By Kay Heald, Toastmasters International
If you’ve been labelled as shy there’s a good chance you won’t relish the challenge of giving presentations.
All the way through school and beyond I blamed my aversion to speaking to groups on being shy. However, I now know that what I thought was ‘shyness’ for all those years was actually a predisposition to ‘introversion’.
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.
Does this ring any bells? The key is to stop thinking of introversion as an impediment, and actively look for ways to turn this trait into an asset.
To enhance your IT career you need to develop your skills as a confident presenter and as a fellow introvert I’d like to share 5 public speaking hacks.
Preparation is Key
Take your time to prepare a structured and well-crafted presentation, with a clear beginning, middle and end.
Make sure you structure it for the benefit if your audience – how can you give them what they need? This is particularly important if you’ll be speaking to non-IT colleagues. You’ll feel your confidence increase if they look interested rather than confused.
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.
Play ‘Let’s Pretend’
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 presentations, 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! You may find another tech solution for this.
Improvement takes practice
Become familiar with the content, the pace and style of your presentation, by practicing 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 like to think of my public speaking persona as my more confident (and slightly extrovert) avatar or virtual twin – still recognisably me, but with fewer introverted characteristics.
Treat your presentations and meetings as ongoing learning opportunities. For me, public speaking is rather like trying to master a traditional craft that requires continual practicing, 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 friendly colleague, tucked away from my direct line of sight, who can help me review my presentation afterwards in a constructive way.
For a technical presentation to a non-technical audience you might want to run your presentation past someone from another department beforehand to see if it passes their intelligibility test!
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.
I re-energise with a good book curled up in a favourite armchair, others prefer gaming or something completely different like a cycle ride or a quiet walk.
As an introvert, recognise that you need to get good at presenting and also speaking up in meeting discussions. Using these public speaking hacks will help you build your confidence and be better in your current job, running your business and making progress in the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Introvert Kay Heald is from Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org