4 Ways I Introvert-Proofed My Job as a Corporate Trainer

IntrovertDear.com introvert corporate trainer

I have a unique job that covers many areas. One of the things I have to do is give an in-person training course teaching adults how to use software. It’s a small aspect of my job, but one that I, as an introvert, absolutely dread.

I took public speaking in college, and like most introverts, I hated every moment of it. In fact, I think it was my most despised class (worse than math!). The class taught me one valuable thing: I am not cut out for public speaking.

You see, when I signed up for this job, I thought “trainer” maybe referred to making documentation and tutorial videos, as well as working one-on-one with people. I mean, I wasn’t entirely wrong. But it also involves teaching a six-hour-long (you read that right) class to adults who really kinda don’t want to be there all that much. Yep.

Before the day of my very first training class, I printed out probably eight pages of extremely detailed notes. Realistically, I knew that this wasn’t a good idea, but I didn’t have any other way to protect myself if suddenly my mind went blank — as it often does when I am the center of attention.

By the end of my six-hour class, I had drunk two extremely large bottles of water (think those really tall SmartWater bottles) and nearly lost my voice. As I trudged back to my office and fell into my chair, my office-mate took one look at me and said, “You look exhausted.”

And I was.

Since then, I have been trying to work on restructuring both my teaching methods and the class layout to make it less painful for me. I think I’ve been pretty successful. I’ll never be a pro public speaker, but making these changes took just enough attention off me and instead put it on the material I was teaching — which made me feel just a little more comfortable. Here are four things I did to “introvert-proof” my job as a trainer.

1. I arranged the tables into a horseshoe to create a less-formal learning environment.

Just the thought of a bunch of tables with seats facing forward — at me — is enough to make me queasy.

As an introvert, I absolutely detest being the center of attention. I can almost feel the burning of people’s eyes on me as I talk — and it makes me stammer.

I remedied this situation by moving the tables into a horseshoe shape. This way, the trainees are more likely to look at each other rather than directly at me, at least most of the time.

I defended this change to my boss as breaking up the structure of the class and making it more of a cooperative workshop rather than a formal class. I mean, no one likes attending a lecture and just staring straight ahead for six hours, right?

2. I gave my trainees something else to look at.

When I started out, I had this 10-year-old projector that blurrily displayed what was on my laptop. The screen was right behind me, so as I spoke, all eyes were on me. Yuck.

I “fixed” this issue by looking into screen mirroring software, many of which I knew cost way too much for my boss to want to pay for. What this does is project what’s on my laptop onto everyone else’s laptops, so they can look at that instead of me. I ended up finding an open-source solution that was completely free, and not too difficult to set up.

Now instead of using a blurry projector behind me, I project my laptop screen onto everyone else’s. It keeps them focused on the laptop in front of them instead of me!

I defended this change to my boss as giving the trainees in my class — especially the nearsighted ones — a clearer way to see what I was demonstrating. It also helped to keep them focused, since they cannot use the laptops to check Facebook while I am demonstrating.

3. I talked my boss into letting me give shorter classes.

A six-hour class is absolutely brutal. It was no wonder I lost my voice after almost every class. Not only that, but sometimes I was stammering to come up with content just to meet an arbitrary time limit.

I (and a former-trainer colleague of mine) was able to convince my boss that teaching trainees for 5+ hours was not beneficial to them. After a certain point, their minds would wander and they would get antsy and visibly bored.

Now my classes cap at three hours. It is much more manageable to work a class agenda around that, plus, I’m sure the trainees are relieved that they don’t need to block out an entire day just to listen to me gab.

4. I do lots and lots of preparation.

When I know I’m going to have a class, I spend almost the entire day before it practicing. I run through the entire class agenda (in my head), and I create a short, large-print outline that I can easily reference during my classes.

Everyone emphasizes it, but it really is true: Practice makes the whole public speaking thing so much easier.

I like to print out my outline and go over the class with my boyfriend during dinner. I never “perform” it word-for-word; I just give him a quick overview of each topic I’d be presenting.

I’ve led lots of introvert-proofed training classes this summer. I almost never lose my voice anymore, and it greatly decreased my inevitable introvert hangover.

I spent a lot of time evaluating exactly which parts of my training courses made me so uncomfortable, and I did everything in my power to re-think them into clear, concrete solutions. In the end, my hard work paid off!

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Read this: 7 Tips to Help Introverts Feel More Comfortable During Job Interviews

Learn more: The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, by Jenn Granneman  retina_favicon1

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  • Lisa Zahn says:

    Wonderful ideas! I work at home as a freelance copyeditor and that job is so perfect for my introverted nature, but if I ever had to do a training or public speaking again, I would definitely use some of your ideas. Thank you for sharing.

  • ChristyMcD says:

    It’s remarkable and grand that you found really distinct ways to make an unpleasant job work much better for you, rather than just gritting your teeth and dealing with it until you burned out on it. I think many of us could stand to apply some creativity to jobs that we don’t like to make them more bearable.
    I’d like to take exception to some of your wording, though, specifically where you say, “As an introvert, I hate [public speaking/being the center of attention/etc.].” I am not doubting at all that that is a perfectly legitimate expression of your introversion and that of many other people, but too much of it contributes to teaching introverts that we are, in total and as a personality type, doomed to hating public speaking, hating having people look at us, hating being teachers or preachers or trainers or actors or whatever other kind of thing entails public speaking and receiving attention. These things are true of some introverts and not of others. As a matter of fact, public speaking is reportedly the most feared occupation for both introverts and extraverts. What is probably true for all introverts is that we’re going to be totally wiped out afterward, whether we hated or loved the process.
    I also passionately hated public speaking throughout childhood, high school, college, and post-graduate school (4-H speeches, speech class, preaching classes…). Once, during my Master’s degree, one of my professors told our class about being an introvert and learning to love public speaking, and I actually (internally) took a bit of offense at that, since surely it’s one of the distinctives of introversion that we hate public speaking, and we shouldn’t have to be forced to like something we really dislike. And then, over the course of the next ten years, I discovered he was totally right. I took a preaching class at that school in which I had to give two sermons, and I hated doing the first one and suddenly really enjoyed doing the second one. I chose to do a project for another class which involved teaching the class a segment on the use of a particular Hebrew word across the whole Old Testament, and I adored it. I discovered I loved teaching and did a teaching practicum with a history professor in which he allowed me to teach a couple of class periods, which were wonderful. I got a job later as a programmer in which I ended up giving some coding seminars and quite enjoyed them. Now I am a theology teacher in a European Bible college, and my job is a form of public speaking, and to raise money get here I spent two years speaking in American churches about what I was going to be doing here, and I adored it and I adore my job. And it totally wipes me out. I’m about dead by the time I get done teaching.
    I also learned ways to make the difficulties work for me. I speak my way. I’m not dynamic, I’m not charismatic in personality, I have a quiet voice…but I’ve done a lot of acting, and that has taught me how to be comfortable on a stage, and I do a ton of writing, which helps to structure my presentations and make them interesting, and I am very deep thinking, which gives depth and thoughtfulness to my presentations. Introverts have a great deal to offer the world of teaching and preaching and training, and I hope there will be more people willing to encourage them in it rather than discouraging them from it because they’re introverts. On the whole, your post here is an encouragement, because it honestly shows your difficulties and the creative way in which you overcame a lot of them.