a shy, reticent person.
Whatever definition of the term “introvert” you subscribe to, I’m sure you will agree that “introverts” and “public speaking” are not necessarily the best match. As an avowed introvert myself, I’ve had to do my fair share of public speaking in its various forms – giving presentations, facilitating workshops. At work I often have to be a resource person that co-leads presentations and workshops.
Over the past few years, I’ve found a few things that work for me while I’m speaking in front of groups of people. I hope they work for you too:
- Practice – Give yourself the best chance of doing well by practicing. Practice speaking slowly and clearly, practice your material in front of family and friends, and know your content inside out. Sometimes nerves or a difficult question can throw you off a little and so it’s good to be very conversant with your material so you don’t forget some of your points
- Get to know people in the audience – I always make it a point to arrive early and try and strike up one-on-one conversations with people in the audience. In college I would approach people I had seen around before or had taken a class with. In my workshops for work, I target the people that arrive early. When things get rough, I tend to look at these people and gain strength from their reassuring looks.
- Have a prop – Chances are, if you’re nervous, your hands are fidgeting. Whether they’re in your pockets, on your hips, or running through your hair, it’s distracting for your audience. If you’re a coffee drinker, take a cup of coffee up with you. If you’re not (I don’t blame you, coffee is liquid pain and sorrow after all), a bottle of water will be just fine. You don’t have to drink it; just having it in your hands will keep you from fidgeting. Another great thing about having a beverage is you can take a sip when your mouth is dry or when you need a moment to answer a difficult question (try not to over do it though).
- Scan the room – Even though it’s nice to make eye contact with your new friends in the audience, it’s important not to only lock eyes with them throughout your presentation. Come on now, you don’t want your other audience members to feel left out. Spread the love, and look around the room throughout your presentation. I like to divide my audience into square sections and scan each section for a bit so I don’t stare at the same people for too long.
- Smile – Even though it feels like it, no one else can hear your heart beating so fast and so loudly. Trust me. And no one can hear you breathing loudly (actually, I’m not so sure about that. Try and also practice breathing evenly as you practice your presentation). No matter how nervous you’re feeling, smiling will help you look and also hopefully feel confident, and your audience will also respond positively, and give you a standing ovation after your presentation. I guarantee it.
Have any public speaking tips that work for you? Share in the comments!