If you tend to prefer your own company, do not crave attention or seek the airtime in meetings, and find social small talk a challenge, the chances are you are an introvert. While this is not a drawback to success – many of the most successful people on the planet are introverts – Bill Gates, JK Rowling and Steven Spielberg to name a few, it can be a handicap in business situations where the skills you need to succeed don’t come naturally.
As an introvert, you probably prefer listening to talking, especially when it means talking about your ideas or opinions, and this can be a drawback when it comes to giving presentations or speaking in front of groups.
So, here are a few tips that will help next time you are asked to speak to groups:
Challenge your self-doubt and negative self-talk
Introverts often suffer from self-doubt and negative self-talk, which stops you from speaking up. One way to shift your negative self-talk is to write down a list of your negative thoughts beforehand and for each of these, identify a positive thought that is equally true, that would be more useful for you to focus on. Do this as part of your mental preparation.
Be yourself – play to your strengths
Rather than trying to imitate the energy of a natural extrovert, you will have more success by cultivating your own style of speaking. You will be far more compelling if you speak with authenticity and engage people by drawing them in to your message than trying to fake a high energy delivery that feels uncomfortable.
Prepare well – in these key areas
There are 3 areas that will boost your confidence and impact as a presenter, and help you to speak authentically and make things interesting for your audience:
Try to make your content engaging so that you feel confident that you will have something of interest to share. Introverts are often better at writing than speaking, so write down what you want to say and then edit it down until you have a simple structure. A good way to structure your content is to prepare your opening statement, 3 key points and a closing statement. Use stories and rhetorical questions to involve the audience emotionally and intellectually.
Practice beforehand so that you feel more confident that you know what you want to say. The more familiar you are with your content and how you will deliver it, the better it will sound on the day. As the saying goes, the best way to sound like you know your stuff is to know your stuff. Remember you are not aiming for perfection, rather to be warm and authentic.
Try to relax yourself by using this simple I-SPY routine beforehand, to mentally and physically calm your state, which goes:
I = (mental affirmation) “I am excited to be doing this because… (finish off with a good reason)”
S = Shake out your tension by wriggling your toes, circling your angles and shaking out your arms legs, rolling your shoulders and head
P = check your Posture, to feel confident and convey presence
Y = Yawn to release any remaining tension in your face and throat
Be Less Self-Conscious
Most introverted presenters are really focused on themselves and their performance. If you shift your focus to the audience by thinking about how you are serving people in the audience through your presentation – how they can benefit from hearing what you have to say – so that you become more ‘Other’-conscious and less ‘Self’-conscious.
Finally, remember to keep practicing. Take up opportunities to build your skills in small steps so that presentations and speaking in meetings is something you feel confident about. It is a good idea to try ideas in less important situations – and build up to more significant ones. Before long, you will find you are presenting with more confidence and feeling comfortable being yourself: an introvert with something worth sharing.