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The introverts guide to speech and presentations

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

The introvert's guide to speech making is the book I have been racking my brain to find a copy of in the universe. Alas, such a copy does not exist as of yet or rather such a guide does not exist.

We live in a world of extroverts who make speech-making or presentation skills seem to come naturally whereas for introverts it can feel like your worst nightmares all coming true at once.

Recently I had to give a small speech and It didn’t go as well as I had hoped, and prior to that, I was recently told that a talk I gave was not as relevant to part of the audience. Truth be told I had given speeches and talks before and had followed a process which I had forgone more recently to my detriment so I thought I would spend some time documenting what had worked for me in the past and refreshing some of the approaches at the same time.

This article is going to help hopefully give an insight into topics like

  • How does an introvert get their point across?

  • Preparing for a speech

  • How to build the courage to speak your mind?

  • How to build your own confidence when speaking

Presentation skills

Observe I have not been using the words “introverts guide to public speaking” as those titles to my mind are anxiety-provoking for anyone. To me, the words public speaking immediately conjures the notion that you are witnessing Martin Luther King about to share something that the world needed to hear at that moment.

However, if you have been trying to work out

  1. How to improve speaking to an audience you know

  2. How to speak to an audience you don’t know on a subject you do know

Which I feel are the most common scenarios then please read on

For the purposes of this article and to be true to my title I am going to break this down into a few areas, please download the workbook below and continue reading the article to get more context behind the workbook.

Setting the mood

No, there is no yoga-infused deep mediation that may help (well it might I for one haven’t tried it). What has helped me in the past is potentially just thinking or writing of a time you did a talk/made a speech -> It could even be a presentation you had to do at school. Try and find an example which shapes the scene in a positive light. If you can’t think of an example, think of an example where you had to do something unknown - could be taking on a subject you did not know anything about. The main thing you are trying to remind yourself is

  1. You have taken on challenges like this before (which if you think about it hard enough we all have done something unexpected in our lives)

  2. You survived

The facts

By going straight to facts we minimise the negative connotations in our mind which my lead to questioning the validity of us giving a speech to the audience. The key here is not to provoke questions which may raise our anxiety like “What will this mean for my career” or “what would success feel like?” as this may lead to making a mountain of a molehill. Something everyone is is superstable to from time to time

The fiction

We all have our inner demons that prop up from time to time and before we start preparing for the speech or presentation I find it's useful to write down our inner fears however big or small so we can recognise what they are and lean into them.

Preparing to speak to an audience you know

In this instance it's worth channelling what you do know about the audience, even if the audience is internal to your organisation or a known audience externally it's worth writing down what you know about them.

What you will observe from the workbook is that screening the personas and doing some profiling on who might be joining could give you an idea and some relative confidence on who would be attending.

Preparing to speak to an audience you don’t know on a subject you know

It's very uncommon for someone to have to speak to an audience on a subject matter that they know nothing about. Even politicians and IPO listed CEOs have a number of briefings on topics so even if they are thrown a curve ball they are either prepared or media trained enough to handle the questions

You will notice that the observations are not too dis-similar to doing a presentation to an audience you know, just that there maybe more leg work to get to know the people who are in the audience.

Notice I have also called out some folks who maybe able to help you, based on past experience -> at first it may look like they can hinder you but its how you channel them.

Case studies

Case studies will give you some food for thought or a means to prepare for a presentation

  • UK specific: prime ministers question time -> politics aside its a great example of trying to convey one’s point across in a specific time frame to an audience you may know

  • Any IPO-listed CEO who has been brought into questioning, imagine the nerves and amount of prep they must go to. Regardless of what you may think of Zuckerberg the amount of stress and anxiety he must have been under when he was questioned by congress would have been phenomenal

  • Media training; is worth a google - the secret truth is every CEO however big or small gets media trained at some point on how to deal with the press, it's a surprise to me that organisations don’t channel media training.

General thoughts

  • The workbook should help prepare for the presentation - in the next blog post I am going to detail a few approaches I have found when actually writing the speech or presentation

  • Its worth looking at some case studies where people have given speeches under pressure, notice their coping mechanisms, their nuances and how they deal with the known and unknown.

  • Your probably thinking “Nik when would I have time for that” -> You don’t have to do all the steps in the workbook - it depends on how important the talk/presentation is and what you think is relevant. However, just bear in mind (and this is definitely speaking from experience) how much effort you put into it that will define the outcome. If you think Steve Jobs was the best presenter in your mind just google how much time and effort he took into preparing for each presentation.

Presentation skills

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