It’s a myth that introverts are not good speakers. Some great speakers have been introverts, including Barack Obama and Eleanor Roosevelt. It’s also a myth that introverts are shy; not all are, but introverts do energize differently. For example, after a seminar or meeting, extroverts are be more likely to get together and party, while the introverts will want some quiet time to be alone and recharge. Introverts may be better listeners than extroverts, which can give them an edge as trainers.
Feeling at ease in front of a group doesn’t make you a good public speaker – consider the outgoing personality who loves the spotlight and blathers on without realizing they’re boring the audience. Introverts can use their listening skills to notice how the audience is feeling, which enables them to pace their delivery to match the audience. They also often put in more preparation time, as they don’t mind being alone for hours to write their training material.
If the thought of delivering training creates anxiety, here are a few things to remember.
It’s not about you. It’s about them.
Effective presentation skills start with mindset. Instead of focusing on your own anxiety, focus on the audience. Then, you’ll be able to master what most introverts do well: listen and serve the needs of the group.
Start small. Develop your speaking legs.
Begin with one-on-one training. Working with one individual will allow you to master the material before trying it out on a large group. The next step may be to give a webinar. The online format will eliminate your fear of standing before a large group. From there, you can move on to lunch-and-learns or small, half-day seminars.
Extroverts can often sustain their energy longer than introverts. Keep your energy high and guard against running out of steam by pairing up with a co-trainer. Co-training can be more fun for both the trainers and the audience, and listening to two trainers keeps learning more interesting and will extend your audience’s attention span. Two trainers can also bring different expertise and styles. Divvy up the parts of the training that suit each of your personalities.
One of the reasons introverts may feel anxious about leading training is because they are focusing on their nervousness and feel that “all eyes are on you.” By building games into the training, you can divert your focus from your own anxiety. Instead of looking at the trainer, the audience is looking at each other, the screen, the gameboard or materials. It’s not only more fun, but it’s a great way for an introvert to create energy in the room.
Leverage the Group.
You don’t have to carry the entire show. Find a livewire in the audience – an extroverted or funny person. Play off of them by asking them questions, building on their comments and asking the group to weigh in. In other words, be a facilitator, not just a presenter.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
There’s no substitute for practice. Even the most seasoned trainers will feel more confident when they’re prepared. Rehearse and record segments from the training ahead of time. Anticipate what could go wrong, and prepare for it. Introverts often need more processing time and find that thinking on their feet is challenging. A final rehearsal closer to the training date will help to alleviate some of your stress.
Memorize the Opening.
The most difficult part of any speech or seminar, especially for introverts, is the beginning. Unless you’re a good “off-the-cuff” speaker, it’s easy to stumble and stammer. Don’t leave the opening to chance; know exactly what to say, and start strong.
Tell Personal Stories.
Anyone can recite a training guide, but stories add color. By building in personal stories to your training, you can change the dynamic from public speaking to a conversation. Sharing stories is one way you can shine and compete with your more extroverted counterparts. It doesn’t require superior oratory skills to share a personal experience that resonates and engages the audience.
A speaker at a recent conference was an introverted consultant and author. He had good information and was respected in the industry, but he was not a natural public speaker. He recognized that he was not as dynamic as the keynote speaker, so he named the elephant in the room. He said, “I’ve never been a dynamic speaker. I’ve been told I don’t make enough gestures.” Then, he moved his hands and added, “See? There’s a gesture.”
The audience laughed. His authenticity and self-deprecating humor endeared him to them. He didn’t try to be something he wasn’t, but he leveraged the best of himself.
Introverted trainers are as effective as extroverted trainers. The key is to have the right mindset, be prepared and focus on developing learners’ skills. It doesn’t have to be a performance, but it does have to be interesting. All it takes is sharing and transferring knowledge, caring about the audience, and being real.