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Five public speaking tips for introverts

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Here’s a fun fact about myself: I identify as an outgoing introvert. In my world, that means that I love new experiences, but I’m totally terrified of other people. Okay that’s a lie – I’m not terrified of other people, but I do overthink networking events and the anticipation of public speaking makes me lose sleep for a few days.

At the end of those situations, however, I tend to feel super energized. As long as I don’t blow it, I usually feel pretty proud of myself for getting through the event and stepping out of my comfort zone – I certainly see it as an accomplishment.

Recently, I had the opportunity to give a talk at Flywheel all about blog writing, what the editing process looks like, and tips for getting published. Despite knowing these topics extremely well, I was naturally nervous, slightly hoping no one would show up, and definitely did not sleep well the week leading up to the talk.

I know I’m not the only one who experiences these nerves before public speaking, so I wanted to compile a few tips for all the other introverts out there who find themselves with speaking roles.

1. Make a Keynote with presenter notes

This may seem like a pretty basic tip, but that presentation was my first time using presenter notes and damn – do they help! I’m not sure if PowerPoint has a similar feature or not (if you do, let me know in the comments), but Keynote allows you to make notes that only you can see for each slide of your presentation. It’s the same concept of having note cards to remind you what to say, except your notes are right there attached to each slide so you don’t have to worry about dropping your cards and mixing them up.

Plus if you’re like me and your handwriting is not one of your strengths, having online notes is a much easier solution to look at and you won’t have to squint just to figure out what you’re supposed to say next.

2. Verbally practice your presentation

It’s one thing to run through your slides in your head, but it’s another to practice saying them out loud. If you have the time, try to find a space where you’re alone and feel comfortable enough to actually say what you want to say. The morning of my presentation, I woke up early so I could run through my slides at home. I discovered so many more points I wanted to cover, which resulted in both changes to the presentation itself and my notes for each slide.

Pro-tip: I made my dog listen to my talk. Her wagging tail was encouraging, and she didn’t give me too many confused looks. I highly recommend practicing in front of pets.

3. Find someone to run through your outline with you

At Flywheel, my talk was part of an ongoing series of employee training. We have someone who oversees the program, so she’s the one who reached out to me about giving a talk and also made sure I had everything I needed. A few weeks before I actually gave the presentation, we sat down together and I walked her through my outline. This benefited the talk in a couple key ways:

  1. She helped me flush out the outline. By giving me feedback and asking questions at such an early stage of preparing my talk, I was better able to tailor the content to the audience that would be listening.
  2. I knew at least one person was interested. It may seem silly, but knowing that just one person cared about what I had to say made me a lot more confident in giving the presentation. Even if the content was a little basic for some members or not quite what others were thinking, I knew one person was rooting for me and was genuinely interested in what I had to say. That’s invaluable.

4. Have a beer and relax

Alright, I know you can’t always do this one. But for my talk, I was able to enjoy a nice IPA (my favorite type of beer) and someone brought their dog to the presentation. There were so many elements of my favorite things that it was a lot easier to relax. If I got nervous, I could look at a cute dog. While I was giving the audience time to brainstorm and write, I could enjoy my favorite beverage (instead of making weird eye contact or something awful like that).

This tip is hard because you don’t always have control over your environment, but if you can, try to find a way to bring some of your favorite things into your presentation setting. It’ll help you feel comfortable and at ease, which is definitely a plus.

5. Say yes before you have the chance to say no

My last tip is another that you’ve probably heard, but I think it’s so important to follow. If you’re anything like me, overthinking something is the worst possible thing you can do. So the next time someone asks you to do something outside of your professional comfort zone, say yes before you have the chance to say no.

If you take the time to think about it, you’ll come up with a million reasons not to do it or to put it off. (Trust me, even the day of my presentation, I was crossing my fingers there was a “snow day” and we’d postpone it. Ridiculous.) But if you just commit to trying something new, you’ll force yourself to get through it and hopefully, be really, REALLY proud of yourself at the end. I know I was.

And then once you’re done, you can sit at home all by yourself and re-energize like the introvert you are. (That’s definitely what I did!) And maybe, just maybe, next time it won’t be quite so nerve-wracking. (Or it will, but at least you’ll know how to handle it.)

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