Before I get on with this subject, I want to make sure we are the same page. The difference between an introvert and an extrovert is how we recharge our energy. An introvert recharges by having alone time and loses energy in a crowd. An extrovert is the opposite, being energized by a crowd and tired when alone. An introvert may be shy, but you can be shy and not an introvert.
O.K. Now that’s off my chest, if you are an introvert or shy (remember, not the same thing), you may find the idea of speaking in front of a group of people rather daunting, possibly even terrifying. Whether you’re on stage, in a classroom or making a toast at a celebration, you might think that all public speakers are naturally charismatic and able to think on their feet. While this may be true of some speakers, it is by no means the rule, and if you are an introvert faced with a speaking engagement, these simple tips can make the experience a little easier.
Begin with a question
The first moments of any speech are critical. You have to engage the audience and make them feel that their time will be well spent. One of the best ways to do this is to ask a question right off the bat. It doesn’t really matter what the question is, as long as it’s relevant. If appropriate, you can even ask an audience member or two for their answers. That engages the audience and sets a participatory tone for your presentation.
Of course, there are other engaging ways to open a speech, but this is an excellent starter. Once you’ve got this tool in your public speaking superpowers utility belt, you can add on others.
Make people move
When you make people move, you bring them into your presentation both physically and mentally. They don’t have to stand up, but at least get them to raise their hands, say “hello” to the person next to them, shake hands, stretch or whatever might be appropriate. Never let an audience sit there without doing anything. They will soon be fidgeting and taking mental trips to their dream vacation locales. Engage them before they board their imaginary flights.
The one caveat here is don’t be corny. You don’t need to have people doing a back massage chain or anything else that has become old hat. Honestly, asking a question and getting people to respond by a show of hands is often your simplest and best choice.
Just as important as having your audience move is to make sure you move. No one likes to see a wooden presenter hiding behind a lectern during a speech. Now, thanks to wireless mikes, there’s no excuse for not wading into your audience to touch them and break down any barriers that might exist. If you can’t physically join your listeners, it is still imperative to move around your stage. Just the simple act of following you with their eyes will keep your audience attentive. If you are confined to a lectern by a stationary microphone, use your hands to provide the motion and even move to different sides of the lectern.
Be careful not to move too much either. You don’t want to look like a caged tiger pacing back and forth nor a crazy person flailing about with your arms. You want to move enough to bring your points to life and to avoid appearing like an automaton.
Tell a story
Stories are very powerful. We all love them and they can put a human face on your subject, no matter how complex or difficult. The story can be about yourself, your family or your colleagues. It doesn’t have to be original, but if you borrow it, be sure you give it attribution. The stories that people remember, says Featured Speaker Joe M. Turner, are the ones that come from a genuine place in your life and experience. “People would rather hear about your trip to the grocery store and how you decided which gallon of milk to pick up, if it’s real and relevant, you found that connection to point, than they would hear about somebody else who jumped out of an airplane.”
If possible make your stories a bit humorous. Have some fun with your audience. “I think that humor is so important in any type of topic,” says Featured Speaker Sherry Richardson, “no matter what you’re talking about. Because humor and keeping the information light, even if it’s boring like changing the oil in your car can be. If you can bring humor into it and tell stories it makes it that much more enjoyable and people get that much more out of it because they’re truly listening to what you have to say.” In addition, if you are the least bit anxious humor can help make you feel more comfortable while entertaining your listeners.
Of course, all these tips will work if you’re not an introvert, too!
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