Be Confident and Beat Your Fear of Public Speaking!
Being nervous about speaking in public as an introvert (or extrovert) is extremely common – most of us are not often exposed to having to speak publicly, and that alone can make us nervous. It’s not a problem that is isolated to introverts, either, extroverts can feel the same fear, though it is more difficult for us – as introverts – to go against our nature and pull all the attention onto us.
Public speaking is an invaluable skill to have, and whether you’re a student, teacher, business leader, or performer, it’s likely that you will have to speak publicly at some point in your life. But this needn’t be a terrifying event! Speaking publicly won’t seem so intimidating if you use the following tips to your advantage:
Learn to hold a smile that feels natural and comfortable. When you smile, your brain tells your body that you are relaxed which, in turn, will actually relax you. The act of smiling, when used with controlled breathing, is a sure-fire way to relax your body and trick your brain into thinking you’re relaxed! When it comes to body language, people generally tend to mirror that of the person they’re listening to. So in this case, your smiling will be infectious and you’ll be met by an audience of smiling faces. (Much less scary!)
2. Meet the Audience
If you have the opportunity to do so, go and meet people before you give your speech, talk or lecture. Introduce yourself and have a quick chat with some of your listeners. Now that you know them, you can look at them and talk to them when speaking, and you won’t feel like you’re looking at a sea of faces you don’t know. Just remember not to focus solely on one audience member – share your gaze around the room from time to time and look for other encouraging faces.
3. Open with a Question (or Two!)
A question gets the audience engaged and opens a dialogue, which helps if you’ll be looking for audience interaction in some way. This will stop your audience from falling into “lecture” mode, where they sit and listen passively, largely switching off.
4. Use Anecdotes, Facts, and Figures
Pepper some anecdotes and titbits of information throughout your presentation that you can refer to, and ask the audience what they think. This relies on your audience being willing to engage with you, which they’ll be much more likely to do if you’ve involved them earlier on in your talk. If you do this frequently throughout your talk, your audience will feel more relaxed and engaged with you.
5. Keep It Short and Sweet
If you are using a presentation, keep the information on each slide to a minimum. Simple visuals, quotes and facts are a perfect way to keep your audience engaged, without overloading them. If slides are too busy, your audience is less likely to want to look at them and many will just switch off.
Also keep your language simple and conversational. Avoid using long or “big” words people will not understand, or graphs that are too small to read. You should also aim to achieve a fine balance between using relatable language and necessary jargon. The use of slang probably won’t be appropriate in a workplace talk, but you also don’t want to come across as obnoxious by using pretentious language. Most people can read the room and figure out where this balance lies, and you’ll most likely know the audience, so this should be an easy thing to determine.
6. Make Your Audience Laugh!
People are always more comfortable when there’s something to laugh about. Use some humour as this will help both you and the audience to laugh, smile and relax. It’s another excellent way to break the ice, and will make your audience see you as charismatic, energetic, and easy to listen to. Humour is always suitable, just make sure you read the room. Even a funeral can benefit from a little laughter, as long as the humour is coming from a positive place.
7. Be a Storyteller
One of the best things to use if you are an introvert tasked with public speaking is to use the art of storytelling in your presentation. Some of the most engaging speakers tend to talk as though they’re in conversation with their audience. Speaking in the style of a storyteller is a really helpful way of presenting information in a conversational way.
Ideally, these stories should be about you or a situation in your life; that way you’ll be able to deliver them with passion because you won’t need to look at your slides or your notes.
Public Speaking for Introverts Final Thoughts
The main thing to remember is that the art of public speaking as an introvert takes time to cultivate. It’s an acquired skill, and may not come naturally. Ask a trusted friend, family member or colleague to listen to you speak, and ask their opinion. Once you’ve taken my previous points into consideration, remember: practice makes perfect! As an introvert, you already know what it feels like to be uncomfortable speaking publicly, so take the time to work on it, and you’ll be speaking with confidence in no time!