As a business owner, you will inevitably need to speak and present to sell yourself and your business. If like me you are an introvert this may not fill you with joy! However, understanding more about what this introvert trait means can help us move forward.
Contrary to popular belief, shyness and introversion are not synonymous. Introversion refers to a particular way we energise ourselves. Whereas extroverts are energised by being around people, introverts can also enjoy the company of others, but this uses up their energy, so at some point, they will need to take themselves away to recharge.
Rather than thinking of my introversion as a block, I started to actively look for ways to turn this trait into an asset and developed the following tips for introvert business owners everywhere.
Here Kay Heald from Toastmasters International highlights her public speaking tips.
Start preparing early
Take your time to prepare a structured and well-crafted speech, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Research your intended audience and make sure you structure the speech for their benefit rather than yours. This preparatory process is excellent for calming the nerves of an introvert, as it provides the infrastructure for a speech that acts like a virtual ‘comfort blanket’ for when you are both rehearsing and delivering your talk.
My first talk took eight weeks to construct, it now takes about four. Even though the subject material can vary widely, I have identified certain themes and structures that work well for me, such as starting with an open question for the audience or including a call to action at the end of a speech.
Speak about what matters to you
The world is full of great introverted public speakers, but their introversion is rarely noticed. Barack Obama is just one of many high-profile introverted orators who overcame public speaking anxiety by focusing on a central theme, cause or mission that had greater importance than his own nerves.
When you talk passionately about a subject it helps you feel more confident.
Become familiar with the content, the pace and style of your speech, by practising frequently. Include practice in front of a mirror, onto a mobile device and in front of a couple of carefully chosen friendly faces. This enables an introvert to convert their speech into a performance, allowing them to develop a suitable persona that gives them the necessary inner-confidence to step into the limelight.
I think of my public speaking persona as my more confident, slightly extrovert, twin. This persona is recognisably me, but with fewer introverted characteristics.
What would it be like if…
You can control the negative and catastrophising elements of your brain, by literally visualising helpful cues and positive images to create a more conducive environment in which to carry out your performance. This helps combat the natural tendency of introverts to want to escape from a position of vulnerability and exposure.
For one of my early talks, a more experienced public speaker shared a popular visualisation technique, to turn the heads of an audience into cabbages, but I found this too distracting. However, for me, I found turning them into friendly emojis made all the difference!
Your learning journey
Treat your public speaking engagements as ongoing learning opportunities. For me, public speaking is rather like trying to master a traditional craft that requires continual practising, nurturing and refinement. This longer-term approach suits introverts well, as they have a tendency to be over-critical of themselves and can easily undermine their confidence at an early stage.
I have found it really useful to occasionally have a friend in the audience, tucked away from my direct line of sight, who can help me review my speech afterwards in a constructive way over a cup of coffee.
Take time to re-energise
Both extroverts and introverts will experience a surge of adrenalin and be rewarded with dopamine when completing a successful speech. However, it is really important that, as an introvert, you recognise the drain this will have on your energy levels, so you must also build in quality time that allows you to re-energise afterwards, preferably away from others, so that you can recharge.
One of my introverted friends chooses to go on a long solitary walk, preferably in the countryside. A quiet hotel corridor works well too. You’ll know what works best for you.
Many great businesses are headed by introverts. Use these tips to develop your speaking skills and take your business forward.