An Introvert’s Guide to Better Presentations

My name is Lauree, and I’m an introvert.

If you are one too, it can feel like an apology, as if we have to be different in order to be effective. It’s not true. Even at work, even with your boss, and even if you’re asked to speak in front of a group and you feel like you’re going to throw up.

It’s time to recognize our powers and use them for good. Here’s how.

Do what you do best.

I’ve been known to hear a veritable pin drop on the other end of a phone call. I’m paying so much attention to what’s being said that I’m often surprised when someone else doesn’t notice what I think is obvious.

Why? Because as an introvert I naturally excel at listening. I bet you do, too.

Sure you can spend time, like everyone else does, thinking of something original to wow the masses, or you can do what you do best and notice what’s happening around you.

It is a more useful skill than you may realize.

Repeat after me.

The next time you’re in a meeting and need something to say, reiterate what you’ve heard around the room.

What we may think is only rehashing, the rest of the participants — who have been too busy talking or waiting for their chance to say something interesting — will be shocked to hear has actually been happening.

Many times the answer has already appeared, but no one was paying attention. Introverts, you are the ones who can change that.

This also works for larger presentations. Saying what you see, or coalescing ideas that have been discussed before without a resolution, sets you apart. It makes it clear that you’re paying attention, the mark of a great employee and a talented speaker.

Be prepared.

On a recent GovLoop webinar, I provided 10 tips to ace your next presentation. [The full webinar is here. The recap post is here.]

Put the time in before you speak. Know what you want to express, say it out loud a few times to get used to how it sounds, and practice enough so that you can say it even if you feel flustered.

Scared on stageFor my first-ever speech in 2011, I practiced for four hours before going on stage. [Want to see me in action? Check out a few of my speeches here.]

Four hours may seem like overkill, but it was what I needed so that I could speak without thinking once all eyes were on me. Do whatever you need in order to feel your most confident. I’m also not above carrying a lucky penny in my pocket.

Shut your mouth.

There is a misconception that talking is better than not talking.

You’ve seen presentations where the person repeats him or herself a bunch of times, clearly done but not sure how to end. It can turn a great speech into a missed opportunity.

As you’re preparing, use this simple formula: Make your point. Pause. Provide a maximum of three proofs. Pause. Make your point again. Stop.

Audiences take notice of pauses, and what is said before and after them. You’ll get to sit down faster, with everyone remembering what you want them to, if you use pausing to your advantage.

It also works when you’re unsure of what else to say, you’ve lost your place, or you’re worried your point isn’t understood. If any of these happen, pause and take a breath. (Yes, with everyone looking at you. I don’t like it either, but it helps, I promise.)

Succinctly restate your main point. If you want, ask what else people want to know. That’s it. You can stop there.

Your grace in front of the room counts almost more than what you say. Truly.

Introverts are sitting on lots of power, even in front of a room full of people. Notice what you’re already good at it, who you naturally are, and share that with everyone. It will work.

I believe in you.

Lauree Ostrofsky, CPC helps professionals who are ready for a change figure out where to start. As Chief Hugger at Simply Leap, LLC, she has served more than 15 years as a speaker, communications consultant, and coach with clients such as GovLoop, IBM, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and the Girl Scouts of the USA. Find her online at http://SimplyLeap.com, and @SimplyLeap.

 

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Profile Photo Amy DeWolf

Great post Lauree! It’s so hard to be on stage, or in a room where you’re the one presenting, and NOT talk. As a person that often talks just to fill silence so I say lots of words before really thinking about I am trying to say. This is something I need to keep in mind and remember to pause 🙂

Profile Photo Lauree Ostrofsky

Hi Amy – I’m glad you found it helpful! I know what you mean about filling the silence. I do it sometimes in one-on-one conversations too, and interesting things happen when we don’t. People share more. They have time to take in information. We feel more connected to each other in the silence…and we face some demons! 😉

Darrell

Excellent points. I don’t know that being an extrovert actually saves anyone from being nervous in front of a crowd. An extrovert’s nervous energy comes out in the form of more words and sounds. As you said, more words do not make for a better presentation. Extroverts also tend to stick in more “ums” and “ers” as they do not like the silence. The first time I ever spoke, I practiced my opening three sentences and closing sentences for almost an hour. My problem was getting started. Once started I was on a roll and the remainder of the speech went well. I now teach for a living and I sometimes lecture for 8 hours at a time. There is no way I can keep to 3 points. I recommend that instead of 3 points, only speak to the points you need to make regardless of how many or few that is. I have seen people blow a great presentation because they thought they had to have three points and so they added a third point that did not really go with the other two. You are better off only having two points if they are two good points than to make up a third point to just fill the slot.