvert’s spine. Clammed up and sweaty palmed, introverts tend to avoid such an act at all costs. Hopefully, using the tips I present in this article, this can change for you.
I was that person for many years. It didn’t help that due to being dentally challenged, I had to wear a retainer on the roof of my mouth and spoke with a lisp. Yikes. The first step to facing my fear was 15-year-old me taking a drama class in school. I live in the UK, so that meant studying the subject intensely for two years. My future husband at the time also did this, despite being a bigger introvert than me, and the occasional stammerer/stutterer.
Somehow, we both aced the class. How on earth did we manage this? Introverted and speech impaired? What?
The impossible is possible with practice. My introversion and speaking style are different from my husband’s, but we are both equally effective, so use bits of advice from us both to find your style.
Myth: “Good public speakers have to enjoy it completely to be good at it.”
Kick the thought “I should enjoy this more” out of your head and focus on the task at hand. You can excel in public speaking if you practice and put in the hard work. We all have bad days but tricks and tips can mask this. Which takes me to my next quote:
“Speaking is not an act of extroversion. People think it is. It has nothing to do with extroversion. It’s a performance, and many performers are hugely introverted.” ~Malcolm Gladwell
So, my mighty introverted performers, here are my top three tips:
1. Keep yourself in the “golden zone.” You need to come up with personal techniques to keep yourself enthusiastic and energetic enough to speak, but not so on edge you want the ground to open up beneath you. Music, breathing exercises, meditating, even going for a gentle jog/walk to get rid of excess adrenaline can help. I personally lock myself away (usually in a bathroom!) for 5 to 10 minutes, breathe, and get into a confident stance (shoulders back, chin up, feet a little over hips-width apart). Standing like this physically triggers good hormones in the brain to help you appear confident and shrink that giant monster butterfly in your stomach to a delicate flutter that can inject energy into your performance. My husband always prepares exactly what his first few sentences will be, just in case he’s extra nervous. When he finds his flow, the nerves disappear. Unlike me, he’s naturally calm, but even he finds that anxiety creeps in, particularly if he’s feeling a bit less prepared than usual.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare. If you’re anything like my husband, his astounding working memory means he can quickly learn lines and set phrases. His challenge lies in injecting those words with feeling, inflection, and drama. His voice is naturally quiet, sometimes a bit monotonous (I get him to talk to me when I can’t sleep — true story), so his preparation is different than mine.
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I, on the other hand, use a highlighter to mark my lines on a script or write bullet points on cue cards with colors corresponding to each theme I want to cover. I say the words over and over, sensing how they fall out my mouth and how they feel. I’ve written a big speech word-for-word before, typed it all out, and took it with me to place on the lectern in front of me. I knew before I started, though, that I did not need to look down. That is when you know you have prepared enough. Do what feels right for you, and know your speech inside and out.
3. Be yourself, because people are drawn to human quirks. My introversion is coupled with high sensitivity, so my emotions run deep. I’ve learned that a touch of vulnerability can make a speaker more likeable. Trust me. In that speech I mentioned previously, I told a personal story, because I find my best words when I speak from a place of authentic emotion. It lights a fire in me, and it becomes easier to engage with others. I also get more nervous when I’m speaking in a small group and I have to make eye contact with everyone, but knowing my content helps. Big audiences feel like a blur to me — I can block out the masses and lift my focus to a highly hung clock, light, or speck on the wall. This lifts my head high enough to deliver.
In contrast, my husband is a more logical introvert, so he approaches tasks with precision. He puts his emotions aside because he risks being overwhelmed or distracted by them. He crafts his presentations using keywords and phrases to link topics together, creating a chronological order in his head to tell a story. This is usually coupled with PowerPoint slides to illustrate and remind him of where he is in the order he created. His nerves end up giving him a burst of energy, making him animated. He speaks with his entire body, pointing at key images and words, and looking directly at his students to draw them into his conversation. For him, talking to one person at a time is far less daunting than addressing a room of people.
Public speaking hasn’t always been plain sailing for us. We started our speaking practice when we were both just 15 years old, and now, nine years later, we continue to find ourselves in jobs that require this skill. It takes time to develop your speaking skills, and you will wobble initially. But the first step is to tell yourself, “Yes, I am an introvert, but that doesn’t have to stop me from putting on the best show anyone has ever seen.”
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert