Presentation Skills and Public Speaking for Introverts
“Who cares if you’re not a natural storyteller? You can craft your stories beforehand, practice them, and share them—for the brief moment that the spotlight is on you,” says Susan Cain on her website Quiet Revolution. Cain’s TEDTalk, “The power of introverts,” has been viewed more than 14,000,000 times. Although an extroverted person might enjoy being the center of attention, making a good presentation or speech isn’t about you, it’s about your message. I’m sharing this insightful information from fellow Loyola University of Chicago Adjunct Professor Marianna Swallow. Marianna is a Chicago-based workshop leader and coach specializing in Business & Professional Speaking.
Often, when I’m leading a presentation skills workshop, or coaching an individual, I often get a caveat or pushback before we start:
- “I’m not an actor; I’m not going to get all loud when I have to do this.”
- “I’m an introvert. You can’t expect me to suddenly get excited about this.”
- “I’m more quiet. I’m not comfortable getting up in front of people and making everyone pay attention to me. I’m just not like that.”
To which I say: Agreed!
One of the worst ways to teach someone who doesn’t want to be loud and extroverted is to tell them to be loud and extroverted. I recall an author telling me about media coaching he was given before a book tour. The coach yelled directions at him: “Stand up straighter! Now look over here! Speak louder! Stop saying ‘um’!”
I’m happy to say I do not work that way. I meet you where you are. And I draw on your natural strengths, and the things you love to do, to support you in being more effective at the front of the room.
Not all great speakers are loud extroverts. It’s just that those are the ones that society pays the most attention to and rewards with money and fame. Oprah Winfrey, Todrick Hall, or JoJo – I’ll happily watch any of them. (Eh, maybe not JoJo. I’m not 12.) But I’ll also watch Barack Obama, John Mulaney, and Albus Dumbledore.
There’s a misconception that all introverts are “shy,” “not talkative,” or “not social.”
An introvert derives energy from being alone and thinking or processing.
An extrovert draws energy from being around and engaging with other people.
Neither description – nor label – determines if one is a strong, effective public speaker. Some of the worst presenters I worked with were major extroverts who were loud and gregarious – but never thought about the audience. I would describe these folks as “obnoxious.”
John Mulaney is very controlled, as is Albus Dumbledore. Barack Obama is commanding, even though he is not overly gregarious. One of my clients described Obama as having a “statesman-like presence.”
So, if you struggle with running the meeting, presenting in front of the C-level, or just presentations in general, hit me up to discuss a workshop.
Presentations should feel easi(er) and be enjoyable – not a source of stress. And yes, even the most chill among us can do it in a way that feels comfortable.
Marianna Swallow is a Public Speaking Coach & Workshop Leader in Chicago.