What would you do if you get to work tomorrow, and someone asks you to give a public speaking? If you are an introvert, you’re probably starting to feel uncomfortable. Public speaking for introverts can sound like a nightmare. However, being on stage is a unique opportunity to reach other people and make yourself heard. If you have something valuable to say, you shouldn’t avoid it.
You are going to step forward and speak, so let’s think about how to make it a less painful experience. If you take a look at all the tips out there for introverts, you’ll realize that they are not very actionable. In addition, they are directed to all speakers in general, not to introverts in particular.
Therefore, let’s focus on the specific problems you may face as an introvert and seek solutions.
Public Speaking for introverts – Before speaking
As an introvert, you have an extraordinary ability to focus on one subject and work on it exhaustively. That’s your most significant advantage. Use it! What your audience really cares about is what you have to say.
Introverts enjoy time alone, and that’s an advantage when you’re carefully preparing a speech. You can get the maximum on tasks that for extroverts feel unbearable – research thoroughly and focusing on every detail. No one is better than introverts at taking the time to think deeply about what they want to say in order to perfect their talks.
Stories and funny moments? Yes, they can be an excellent way to catch your audience’s attention, but they can also be a problem for an introvert. The good news is: you can prepare them as well! Rehearse until they come naturally.
Use your abilities as leverage. Introverts are good listeners, and that makes them quickly aware of what an audience needs.
If you are presenting something for your co-workers, remember everything you know they need or want to hear. Take some time to think about what you heard or observed, and you’ll know exactly what to say to reach them.
Take care of yourself
Social events are quite tiring for introverts, so assure yourself that you get enough rest before. Make sure you don’t feel drained. Eating and drinking well (plenty of water), as well as getting the right amount of sleep the night before, will help you feel energized.
Take care of your image to help you feel good about yourself. Prepare an outfit in which you’ll feel comfortable. The simpler your clothing, the better; this is an advantage for an introvert (a flamboyant outfit would distract your audience from what you have to say).
Public speaking for introverts – During the speech
You are probably tired of listening that the best way to start a speech is with a good story, preferentially a funny one. As I said before, that can also be prepared, but if you are not confident in your humor, you start with a question instead. Give the public a minute to think about what you just asked, whether they answer it or not.
Fight the impulse to start talking right away. You don’t need to fill all the silences or start talking non-stop since the moment you step on the stage. It is okay to stop and observe your audience, giving them time to think about what you just said.
What to do with my hands?
Your hands were never a problem; until you needed to give a speech. What to do with them?
Your hands can be a fantastic tool to emphasize what you’re saying. However, they can also be a problem that distracts the audience or get them tired with so many movements. Some speakers may seem very natural to you, while you think of all your moves as awkward and out of purpose. Body language can be prepared and trained too.
In case of doubt, try the following tips. If you’re sitting at a table, rest your hands on it when you don’t know what to do with them. If you’re standing, sometimes, you have an object in your hands, such as a pointer, for example. This might help to keep them occupied; however, it might also become a distracting object for the audience if you gesture with it a lot.
When you have nothing in your hands, don’t be afraid of doing nothing. You can have your hands down, along with the body. You’ll start to move them naturally as soon as you get more comfortable on stage. Only keep in mind to avoid your pockets or crossing your arms in front of your chest. That will pass a message of detachment from the audience.
Introverts struggle to use humor. You don’t need to be funny – you are who you are. Focus on the message and how to reach the audience with it. You need to teach/inform your audience, not entertain them.
If you genuinely need a lighter moment in the speech, try to prepare it in your slides or other support material you’ll use. Funny images can speak for you.
Create an alter ego
Creating an extrovert and confident alter ego can be a fantastic tool for you. Don’t worry; you don’t need to act. An alter ego is more like a mask of safety. Have you ever been to a costume party? The fact that their face is hidden makes most introverts immediately more relaxed. That’s the goal with the alter ego or stage persona.
If you’re struggling, think about all those times you felt strong and powerful; try to bring that version of yourself to the stage.
“Keep eye contact with the audience.” This is probably the most common tip about public speaking you’ll ever find. It’s also your biggest problem. Even in daily conversations with their peers, introverts tend to look away after a while.
If you are on a stage, not to close to the audience, it’s easy to ‘pretend’ you’re looking at them. You look at their direction without actually seeing who’s in front of you.
The problem is more challenging to solve in company meetings and situations where you are closer to your audience. Dr. Michelle Dickison (aka Nanogirl) gives an interesting, even funny, advice: look at people’s ears. They will think you’re looking at them, but you don’t need to hold the eye contact.
The bright side of public speaking for introverts
If you are an introvert, then you know that it’s not always easy to make yourself heard. During a public presentation, this might be different, though. Your audience won’t interrupt you! Your audience is there to listen to you. It’s your time to be heard.
Smile! Smiling creates more empathy, don’t be afraid of using it. If you need, practice it. Hold your smile in front of a mirror to get used to it.
Most important, accept your fears. You are afraid, and that’s okay. Learn how to go, despite the fear. What you have to say is more important than yourself. You don’t need to be an extrovert to be a good speaker. Gandhi, Churchill, and Eleanor Roosevelt were great speakers, and they were… introverts.