self improvement

An Introvert’s 3 Step Guide to Public Speaking

Being an introvert and speaking in public – sounds like a match made in hell perhaps?

Many of us may associate introversion with shyness, a lack of confidence and a preference to ‘stay in the background’. If you look at a group of your friends or colleagues and identify the biggest introvert and extrovert, the logical person to put forward for a public speaking engagement would be the life and soul of the party right? The person that largely keeps themselves to themselves would definitely struggle to influence a crowd wouldn’t they? Well our experience shows us that the answer is in fact an unequivocal ‘no’. Indeed many of the qualities of an introvert actually lend themselves perfectly to the discipline of public speaking – often more so than those of an extrovert.

So if you’re an introvert the good news is that you innately have the skills at your disposal to speak to an audience with confidence, authenticity and flair.

Here are 3 common traits of an introvert and how they can be harnessed to brilliant effect when presenting:

Introverts learn through the observation of others

When in a normal conversation an introvert will instinctively have their full attention on the other person – they are brilliant listeners with a genuine interest and curiosity in other people. It’s not as great a leap as it may initially seem to employ that same ability when presenting to an audience.

A major quality of dynamic public speakers is that they are very much ‘in the moment’. They are able to read their environment in a way that allows them to supplement and enhance their presentations beyond the script. If you are present you are able to cite things around you in a way that will resonate with your audience e.g. ‘let’s hope by the end of this speech that the heaters might kick in and we can all take our coats off’.  If an introvert taps into and uses their observational powers when speaking they will elevate themselves beyond the ordinary.

Renowned comedian, actor and yes, introvert, Steve Martin is a wonderfully honed public speaker – watch his acceptance speech at 2013’s Governor’s Awards and see how he instantly uses a physical interplay between himself and Tom Hanks to draw his audience in before he even says a word: http://www.edisonred.com/blog/posts/3-presentation-tips-from-a-comic-genius/

 Introverts focus on the big picture and notice details that others may not

Small talk and monotonous tasks are two big factors that can cause annoyance or even anxiety to an introverted personality. Rather than discussing the weather or what you both got up to at the weekend, introverts are far more interested in overall visions and their intricacies – it’s estimated that at least 40% of the world’s CEOs are introverts. This attention to detail walks hand in hand with building the content of a compelling presentation, particularly when it comes to forming visuals.

A well structured presentation will keep an audience focused, informed and engaged. A brilliant one will do all of the above but will also surprise them with things they hadn’t necessarily noticed or considered before. If an introvert uses their natural ability to uncover the finer details of a subject – be it last month’s income, the latest marketing drive or customer satisfaction – and then weaves those details into their presentation, they will amplify key messages and leave the audience with a real call to action, e.g. ‘increasing client retention annually by just 5% will increase turnover by nearly $4 million’.

 Introverts are well equipped to deal with nerves

Introverts aren’t usually big fans of networking or other situations that involve a lot of one-on-one interactions with new people.  If forced to choose between meeting a new group of individuals or presenting to several hundred people, research suggests they are more likely to go for the presentation.

A healthy by-product of this is that an introvert’s levels of anxiety in the build up to a presentation will be very responsive to standard relaxation techniques – such as breathing exercises and positive visualization, i.e. seeing yourself being brilliant.

Taking to a stage of any size in a relaxed state allows us to focus fully on our audience and message, dispelling any unhelpful feelings of self-doubt or negativity.

So if you’re lucky enough to be classed as an introvert and you have a presentation coming up, here’s some key things to remember:

–          use your observational powers to replicate the body language of professional speakers – do this accurately and your confidence will naturally grow.

–          use your keen eye and attention to detail to uncover the most important elements of your presentation material and then weave them into your speech for maximum impact.

–          practice breathing and relaxation techniques used by actors so you can immediately call upon them if you feel any nerves prior to a speech.

–          start your research now by watching TED talks –  and of course there’s no better place to start than ‘The Power of Introverts’ by Susan Cain: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts

About the author: David Bliss is a director and co-founder of Edison Red, a training company specializing in all things Presentation, Story and Visual Design.