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Why introverts make great public speakers

Inspiring Speaker

Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

The title extrovert many times is equated with being a rock star public speaker. I've found this isn't necessarily true. Just because someone feels at ease in front of others doesn't automatically mean they'll be a phenomenal orator. In fact, many of the greatest speakers of all time were introverts and managed to find their speaking niche. Ghandi, Winston Churchill, President Barack Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to name a few.

Being an introvert can be an asset in public speaking rather than a deficit!  Let’s stop looking at introversion as something a speaker has to 'get over'. Instead we should identify why introverts are amazing public speakers.

Introverts prepare.

Being able to rock a speech in a confident and engaging way depends upon how well prepared you are. A speech is not reliant on a specific array of social skills but the success of a speech very much rests upon preparation.  People skills will only get you so far.

Introverts like being alone.  They are quite content putting in the time to refine a speech. Introverts have a tendency to enjoy writing and will go to great lengths to come up with the right message.  An introvert will seek feedback from others but not usually until the majority of the speech is prepared. They will also pay attention to their physical needs (getting enough rest, calming themselves, eating properly) so that they are in stellar shape to deliver their speech.

Introverts focus on the message.

An introvert realizes that they are not the most important person in the room – they are there to service the audience. This simple shift in perspective dramatically decreases presentation anxiety because they focus on more important things than themselves.

The most powerful speakers have a strong belief that their public speaking will bring some kind of benefit to the audience. If you believe firmly in your message, you will have no problem speaking with confidence; because that message is more important than your nerves.

Think about Churchill and Gandhi – two incredibly powerful speakers who faced public speaking anxiety at some stage in their life. But they had missions that were greater than themselves, so by serving the audience their nerves were no longer an issue.

Introverts serve the audience.

Introverts are phenomenal listeners, which makes them aware of the needs of others. For introverts that’s why speaking (instead of listening) can feel completely unnatural. They have a greater tendency to remember that public speaking is not about them, knowing it’s about the audience.

A speaker's 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, the voice of enlightenment. Knowing your audience is essential if you want to deliver a successful speech. You need to find out as much about your audience as you possibly can. Who are they? What do they need to know? What is their knowledge of your subject matter?   Introverts will take time to research, ask questions and think through what the audience needs to know and how to shape the message.

Not only during the planning stage but also during the delivery, an introvert will remain focussed on the audience and this is an important part of getting instant audience feedback. If you are able to gain valuable non-verbal cues from your audience whilst you are speaking, you can make subtle changes.

Susan Cain TED Talk - The Power Of Introverts

Cain eloquently talks about the fact that we design everything for extroverts: our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions. She argues that this bias creates a waste of talent, energy, and happiness. Based on intensive research in psychology and neurobiology and on prolific interviews, she also explains why introverts are capable of great love and great achievement, not in spite of their temperaments -- but because of them.

Introverts have the capacity to make wonderful speakers. They have unique strengths that some extroverts just don't have. It's time to stop equating introversion with the inability to speak and start identifying it as a strength.  Do you have any experiences you'd like to share? Please leave a comment below and let's talk about it!

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