Introverts Make the Best Speakers

Embrace introversion as a public speaking strengthIt’s time to reframe the old adage that  “introverts do not make good speakers.”

Full disclosure – I am an extrovert. However, I’m surrounded by introverts. My fiance, my step-dad, my best friends and all of my clients are introverts. When I coached college speech and debate, the vast majority of my students were introverts. If there is an introvert on his own at a party, expect me to be the one carrying on an intense conversation with him in the corner. 

When I googled speaking tips for introverts, I was surprised to see how much of the advice treated introversion like a disease. Something to be overcome, dealt with, treated.

In fact, I found an article by Susan Cain about public speaking advice for introverts. Here are her tips:

  • Be yourself
  • Be a performer (Umm, doesn’t that contradict be yourself?)
  • Serve the audience
  • Accept your nerves
  • Calm your body
  • Smile

Now, while I love me some Susan Cain (her book Quiet and her TED talk are amazing), these tips are just about as generic as they come. They are tips for all speakers, and apply whether you’re an introvert or extrovert (except the performer one).

Getting nervous before a speaking gig happens to even the most extroverted among us (Hello, I’m an extrovert, and I still get nervous before a big speaking gig). If anyone is guilty of NOT practicing, it’s the extrovert who thinks “I’m a people person. I can totally wing it.” 

Let’s stop looking at introversion as something a speaker has to overcome.

Let’s focus on introverts strengths as a speakers, and in fact introverts make amazing speakers.

Why?

1. Introverts do the work

95% of all my coaching clients are introverts. They are beyond committed to the work of mastering public speaking, embracing their newfound strengths as a speaker and getting their message into the world. I love that my introverted clients are game for any speaking homework assignment I give them (no matter how unconventional and trust me I can get a little weird…in a push you out of your comfort zone way). 

With that kind of commitment to growth, they can’t help but become speaking successes.

2. Relish that public speaking is NOT about them

The biggest anxiety reliever for an introvert: public speaking is not about you!

The audience doesn’t care about you, your listeners care about your message and how it can benefit them. Being able to externalize the message (realizing it’s separate from the speaker) puts many introverts mind at ease. Because introverts….

3. Think deeply about their message

Since introverts relish thinking big thoughts, having a well-thought out message is easy for them. My experience is they spend a lot of pondering what their audience is going to get out of their presentation and how to articulate their message clearly and succinctly. This aspect sets up the audience for a great presentation experience.

4. Writing and structure

A tell-tale sign of an introvert is that they like to write. I recently worked with a real estate developer who was smart, funny and committed to becoming a supremely skillful speaker. When we started working together, he had NEVER given a formal presentation. He always made his business partners do that part of the business for him. He was just too shy and introverted.

As we worked on his very first speech ever, he sent me a draft.

I was blown away. It was beautiful organized and artful written. Sure, we needed to tweak, wordsmith and cut, but there was no need for an organization overhaul. He nailed it!

5. Self-care is paramount

Introverts more than any other speakers, I’ve worked with realize the importance of self-care after a presentation. Presenting is a massive energy exchange between the speaker and the audience. While introverts expect this to be draining, they prepare in advance how they are going to take care of themselves after a big speaking gig. They make time for being alone, curling up with a good book or take an extra long nap.

Extroverts typically feel amped up after a speaking gig, the energy exchange is the finest drug in the world for an extrovert. However, there is always the inevitable crash (like a sugar crash after you ate 10 Snickers bars) that leaves extroverts feeling depleted. No self-care has been planned yet it’s still desperately needed.

Introverts make wonderful speakers. They have unique strengths that some extroverts do not possess. Let’s stop solving the “introversion and public speaking” problem and start building upon the rock solid foundations of strengths.

Did I miss anything about the speaking strengths of introverts? Let me know in the comment section below. 

  • http://www.puffingston.com Luke Goetting

    Awesome! Your points make so much sense, but you’re right that introversion is so often treated as a major shortcoming.

    I’d also add that in many cases, an introvert can come off as more relatable to the audience. I think that may be an effect of #2 and the temptation for some extroverts to treat the talk as if they are the star of the show, but it’s probably safe to assume that the majority of audience members are also introverted and therefore may appreciate a more “down to earth” speaker.

    • http://www.drmichellemazur.com Michelle Mazur

      Your point about being more relatable is an excellent one. As an extrovert, I love being the center of attention, but if public speaking is NOT about me. The audience is the star of the show.

      There are a lot of great speakers who are introverts. Just because public speaking is more exhausting for introverts, it doesn’t mean that they are not as talented at it.

  • http://www.simplifywebsites.com Kristal Reagan

    I love this! I am an introvert and I have always looked at is as a weakness. I agree, as long as I am prepared I can present without much trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I’m full of butterflies but I can get through it. If I were put on the spot and not prepared or expected to stand up and speak I would most certainly run and hide!

    • http://www.drmichellemazur.com Michelle Mazur

      The butterflies are natural, but if you are well prepared, know your material and well practiced – you can rock it! Your comment proves that fact!

  • http://www.celmark.com Mike Balakrishnan

    Wow Michelle! You’re understanding of the mindset of an introvert is so insightful. All the points you make about why introverts could become better speakers never occurred to me. It’s all so true, especially the fact that an introvert would take great care about thinking deeply about their message and crafting a well organized speech. For me once I realized that public speaking is not about me, but about the audience and my message, I was transformed. It’s extended beyond public speaking to being better at expressing myself in everyday conversation and writing. You have a special gift..please keep the encouragements coming!

    • http://www.drmichellemazur.com Michelle Mazur

      Hi Mike! You know the part of this post about the draft of the speech I received…well that was you my friend! I could tell how much work you put into that wedding speech. It was a mighty fine first draft.

      I’m happy to hear that our work together had such a positive influence in your life! :)

  • Rita

    Ah – now I get it. I could never understand how as an introvert, I’m a speaker/facilitator/trainer and it feels right! Thanks for this insight.

    • http://www.drmichellemazur.com Michelle Mazur

      There’s a huge myth that introverts don’t like public speaking. Simply, it’s not true. Lots of introverts do like public speaking and Rita – you’re proof of that for sure!

  • Sandra Fry

    I love this! I think you describe the behavior of an introvert beautifully and I appreciate the push to dispose of the opinion that introversion is a disease. I never understood why some people feel the need to want to change people who don’t really want to be changed.

    • http://www.drmichellemazur.com Michelle Mazur

      You’re welcome Sandra! I’m happy it resonated with you. There are just too many very talented introverted speakers out there to think of introversion as something to overcome.

  • Daphne

    Thanks Michelle. My extrovert mother committed me to speaking activities at the ripe old age of 6 as a Brownie Girl Scout. I did not understand until way later in life why I needed quiet time so desperately after a “performance” – it was because the social interaction was so draining. I’ve been told for years I needed to be more outgoing or I should be more social or I should stop saying I’m an introvert. I’m like, I am and I am okay with that! If I can suffer through the extrovert’s idle chatter about nothing important, then the extrovert should be okay with the silence between meaningful conversations. I can compromise! :) I’m just really happy to know I’m not alone. Yay! Introverts who are public speakers – we have something impactful to say and isn’t it great that we’re sharing??!! Have a great day everyone.

    • http://www.drmichellemazur.com Michelle Mazur

      Hi Daphne! Yes – you have something impactful to say and it’s amazing that you’re sharing it. Have you read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet”? She talk about how introverts are being told all the time to be more outgoing and social. We’ve gotten better as a society for allowing time for reflection and thought but we still have a long way to go!

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