Making a presentation to an audience is a tough task for everyone. Introverts find it even tougher to handle the job than extraverts. As 40-50% of people are introverts, many find making presentations an uncomfortable, if not terrifying, experience. However, many introverts become outstanding presenters because they overcome their discomfort. Here’s how to strengthen introverts’ presentation skills.
The primary trait that characterizes an introvert from an extrovert is personal energy. An introvert tends to get more personal energy from what’s in their mind. Instead of being charged by what is going on around them, introverts are energized by introspection – from the inside out. An introvert is not generally: shy, anti-social or aloof and is anything but self-centered.
On the other hand, extroverts are energized by everything around them, so being in front of an audience is likely to give them a natural charge.
Here’s how to strengthen your introvert’s presentation skills
Here are some tips to help reserved speakers give effective presentations:
1. Know your objective
Decide on a clear objective in terms of what you want, and how to get it. Then you can base your whole presentation on that overall objective, giving your talk a firm structure. This makes it easier to lead to a logical ‘call to action’ (CTA) towards the end of your presentation (not repeated calls in the body of your presentation), which is the key to getting what you want from your audience. The final part of your presentation should be about the benefits that will result from people acting positively on your CTA. Get the timing right, as noted above. This is a powerful formula.
2. Know your audience
By definition, a presentation is usually made to a small audience. Otherwise it would be a speech. A great aid to your confidence is understanding who will be in your audience. Find out the names and job titles of attendees, especially those you don’t know. Learning this information will help you pitch your presentation at the right level, without making too many under-or-over assumptions of their knowledge. The more you learn about them and their mood, the better you can adjust your tone and your delivery – and your comfort in understanding more about them.
Introverts don’t feel comfortable dealing with large groups, so it is a good idea to arrive early to the presentation room and meet people individually as they arrive. This will help you feel more at ease with them as individuals rather than stepping onto a podium or pedestal in front of the assembled group. If it helps, you can meet the early arrivals and then head discreetly into an adjacent room to run mentally through your presentation for a final time before returning to the venue room.
3. Prepare thoroughly.
Minimize the possibility of unpleasant surprises that make you feel under great pressure. Create a to-do list of everything you need to do to get ready. This can include visiting the presentation room in advance, checking the equipment, and rehearsing in the presentation room if possible.
You can conserve energy through preparation and introspection. A formal presentation will be scheduled in advance, so plan activities before the event to conserve your energy – such as reading or going for a walk. Presenting takes energy. The key before a presentation is to avoid putting yourself in situations like networking, events and parties that are more stressful for introverts.
4. Visualize the outcome you want
Before every presentation make sure to make your body and mind more flexible. You could try some stretching or yoga exercises or go for a brisk walk. It is helpful to reduce the tension in your body first, and then positively prepare your mind by doing some mindfulness and focusing on the outcome you want to achieve.
Author and consultant Patricia Weber suggests you can manage your fears by defining it or them: Is it a fear of failure? Or rejection by some of the audience? Are you comparing yourself adversely to other presenters? Clarifying these fears can be helpful. By naming these fears you can replace your inner negative talk with more positive thoughts. Then talk to yourself in the second or third person before you have to get on the platform. For example, “You have the preparation and the confidence to do this well, Joyce.” Sometimes it’s the smallest shifts that can help relieve the social stress of giving a presentation.
Another option is to start imagining that your intended outcome has been achieved, with thoughts like “I loved engaging with these people!” or “My presentation was very successful!” This will put your mind into a positive frame and increase your confidence in speaking in front of an audience.
5. Breathe to ease tension
Most people literally tighten up when they get nervous. Their muscles get tight and their mind becomes fearful. The prospect of making a presentation is one of these occasions.
One the most effective ways to reduce tension is to focus on your breathing. This will take your mind away from your worry, and will lower your heart rate and blood pressure. There are many ways to do this, such as the “4-2-6” method, which involves inhaling through your nose for a count of 4, holding your breath for a count of 2, and breathing out to a count of 6. It is important that the exhale is longer than the inhale to calm and relax your body and mind. This will help to calm your state of mind, but should still leave you with enough adrenaline and energy to engage in a lively way with your audience.
The consolation to keep in mind is that nervousness can enhance your authenticity. People can accept seeing your nervousness because you’re awkward, vulnerable, humane, raw, authentic, and passionate. Very good traits!
6. Develop these points into a routine
Use the above techniques to create a routine for yourself before every presentation. Using these preparation techniques in a routine can help you strengthen your introvert’s presentation skills to achieve top results.
These techniques will also stand you in good stead for when you are presenting to senior executives or other important audiences. You can read about this in my article on making persuasive presentations to senior executives.