How to Forget You’re an Introvert When Speaking

So many introverts get in their own way when they speak in front of groups simply because they focus on the negative about themselves while they speak – “not quite good enough”, “boring conversationalist”, “slow to speak” and then they experience the desire to run and hide from group exposure. At that point they avoid eye contact, look down, fiddle with things in their hands and speed through their message simply so they can get it done.

Public speaking is common for all of us, and can be a part of our job during meetings, at conferences, with clients and in the courtroom. And although extroverts do well at speaking up and presenting, they have their flaws, too.  Yet while extroverts don’t tend to focus on their flaws, introverts do, resulting in self-sabotage.

Introverts who speak well, do so in part because they forget who they are.

For example, one of my clients told me repeatedly he would never talk to groups. When encouraged to enroll into one of my public speaking groups, he resisted, but when he was told it was part of his professional development plan, he complied. On the first day he attended the group, he again said he doesn’t speak in front of groups, then slowly got up from his chair when called to the front of the group, kept his head low, avoided eye contact toward all but me and said merely, “I don’t speak to groups.” I asked him to share what the group needed to know about him, whereupon he immersed himself into a captivating story of who he is and the parts he needs to play in life. All the while we sat captivated by his powerful delivery.

What happened to him? How did he switch from a hesitant speaker to one who captivated attention?

When called upon he focused only on his inability to handle the pressure of speaking to others. The group was waiting for him and he could feel all eyes on him, so his anxiety suddenly spiked. He had a story about himself – that he doesn’t speak to groups. And that is the story he kept playing in his head.

But when I asked him to explain something he was very familiar with, he forgot his fear and addressed the question.  He had a new focus. That focus was no longer him but the subject he was familiar with.  At that point my client forget who he was – someone with a negative story about speaking to groups.

What did it take for him to forget?

He was forced to look at one person in the group – me. I am the one who asked him a question. Once he responded he kept looking at me and telling us more. His poise returned, he got animated, his voice projected, and he moved in step with his thoughts. All of this told us he was no longer in his head, but instead, he was present and “in the moment” with us and what he had to say.

Introverts commonly get anxiety from 1 part of the speech.

There are three parts to every speech: the speaker (him), the subject (what he wants us to know) and the audience (me, the one who asked the question, plus everyone else in the room). For introverts the subject is usually something they are comfortable about. They have spent countless hours on research developing the points they will make. This is their strength. They are experts.

As far as the audience goes, introverts would rather not see them. They can handle a person at a time, but groups give off too much energy which by consequence, drains introverts.

The hardest part of the speech is displaying themselves as confident and relaxed speakers. During the first few minutes their focus is commonly on what they look like, sound like and feel like. This reminds them of what they dislike about themselves and frequently gets them off to a bad start. Once they have focused on themselves they have a difficult time with their speech.

When introverts speak well, they forget who they are.

If you are an introvert who wants to do well speaking to groups, here is how you can forget who you are:

1. Focus on one person in the audience right when you begin your talk. You won’t be thinking about yourself anymore. Instead, you’ll be in conversation with the one person you are focusing on, and that focus will keep you looking, feeling and sounding credible.

2. Immerse yourself into your topic. Focus on your subject. Immersion keeps you “in the moment”, which relaxes your body, helps you connect with your audience and gives you “real” expression.

Next time you are in a meeting, the courtroom, at a conference or networking, shift away from thinking about yourself simply by looking up, out and at one person. You will get out of your way and may even enjoy speaking.


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One Response to How to Forget You’re an Introvert When Speaking
  1. […] I would be pushing myself on others. Just like with public speaking, when I focused on myself, I got nervous and doubted my abilities. But when I looked out and connected to individuals around me, I was able to relax into enjoying […]

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