It may just be me, but every time I present in front of a group (even virtually), I have a hard time sleeping the night before. It makes no difference if it’s a quick update or 20+ minutes of talking, something I’ve presented before or brand-new content, directed to people I know or complete strangers – when it’s time to present, my hands get sweaty, and yes, so do my armpits.
Hello, my name is Andrea Linton, and I am an introvert. I live in an extroverted world and have a job I love, although it often requires me to pull out my extroverted demeanor. Extrovert qualities often include social, outgoing personalities, who seem to possess natural presentation skills with any audience. According to Psychology Today, extroverts are estimated to make up 50-74% of the population. So does that mean introverts are doomed to the sidelines? Definitely not!
Let me start by saying, the word “introvert” does not necessarily equate to being shy or lacking social skills. Introverts generally need time to focus inwardly, but we are often great in social settings, enjoy connecting with people, and can be outgoing. We also tend to observe, think, reflect, and then communicate. In fact, many of the greatest speakers of all time were introverts. Gandhi, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln all self-identified as introverts.
I was reading a Time Magazine article about how being an introvert can be a great asset. Some of the characteristics shared translate well at work – good listeners, compassionate leaders, and thoughtful networkers. But, at the end of the day, introverts are usually exhausted and ready to recharge…alone!
There isn’t a magic formula to surviving in an extroverted world; being introverted is a trait you’re born with and will always possess. And it can be tricky when asked to do any sort of public speaking. However, I’m here to provide my fellow introverts with hope that they too can be successful public speakers and step out of their comfort zone. Here are some tips I implement to ease my presentation anxiety.
6 Tips for Introverts to Manage Presentation Anxiety
- Make sure you understand the topic.
Don’t set yourself up for failure; ensure you’re knowledgeable about the subject to present content confidently and answer questions.
- Embrace the nerves and breathe.
Accept that you will be nervous, take deep breaths (it really makes a difference), and remember you are prepared for this moment. A little anxiety is good – it sharpens the senses. Even some naturally extroverted speakers get nervous before they present.
- Prepare (out loud) but don’t overdo it.
Know the flow of your presentation, but do not memorize every word. If you memorize your talking points, you are bound to deliver a “death by PowerPoint” presentation – reading verbatim each slide or sounding robotic. Practice paraphrasing and adding personal anecdotes. Consider recording a run-through to help you with time, pace, and removing filler words. Knowing in advance you need to slow down or speak more clearly will help you effectively deliver your message.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself.
No one is perfect; each time you present you learn more about your speaking style and can adjust your preparation techniques. Your personal flavor is what sets you apart – embrace it! Also, remember that your audience wants you to do well (insert heart emoji).
- Add humor (and smile)Making people laugh adds a human element, engages your audience, and lightens the room. Smiling adds confidence, relaxes your body, and connects you to your audience. If you do stumble over your words, there is an opportunity to smile, make a quick joke, and move on.
- Don’t overthink audience reactions.
Most audiences have no idea you are nervous. You are judging yourself more critically than your participants; don’t be so hard on yourself. Smile, breathe, and take a (metaphorical) bow.
Being an introvert in an extrovert-dominated world is by no means easy. It can be exhausting to take on tasks that might be more comfortable for extroverts, especially in front of an audience. I’ve learned practice makes progress and implementing a preparation plan makes it manageable. Trust me – it gets easier over time.