Public Speaking for Introverts

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7 Tips to Prevent Unadulterated Panic of Epic Proportions

Quiet, the book by Susan Cain, has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over three years and has been translated into 36 languages. Clearly, there are a lot of introverts all over the world. Are you one of them? According to Cain, you are an introvert if:

Given the choice, you’ll devote your social energy to a small group of people you care about most, preferring a glass of wine with a close friend to a party full of strangers. You think before you speak, have a more deliberate approach to risk, and enjoy solitude. You feel energized when focusing deeply on a subject or activity that really interests you. When you’re in overly stimulating environments (too loud, too crowded, etc.) you tend to feel overwhelmed. You seek out environments of peace, sanctuary, and beauty; you have an active inner life and are at your best when you tap into its riches.

And if this describes you, you are not alone. According to statistics from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests, the population is split about 50/50 between introverts and extroverts.

So what happens when an introvert finds themselves in the position of having to stand up in front of a crowd of people and deliver a speech?

Unadulterated panic of epic proportions!

There is even a word for it: Glossophobia.

And if you consider that the average monthly Google search for the term fear of public speaking tops 225,000 searches and is steadily rising year over year, there are clearly a large number of people quaking in their shoes at the thought of delivering a speech.

Graph showing average monthly searches on Google for fear of public speaking
Google Searches for ‘Fear of Public Speaking’

So if your idea of a great time involves curling up by the fire with a good book or working on your genealogy, how do you prepare yourself to speak in public? Here are seven tips to prevent unadulterated panic.

1. Choose a topic you are passionate about.

It’s a whole lot easier to speak about something you are passionate about, something that informs your soul, than it is to talk about something in which you have zero emotional investment. Unfortunately, we can’t always choose our topics, so if you’re saddled with talking about something that doesn’t really get your synapses firing, find an angle or approach to the subject that does.

2. Prepare.

As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’Research your topic well ahead of time and make sure your slides or point form notes flow in a logical and thoughtful progression. Spend the evening before your big day doing something quiet that recharges your batteries. Don’t think about your speech.

3. Don’t write out your speech.

Really. Don’t. Write. It. down.

Nothing is worse than watching someone fumbling through a written speech, stumbling and completely losing their place unless it is being that person. Losing your place can’t happen if you haven’t written your speech out in full. Prepare your slides or cue cards with key points to keep you on track and on message, but keep your points brief and let your words flow from them.

4. Prepare a few self-depreciating anecdotes.

Everyone can think of a time when they did the wrong thing and nothing makes them feel better than knowing that someone else has made the same error. Think of a few examples where you learned from your own mistakes and weave them into your talk in an upbeat way.

5. Practice.

Just because you haven’t written out your speech, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t practice it. Give your speech in the bathroom mirror. Give your speech in the car. Give it in the shower. Without the words in front of you, chances are your speech will be different every time, but your brain will remember the flow of ideas when the time comes.

6. Dress like yourself.

If your usual attire is jeans and a sweatshirt, you won’t feel like yourself if you’re wearing a dress and heels or a formal business suit. Wear something that nods to the occasion, but that still feels like your usual style. Your speech will come across far as more genuine if you are comfortable.

7. Make eye contact.

Don’t look at the crowd.

You’re an introvert and you like to interact with others one-on-one. Just look at one person at a time and make eye contact with them. The next time you look up, look at someone else and smile. Talk to one person at a time.

. . .

After it is over, reward yourself for stretching your boundaries by giving yourself time off to do whatever makes you feel at peace.

If you are an introvert who speaks, please leave your tips in the comments. We can all use all of the help we can get!

Barbara J Starmans is a social historian, freelance writer and obsessed genealogist living in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada and has been doing genealogical research for the past 35 years. She is a graduate of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in Toronto, Canada with professional learning certificates in General Methodology and in English Records and recently become an instructor for them with an intermediate course on Social History.

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