Public Speaking For Introverts

An interesting perspective on and reasons why public speaking is good for introverts from subject matter expert, Emma Taggart, the Leadership Coach for Introverts.

Public speaking – It’s something other people, and we ourselves, often assume introverts can’t do.

Introverts prefer to express themselves in writing and don’t feel any great need to be the focus of attention, so public speaking can make them feel very uncomfortable.

Emma’s goal for the autumn is to master public speaking.  She recently gave the first of what she hopes will be many talks about why introverts’ strengths make them well-placed to lead now.

So, why is she bothering to stretch her comfort zone by learning how to be a better speaker? And why should you?

First, because Emma – and you – have rich thoughts and ideas to share. You can do that in writing but if that’s all you do then people who prefer to listen rather than read are not going to hear.

Second, because leaders need to be able to communicate and it’s not always possible to do that effectively in writing.

Third, because it’s good to learn new skills and expand your view of what’s possible.

Recently a mentor challenged Emma to get back in the public speaking saddle (it’s about three years since she last spoke in public). Surprisingly, speaking turned out to be a natural fit for her and other introverts. Here’s why:

1.    Effective public speaking requires loads of preparation. 

Introverts love to be prepared!  They can write down exactly what they want to say and practise until they are word perfect (but please don’t read from a script unless you want to sound like a robot).

2.    We are the ones doing the talking.

For once, there is no need to fight for air time or try to get a word in edgeways in a room full of talkative people (yes extroverts, Emma is looking at you).

3.    We don’t have to do the dreaded small talk.

Introverts can talk about a subject that they know about and that interests them (and hopefully interests the audience too!). People will ask questions about what is said – no need to talk about what we did on holiday!  Emma’s mentor calls public speaking “hiding at the front of the room”, which is a brilliant description.

Okay, so there are downsides to public speaking, like the nerves that come with being in the spotlight and fear of being asked a question we don’t know the answer to, but those can be dealt with:

  • Try re-framing nerves as excitement. It really works!
  • Use a preference for preparation to anticipate questions and craft answers.
  • If your mind goes blank when put on the spot, it’s fine to promise to get back to people with an answer (but make sure you it within a reasonable time frame).

Has Emma convinced you to give public speaking a go? If so, here are her tips based on recent experience:

  1. Say ‘yes’ when someone invites you to speak, even if you’re terrified – trust that thorough preparation will make it a success.
  2. Consider public speaking an opportunity to indulge your love of thinking and writing – reflect on ideas and scribble them down before translating them into the spoken word.
  3. Get some help – read a book, watch TEDTalks for inspiration and find an experienced speaker to support you – indeed IMPACTUS Support offers Speaker & Presentation Skills Training & Coaching, so why not ask here?

There’s absolutely no reason why introverts can’t be great public speakers.

Don’t do yourself a disservice by buying into the idea that there are some things we just can’t do.  To borrow a well-worn slogan from Emma’s favourite introverted leader, President Obama, ”Yes we can!”.

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