Public Speaking for Introverts - Part 1

Posted on Sunday, June 14, 2015

Speaking in public is stressful for just about everyone, but for those who think of themselves as introverts, it can also feel like pressure to act like someone they're not, and don't really want to be -- an extrovert.   We all know those people who are born to the spotlight, who crave attention, who are naturally outspoken and gregarious. Perhaps that’s not you, but you have something important to communicate, and though it might not come naturally to you to take the podium, it's a skill you can learn.
You don't have to become an extrovert to be a good public speaker -- you just need to figure out ways to approach this challenge that honor who you are, balance your energy in the direction it's most needed, and help you to create the greatest good.

Here are some tips for the introvert venturing into public speaking:
1.       You don’t have to be someone you’re not, but do keep in mind that you have to capture your audience's attention. If you're naturally quiet and soft-spoken, you'll need to stretch a bit, and expand your boundaries. The idea is to practice being more expressive of who you already are. It's all about communicating yourself, your ideas, your inner passion. Go for it.

2.       Like most things, there's a secret to improving your speaking skills -- practice, practice, practice. Find a low-risk situation where you can get some practice in a real venue -- many cities have Pecha Kucha meetings, or Toastmasters, for example -- and record yourself.  You'll be surprised how different your perception of your performance will be, when seen as if you're part of the audience. 

3.       Practice playing to the circumstances.  Addressing an audience as opposed to a 1:1 conversation will require an upward shift in the amount of energy you put into your voice and body language.  Try practicing in a large space to get a sense of what that will feel like, and project your energy to the back of the room.  .

4.       Give yourself permission to be a performer.  Focus on the story you want to tell, and the message you want to communicate. Let yourself act as the conduit for that message.   Rather than let yourself worry about stepping out of your comfort zone, focus on what you’re able to give. It puts the focus back on the message where it belongs, and takes it away from the ever-protecting self. Remember, it's not about you, it's about the ideas you're communicating.
5.       Keep the end in mind. When we remind ourselves of the Why, we tap into our intrinsic motivation and find our passionate purpose. Connecting to passionate purpose and speaking to the Why provides the energy that makes the task of public speaking worthwhile. 

6.       Seek out feedback from someone who will provide you with honest critique, or find a coach to help you. I've found that speakers rarely have a realistic concept about how much energy they’re contributing to the room.  Often they think they’re going way over the top, and when they see themselves later on video, they realize they could have gone much farther and better served their message.   Practice dialing up the energy levels on video to find out where your sweet spot is and what you can learn to trust

7.       Take care of yourself. All of this effort takes a lot of stamina, so plan on some private time before your event to focus and rest. Afterward, take some time to yourself to decompress and recharge.  Like learning any new skill, the effort you put into it now will pay dividends well into the future.

In Part 2, we’ll talk about presentation prep, and Part 3 will focus on performance skills.