Self-Promotion for Introverts

Career advancement tips, quips, and insights for the quieter crowd

Presentation Skills for Introverts: Full Tilt Boogie

You can be a compelling speaker using your quiet strengths.

How can public speaking become easier for introverts? Here's a glimpse of what we discussed earlier this week during the first session of my Presentation Skills for Introverts™ workshop at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies

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  1. Prepare. Public speaking is much easier for introverts when we gather our thoughts ahead of time. Preparing an outline, opening line, and closing line can help focus your thoughts and reduce your nervousness.
  2. Practice on videotape. It’s hard to know how you come across—what your voice sounds like, what you do with your hands with your speak, and how much filler (e.g., um, er) you use. Practicing on videotape, or at least in a mirror, can make a real difference.
  3. Rest up and breathe. Engage in activities that get you grounded before and during a speech. Resting up beforehand is especially important for managing our energy as introverts. Once you’re up there, remember to breathe. Doing so will help keep you grounded.
  4. Identify what you’re good at. Participants underestimated their abilities as speakers. One commented that she was surprised how well everyone presented—in contrast to how they spoke beforehand about their shortcomings as presenters. So we started by reinforcing each speaker’s strengths—their subject matter expertise, good posture, eye contact, and/or vocal variety that they may take for granted—to build their confidence.
  5. Share a “roadmap,” or a quick, “today we’re going to talk about curling” type statement to frame your speech.
  6. Take the spotlight off yourself. Treat the presentation as if you are talking to guests you’ve invited into your living room.
  7. Vary the length of your sentences. We had a lively discussion after viewing a snippet from Tiger Woods’s recent big apology speech on YouTube. Woods spoke in short sentences, which can be impactful during upbeat speeches as well. When we’re nervous, many of us—even introverts—tend to ramble. So when you give a speech, remember to include some punchy sentences, which are more likely to hold your audiences’ attention. 
  8. Gear your talk to your audience. Learn as much about them before and during your presentation as possible. Consider who they are (e.g., cultural background, seniority, profession, gender) and what matters most to them about your topic.
  9. Go for a full tilt boogie! Each participant got up and gave a 1-minute presentation on the first day of class. While the topics varied from skin care to nanotechnology to broccoli, more than half of the presentations were funny. The takeaway was that you don't have to be a blowhard to be a compelling presenter. If you’re a low-key introvert, play to your strengths as a presenter—perhaps your wry observations about an area of your expertise, your storytelling abilities, or your sense of irony—and pull out all the stops. 

What have you learned about giving and watching presentations that would help other introverts? What is your own version of a full tilt boogie when you're giving a presentation?

For more tips, refer to my prior blog post on this topic, titled “Public Speaking for Private People.” For a more in-depth discussion on the topic, check out my book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®.

Nancy Ancowitz is a business communication coach, an adjunct instructor at NYU, and the author of Self-Promotion for Introverts (McGraw-Hill).

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