Even the most outgoing people can feel anxious about speaking in front of a large audience. For an introvert – someone who has a natural tendency to be reserved and solitary – this experience can simply become terrifying. Does this sound familiar?
Carl Jung (1875-1961), the Swiss psychiatrist who created the terms introversion and extroversion, helped us understand why people behave differently in group situations. Typically, we consider extroverts to have outgoing, talkative, energetic behaviour, whereas introverts are more reserved and solitary. An introvert enjoys interactions with close friends but tends to feel uncomfortable in large groups. They can even feel overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings, preferring a quieter environment.
You might now be telling yourself that it’s practically impossible for an introvert to become a great public speaker. Yet there are many examples of famous people who are known introverts.
For example, I think we can all agree that Barack Obama is very successful at managing being in the public eye. Likewise for Bill Gates, J.K Rowling, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Meryl Streep. They are all examples of introverts who have overcome their fear of public speaking. Another surprising example is Marilyn Monroe. Her friend, Marlon Brando (himself an introvert!), stated that when he first met Marilyn at a party, she was in a corner, unnoticed, playing the piano while everyone else was dancing and having fun!
Even famous TV show hosts admit to being introverted. Barbara Walters, who is known for having hosted a variety of television programs, including Today, surprised many people when she stated in Esquire Magazine: “I’m fairly introverted. You know how women can get up and dance alone? I can’t do it. I’m afraid everyone is looking at me. Yet I can get up in front of ten thousand people and talk.”
So how do these famous introverts manage to get up and talk, confidently and convincingly, in front of thousands, if not millions, of people?
What they all have in common is that they believe in what they do, they have a purpose and they’re passionate about it. Self-belief is the solution to overcoming the fear of judgment. Rather than questioning yourself, it means you want to share your belief and passion with others, breaking down the barriers that stop you from becoming visible.
My experience of working with both introverts and extroverts from different walks of life (ranging from company leaders to students) has shown me that with the right tools, everyone can become an effective public speaker. Here are some tips I share with my clients who feel nervous and anxious when they need to get up to speak in public:
- Believe in your own value. You’re the expert in your field, you have knowledge and experience that is beneficial for your audience and you can take pleasure in sharing your expertise with them.
- Always remember: WIIFM? (What’s In It For Me?) – this is the question that the audience will be asking themselves. By thinking about the benefits you can bring to your audience and tailoring your presentation to their needs, they’ll be more attentive to what you’re saying and you’ll feel more confident about presenting in front of them.
- Use tried and tested techniques such as storytelling and rhetorical questions to make your presentation interesting and appealing to your audience.
- Use the Lock, Talk and Pause technique to establish good eye contact with individual members of the audience. Introverts prefer to address one person at a time, so this technique will help you to feel less overwhelmed by having too many eyes focused on you at the same time. Here’s the link to the explanation of this technique on my blog: Lock, Talk, Pause
- Integrate good pausing into your speech. Feeling nervous can make you speak too fast and as a result you start to panic. By pausing and not being afraid to have short silences, you not only leave your audience time to digest your information but you also leave yourself time to breathe and avoid letting anxiety build up. Here’s the link to the explanation of this technique on my blog: The Power of Pausing
- If you still feel too afraid to stand up to speak in public but you’d like to give yourself the chance to excel and gain credibility for yourself and your company, don’t hesitate to work with a public speaking coach who will help you to gain confidence in your ability to give a great presentation.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me, either by phone on +33 (0)6 47 92 44 60 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be delighted to answer any questions you have about this topic or about my coaching approach in general.
In the next article on this subject, we’ll observe how JK Rowling – a self-proclaimed introvert – gives one of the most watched and popular talks of recent times. Her powerful Harvard commencement speech is a witty, moving and inspirational talk for introverts and extroverts alike.