Are you surprised to learn that there is next to no correlation between being introverted and being able to hold an audience in the palm of your hand?
The long list of famous introverts who have held their own on a stage quite well includes U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Former First Lady Laura Bush, Comedian Steve Martin, Actress Audrey Hepburn, Entrepreneur Steve Jobs, and many others.
You could be on that list, too. Really!
Above all, the keys to introvert success as a speaker are an understanding of your most comfortable communication style, a controlled speaking situation, careful preparation, some way to connect with the audience, and practice, practice, practice.
Here are five tips to help you win applause from audiences and win them over to your way of thinking when you speak to many people at once, from the platform, on the radio, or over a conference call line.
First, know your native speaking style.
As an introvert, you’re unlikely to do best with a rah-rah, get-them-shouting style of speaking. Instead, you are more comfortable relying on facts, logic, multiple teaching points, stories, imagination, and elegant rhythm or phraseology.
Find models of great communicators whose speaking strengths you can identify with and learn from. Several sessions with a speaking coach would help you smooth away the rough edges of your presentation style.
Second, seek out controlled speaking situations.
By a controlled speaking situation, I mean a speaking gig where you know in advance how long you have to speak and to whom, where you can plan your talk ahead of time, where the audience is expecting you to speak to them, and where you don't have to improvise much or react properly at the moment.
I can easily manage to deliver a speech to 150 people where I’ve prepared my talk and I walk out after having been introduced to the audience. But when it comes to, say, a town meeting where I want to object to a point someone else made, and I have to stick up my hand and stand up from the audience, well, that’s a scarier situation that gets my heart beating fast. It’s less controlled.
As an introvert, you would probably do better being interviewed in a slow, sincere fashion than in the jokey, superficial style of AM radio. Don’t put yourself on a TV interview show where the host (like Stephen Colbert) takes pride in keeping guests off balance.
Third, prepare what you’ll say.
Either create a very detailed outline to speak from or write out your whole speech. In the latter instance, you won't normally want to read your prepared remarks word for word, but the writing process helps set the content clearly in your mind.
If you keep the structure of what you plan to say extremely simple, such as “Three Steps to Mastering Your Fears,” then you’ll remember how to proceed even if you don’t use your notes. Audiences appreciate such simplicity, also.
Fourth, connect with the audience.
Think of speaking to a group not as a performance but as an opportunity to click with them. Try opening with questions that create some interaction or with a story that pulls them in. If you’re all in the room together, create eye contact with selected individuals in different parts of the room.
Connection and interaction explain why introverts can take pride in excellent teaching even though they don’t think of themselves as “speakers.” So if it helps, think of a public speaking situation as a teaching opportunity, not a chance to pontificate.
Remember that the audience wants you to succeed in communicating with them.
Fifth, practice, practice, practice.
Don’t merely envision yourself talking through your talk, actually say it out loud – numerous times. Deliver your speech to your dog or cat, to the mirror, while pacing your hotel room or even while walking around outdoors. (Hold a cell phone to your ear while doing this, and no one will give you a second look!)
When you don’t have enough time to practice an entire talk from beginning to end, practice both the beginning and the end until you not only remember what to say but you can truly put yourself into it.
If you have shied away from speaking because you simply assumed it would not suit you, try it out in a low-stakes situation first, such as a small adult education class. If you enjoy it, then tackle more formal speaking challenges, in front of larger groups.
Leading seminars and presenting at conferences might even become a favorite way for you to build your reputation!
In the next lesson, we’ll take a fresh look at another marketing method that’s often mistakenly thought of as uncongenial for introverts – networking.