Weekend Reading: An Introvert’s Guide to Public Speaking

January 10, 2014

Public speaking is a nerve-racking experience for most of us. For introverts, it can be even worse. How can someone who is shy ever become comfortable on stage?

These three self-proclaimed introverts -- blogger Matt Haughey, author Susan Cain and Facebook strategist Jonathon Colman -- offer their advice for overcoming speech anxiety. Share your own tips in the comments below.

Knowledge is Everything

Matt Haughey, founder of MetaFilter, offers his presentation tips on everything from timing to visuals. But he says his No. 1 piece of advice for calming his nerves is having knowledge.  That means:

- Understanding the biology behind speech anxiety (it's really just an old natural instinct)

- Knowing your audience isn't rooting for you to fail -- they're there to learn from you

- Realizing that you are the expert in the room

"You’re a pretty monkey, and you know where all the bananas are,” Haughey says to himself before stepping on stage.

His full article, An Introvert’s Guide to Better Presentations, can be found on Medium.

Shake It Out and Smile

Yawn, shake out every limb in your body and talk with your tongue out to loosen yourself up before a speech. Then step on stage and smile -- it will help you feel more relaxed and confident, says Susan Cain, author of "QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking."

On a more mental level, she says, "Remember that public speaking is not about you. It’s about the audience. Your job is to take care of the audience, not to be judged by it or even to entertain it. Remind yourself that you are not seeking approval or love. You are a teacher, a giver, an enlightener."

Read Susan's article, Public Speaking for Introverts: 6 Essential Tips.

Hack Yourself

We've heard Facebook strategist and SlideShare power-user Jonathon Coleman speak in person and you would never guess he's an introvert -- he's lively, funny and animated on stage. How does he pull it off? He "hacked himself," he says, to leverage his introverted personality as an asset. This included:

-Focus on the Facts: If you don't make anything up, you can't fear being publicly outed. "Being open and accountable is like a warm blanket that can comfort you when you’re stressed out," Colman says. Cite your sources and influences.

-Build Shared Experiences: Being able to connect with someone, or multiple people, will provide more connection and melt away the anxiety. "Working directly with people makes them familiars instead of strangers. And then you can interact with them much more easily in the future."

-Conserve Energy: Introverts gather energy from themselves, not others, so conferences and public speaking can be very taxing. Make sure to save energy for your speech. It that means going AWOL ahead of time, so be it, he says.

Read Coleman's article, A Guide to Public Speaking for Introverted and Shy People.

READ MORE: Public Speaking: Fear vs. Anxiety

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