Public Speaking for Introverts Part 2 - Presentation Prep

Posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

If you think of yourself as an Introvert, or if you're anyone who falls into the category of “fears public speaking more than death,” you probably know you’re not alone. Many people find it intimidating and distracting to speak before a crowd, and are more comfortable expressing their thoughts in writing, where they can take their time and think things through. But the beautiful piece of writing you slaved over may not play well to an audience when read aloud. Think about the way you talk with other people in a conversation, compared to the more formal structure of a written essay. When you're giving a talk to a live audience, you need to engage their attention, and that means, make them feel they are part of the conversation.
How do you manage that trick? Here are some pointers.

1. Stay focused and ask yourself this:  What three or four things do I really want them to know? Keep your answers short -- twitter-size at most. 
I want them to know:  Our company is strong and growing … we have the best minds leading the way … we are committed to putting patients first, etc. 
Add short supporting statements beneath each main point which you’ll fill out later. Be sure you have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And before you know it, you have created an outline. 

2.  Once you have an outline, practice reading it -- OUT LOUD -- and record yourself.  This is very important for a few reasons. By being an active listener, it will be crystal clear whether or not your content is user-friendly. Two, if you’re trying to convey something that's better for writing than for speech, you'll recognize right away that you're tripping over your words and it's not working.  And three, you need to physically practice articulating the flow of your message to anchor it in your mind and body. It’s one thing to read music silently, it’s another thing to practice and develop physical dexterity before you perform it for public consumption. 

3. Break it down into chunks. For most of us not used to being on the podium, the idea of talking for an extended period of time can seem overwhelming. Practice each section of your talk separately as though it’s composed of a number of short conversations.  When it feels comfortable and conversational, piece them together slowly. This sounds simple, but it's a very powerful strategy to help you practice, tailor your content, and relax, compared to going from start to finish over and over. 

4. Practice talking to one person at a time.  As you rehearse, try to imagine the audience in front of you as though you’re having a series of personal conversations that are peppered throughout the room. If you organize shifts in eye focus around bullet points or complete thoughts, it will visually look very clean and organized as well.  It sounds simple -- and it is! That's why it works.

5. Keep it simple.  If you don’t have a lot of time to prepare, the best strategy is to stick to your main points and toss out anything that's not required to support them. Trying to add more details to impress your audience with your expertise can backfire if you end up looking unprepared or sloppy.  Your goal in public speaking is not only to communicate your content -- just as important, you want your audience to feel that their time was well spent and that you were a credible and interesting speaker.

6. Be true to yourself.   Many people are fairly comfortable speaking extemporaneously, many people are not.  Ask for the time that you need to ensure your greatest success, and work in a way that's comfortable and productive for You, regardless of anyone else’s style.  Do what you can to ensure that each experience you create for yourself is a positive platform to build on for your own growth as a speaker. 

7.  Keep it in perspective.  And if despite all your careful preparation, the thought of speaking in front of a crowd still terrifies you, ask yourself this -- what's the worst that can happen? If you've done your homework and practiced, the chance of total catastrophe is remote.  It’s about managing anxiety through practice rather than expecting it to disappear. 

Celebrate every small victory along the way. Remind yourself that this a journey, not a battle! And journeys are meant to challenge us, take us to new places, and make us stronger.