The common perception is that you need to be a bit of an extrovert to be a good public speaker.
However, that needn’t be the case. With a few simple tricks, as Kay Heald explains, introverted entrepreneurs can become excellent public speakers.
When I was growing up, all my school reports referred to me as shy, withdrawn and not willing to speak up in class. My first networking experience strongly reinforced this message.
It was twelve years ago and I had taken the plunge to start my own business. I was stepping into the unknown, determined to survive without that wonderful comfort blanket of the monthly pay cheque.
I took myself off to my very first networking meeting with a clutch of freshly branded business cards. When it was my turn to give a 60 second introduction (fondly referred to as the ‘elevator pitch’), what happened?
My mouth went dry, my stomach lurched and I quickly mumbled something about my business and I may or may not have mentioned my name, taking up the grand total of 15 seconds, including plenty of ‘ums’ and ‘errs’ before I sat back down.
Public speaking to promote my business
This was a clear wake-up call – if I was going to be successful at marketing my new business and building brand awareness, I needed to work on my public speaking.
So, I embarked upon an interesting journey of training, research and a bit of surprising self-discovery. What I discovered was my teachers were wrong, I’m not actually shy at all, but I am rather introverted.
Introversion can make speaking in public seem more challenging, but I have also found out that it does not have to be an impediment.
As with learning any new skill, public speaking requires time and energy, but for the introverted, we also need something extra to bolster our confidence and self-belief.
5 Power Presenting Principles
As an entrepreneur and business owner, I have channeled my introversion and learnt to become a more confident and successful presenter.
I have achieved this by applying a set of principles that has not only helped build my confidence, but provided a structure for the preparation, delivery and evaluation of my presentations and speeches.
1. Power of Planning
Identify the key message to share and then craft the talk or presentation around it.
Early planning enables the introverted public speaker to proactively decide what they want to say and how they want to say it, making the process more manageable, which builds inner confidence and helps combat nerves.
Keeping messages streamlined not only makes the whole planning process easier, but helps the more nervous presenter avoid the common pitfalls of cramming in too much content or too many slides.
It is also far more effective to focus on a single key message, or up to three main points, when speaking in public.
Planning also encompasses researching the intended audience, the delivery venue and even what appropriate outfit to wear, which all help the introverted presenter feel more in control.
2. Power of Practice
Make time for deliberate practice again and again.
It is not enough to read through the presentation slides or do a quick run through before the big day. Deliberate practice means repeated practice, standing up, moving about, speaking aloud and timing yourself, to help with the flow and pace.
These activities work against the introverts’ natural inclination to ‘run away’, put-off or avoid uncomfortable and exposed situations.
An important element is to practice in front of a live ‘test’ audience, to gauge reactions and fine-tune the content. This might feel very awkward for the introverted business owner, but it is very important to build confidence in a safe environment.
3. Power of Performance
Approach a speech, pitch or presentation as a performance.
Entrepreneurs and business owners have an instant style advantage over others, because they will be naturally enthusiastic about the products or services they have built from scratch.
This enthusiasm should be enhanced with the use of appropriate techniques and tricks to refine the performance. Think about:
- The conscious use of pauses to avoid running out of breath, which might feel like minutes to the presenter, but a few seconds to an audience.
- The strategic use of natural smiling, which helps induce relaxation in the audience and in turn helps the speaker feel more relaxed.
- The deliberate use of movement to keep energized and lively, which also helps with the pace and delivery.
- The use of storytelling to help connect with the audience and make the content more meaningful and memorable.
4. Power of Playback
Actively learn from each speech and presentation.
No-one masters public speaking straightaway regardless of whether they are introverted or extroverted.
Treating each speech and presentation as a learning journey stops introverted speakers from becoming disheartened if something doesn’t go as well as expected on the first occasion.
Concentrate on one or two aspects to either try differently or improve before the next engagement. Better still, seek out constructive feedback, as it’s very difficult to objectively assess your own performance.
5. Power of Peace
Don’t underestimate the energy it takes to perform.
Factoring in a post-presentation ritual that includes time to re-energise is just as important as the initial planning and preparation for the introverted presenter.
Research has shown introversion and extroversion exist on a spectrum, to describe the different ways we energise ourselves.
Extroverts are energised by being with groups of people. Introverts can enjoy being around people too, but it uses up their energy and they will need to take themselves away to recharge.
This can be as simple as having a quiet coffee afterwards, going for a walk outdoors, or taking a few minutes to do some deep breathing exercises.
Applying these principles has helped me speak in public with more confidence without feeling exposed or vulnerable. However, I’ve also discovered it’s not about learning to present like someone else, but finding out what style works for you.
Without doubt, public speaking has helped me raise my profile, given me credibility in my field and the opportunity to inspire others. I don’t have any natural gift, this is a learned skill, which has been guided by these 5 Power Presenting Principles.
They have helped me create a support structure from which to continuously improve and develop. Whether you are trying to craft an inspirational speech or deliver a compelling pitch to potential investors, I hope this structured and pragmatic approach helps you hone this important skill.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by introvert, Kay Heald from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches communication and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. With 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland, you can find your local club at www.toastmasters.org
More help on perfecting presentations, pitches and talks
You can find lots more tips to help you deliver winning presentations, pitches and and talks in these other ByteStart guides;
- Perfecting your pitch: 10 Principles for entrepreneurs
- How to deliver ‘rocking’ presentations and pitches that will captivate your audience
- The 3 Golden Principles of public speaking
- Using the power of your body language to deliver show-stopping speeches and presentations
More help on running a business
ByteStart is packed with help and tips on all aspects of running your business. Check out some of our most popular guides;
- How NOT to Network – 7 Business networking mistakes to avoid
- How to get more out of your networking than passable plonk canapés
- The “Magic 10” Tips on networking – how the experts build great networks
- 5 Networking secrets to help you make the most out of networking events
Funding your business
- How to choose the right business loan
- How to maximise your chances of securing a small business loan
- How the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) can help you raise funding to grow your business
- What to do when the bank says “NO”
- Invoice Finance – What is it and how can it help my business?
- The way to get paid – 12-Step Action Plan to stop customers from paying you late
- A Guide to business credit cards and using them as a short term funding solution
- 10 Late payment excuses used by customers – and how to deal with them