My last blog was on leaving your comfort zone in general and how this might be different for introverts and extroverts. I wanted to explore the theme of comfort zone in the context of public speaking.
Public speaking is often seen as way outside of an introvert’s comfort zone. Extroverts are classed as more natural speakers. Given the prevalence of people saying they are afraid of speaking in public, however, it cannot just be introverts affected. Extroverts too often fear public speaking.
Recognise your speaking skill
Speaking in public involves being the centre of attention, which is a big dislike for introverts. Yet introverts can and do make excellent speakers. Their predisposition towards observation, analysis and articulation of the results, means introverts have the ability to construct persuasive and powerful presentations.
Extroverts are charming, energetic and animated when they speak. This allows natural connection and engagement with the audience. They may however worry about coming across as somewhat frenetic, unfocussed and rambling.
Prepare for anything
Being put on the spot and having to think on our feet is an introvert’s worst nightmare. We generally think before speaking and pressure to say something has a tendency to lead to brain freeze. It is the part of public speaking that I dislike the most and historically tried to avoid. In Toastmasters I took the roles which meant I could prepare in advance, or at least partially during the meeting. This allowed me to get out of Table Topics, where random questions are thrown at you.
What I have learnt though is that you can prepare for anything, including unknown questions. Practicing answering random questions has been vital to me. There are techniques you can use to structure answers, connect the topic to something relevant and keep speaking even when you don’t know what to say. These skills are valuable in meetings and interviews; when unexpectedly bumping into those you need to connect with; or if suddenly asked to say a few words at an event.
Find what works for you
In my view, the most powerful tools for getting better at public speaking are a) Practice and b) Feedback. I’ve written about the benefits of practice before. In the vein of practice makes proficient (not perfect), plus in the context of introverts and extroverts, it is a good idea to experiment. This way you can try out different styles and work out what works for you.
I personally like to (at least partially) write down my speeches. As an introvert, I connect with writing. Writing is part of my process and method of shaping and learning my speech. Whilst I always advocate planning your speech in some way, I’ve seen what happens to some extroverts who have written out their speech in full. It simply did not work for them. It killed their natural charisma and connection with the audience. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t prepare of course. To achieve a sharp message, preparation and practice was needed. It just needed to be using a method that worked for them. In some cases this was a few scribbled words on a scrap of paper.
Leaving your public speaking comfort zone
As with getting out of your comfort zone in general, to become better speakers, most people are going to need to get out of their comfort zone. The best advice I have is to work out what you’re good at, then don’t worry about that aspect of speaking. Work on those things you find more challenging.
For introverts to step out of their comfort zones, this may be to try more typically “extrovert” behaviours like energy, animation and spontaneity. Likewise to become an accomplished speaker, extroverts can try those “introvert” behaviours which may not be in their natural comfort zone. Employing some structure, clarifying their messages and adopting a somewhat slower than natural conversation pace can help bring the calm confidence often revered in introverts. Well prepared ones at least.
There’s a lot introverts and extroverts can learn from each other in the realm of public speaking. That’s where feedback comes in – look out for my next blog for more on that…