So yes. I am an introvert and I am pursuing a career where half of the tasks is public speaking.
Doesn’t that seem strange to some? I mean it is widely assumed that introverts instantly fold at the THOUGHT of public speaking, LET ALONE try to make it there career.
Well, THIS introvert did lol
But for more the most part, choosing this career just made me get past that fear faster than by not choosing it.
Let me start over to explain.
I. WAS. A WRECK. when it came to public speaking.
Like we’re talking full nine yards, voice shaking, hands shaking, body overheated, mind go blank…the whole works. I dreaded the thought of having to speak. Even when it was in the classroom and I raise my hand to answer my question, it was something about everyone turning in unison to stare at me waiting for me to speak that instantly activated my nerves.
I was bad. I know it could have been worse though. I’ve heard of people’s fears giving them such a scare that they get sick and want to throw up or faint, or some other physical extreme. But I never felt THAT bad, just everything else. (Yea you gotta look at the bright side sometimes).
Anyway so it’s my sophomore year at college, and I take the dreaded Oral Communication class. I just wanted to grit my teeth and get it over it. But I did have hope that my professor will share with my some golden nuggets of wisdom to overcome my fears. Took the class. My nervousness of course returned. It was frustrating because as a Melancholy, I can plan very well so my speech was perfectly written but my voice and hands just wouldn’t follow suit.
By the way, do you know how AGONIZING it is to watch someone speak when they’re nervous. You’re initially think awww their nervous. You feel bad for them. Then you cringe. Then you just don’t want to watch any more and want the terrifying experience to be over for them. Once it is, you give a sympathy clap because you couldn’t even focus on what they were saying because their nerves intercepted all of that.
So I was definitely feeling that vibe from the room. After my speech, I felt so defeated. My professor gave me my grade.
I got a B.
Normally that wouldn’t bother me but I’m serious yall when I say I PERFECTED that speech. Like I covered everything our professor taught us (who was just a communications grad student by the way). So I went up to her after class to understand exactly what went wrong.
“Well you were very nervous, and you just have to calm down before you get up to speak.”
Oh!!!!!! I COMPLETELY forgot to stop being nervous! SILLY ME! Thanks lady. Why didn’t I think of that?!?! [/endsarcasm]
I was mad. Like really??? That’s your advice. Just calm down?? If I could have done it that easily, don’t you think I would? Do you THINK I enjoyed doing my speech with a shaky voice like it was part of my plan in the presentation?
Sad to say, I walked away from the class with no working tips in overcoming my nerves. But as I went along with college and as a trainer, I have learned 10 tips that has helped me overcome my public speaking fears. And if you ever had someone that only told you, “oh just calm down, you’ll be fine” and you wanted to smack them for assuming that you NEVER used that common sense as if it worked, then this is for you =)
10 Tips to Overcome Public Speaking Fears for Introverts (and extroverts too!)
ONE. Realize what you have to say is important. You have to put yourself in a mindset that everyone is genuinely interested in what you have to say. And they are! I mean they are all looking at you and are quiet. They are interested in what you’re going to say, and it’s your time to deliver. You are important and have something important to say. Own that attitude!
TWO. Use audience visualizations if you need to. Don’t get so caught up in who certain people are in the audience, like titles or popularity or anything like that. They are regular people just like you that want to hear what you have to say. Do not be intimidated by them because I bet if they had to give a similar speech like you they would be just as nervous in some sort of way. If you need to tone down your intimidation of somebody, imagine something really embarrassing happening to them in the middle of the room right now like them falling out of their chair or something. It may be funny for you, but it’s to make you think of how much they are human just like you so there’s no reason to be scared of them
I know that Dale Carnegie is his book about public speaking said you should picture everybody as if they owe you money and are there waiting until after you speak to beg for an extension. Now I don’t know if that works lol as I’ve yet to have a situation to come up for me to try it since I read it, but hey, try it out and see if that works!
THREE. Slow down and smile. Monitor your speed in your speech. Speaking fast will almost make you more nervous in a sense. This is something that I still have to work on every now and then. I’ll get nervous and start rushing in my words to mimic my mind rushing being nervous. Then I begin to trip over my words. I have to take a moment to breathe and slow down. I then smile and bring it back to start back up. Now don’t smile in a creepy way lol just breathe and smile as you talk. Smiling as you talk has done wonders for me. It not only brightens you up but others as well. You may even notice someone in the audience smile back at you. It’s contagious! So smile!
FOUR. DO NOT GIVE A DISCLAIMER. That’s like making an announcement that you’re about to trip on the stairs to people around you and then you proceed to trip on the stairs. I know that sounds silly, but think about how people would react to you making a declaration that you’re about to trip on the stairs. Odd. Ooookay.
EXACTLY. Remember that. Because that’s EXACTLY how people feel when you give a disclaimer in your speech about how nervous you are. It’s awkward, and it isn’t necessarily. We all have nervous moments when we get up and speak. There’s no need for you to apologize or plead with your audience to excuse you ahead of time. Just don’t do it. You may think that you’re getting like an extra pardon by your audience by doing s,o but no it’s just awkward and unneeded. Trust me on this one. Just go up there and do your speech. You may not even show any signs of nervousness.
Tangent here, but the bible says death and life is in the power of the tongue, and that’s SO true that what you say is what you will have. So watch you words. Don’t make a declarations that you’re going to be a nervous wreck. You get up there, you breathe, you smile, and you KILL it! You give that amazing speech and then you sit on down and take that deep “it’s over” breath! So no “Forgive me, I’m nervous” disclaimers okay? Never again from here on out.
FIVE. Know what you’re talking about. Melancholies should be good on this as they naturally always want to be prepared, but phlegmatics having their lazy moments may need this advice a bit too. If you know you have to speak, prepare as much as possible! Go over your notes. Speak in the mirror. Speak to your mom. Speak to your dog. Well…if your dog is like my dog she will just keep thinking that you’re about to play with her and keep jumping on you instead of sit and listen so that might not work. So stick to people then. Find a person to practice with. Record yourself if you don’t want to use a human! Just be sure to watch the playback. You have to practice this speech. The more your practice it, the more it will become like second nature to you, and it will roll of your tongue.
SIX. DON’T MEMORIZE YOUR SPEECH. Oh no no no no no no!! Don’t do this! You will set yourself up to fail EVERY TIME. Many people when they get nervous will get up to the podium ready and in that instant, their mind goes blank. No matter HOW GREAT of a speaker they are, that tends to happen if they tried to memorize their speech. No, just memorize points and talk about your different points. I love how Dale Carnegie talked about how when we are in conversation with each other we do not memorize what we’re going to say then. We come up with an idea as we talk, and we just talk about that idea.
So why don’t we do that when we get up to speak? It comes off robotic and unfeeling when it’s memorized. You’ll have so much passion and meaning in your voice if you just talk. So stop memorizing and just scribble a few points on your index cards. This is where practicing helps because it will be second nature to you to speak just from looking at your points. You can take your cards with you so if you do a complete blank, you can glance at your cards to see the next point. Once you see that point, you should be able to talk about it with no problem from all the practice you’ve done.
SEVEN. Look at their foreheads until you can look at their eyes. It’s good to make eye contact with your audience, but if you’re not just there yet, look at their foreheads. Some have bigger ones than others so it should be interested for you to compare and contrast. But at least do that much to give the illusion of looking at their eyes.
Once you have mustard up the courage to look at their eyes, do it. To help try to find the most encouraging person in the room as a point of contact. This person might be smiling, leaning in or really seeming like they are engaged and listening to you. Find this person even if it’s just one person and any time you feel nervous, look over to them. Breathe, smile through your words, and keep it moving.
EIGHT. Walk off your nervous energy. If you have the space up at the front, walk around a bit. That way everyone can hear you no matter their placement in the room. Now don’t walk in circles or looking like you’re about to do the electric slide or something, but just take a mini-stroll as you speak. That nervous energy can be exercised out .
NINE. Hold on to something. Now this is a tip that I hesitated to include so let me give you the pro and con. Pro…well it helps me to hold on to something small, like a pen. I tend to gesture with my hands so to keep them from shaking, I hold on to a pen. Con…do not do this with paper or anything that will make a noise. I did this for my I/O Psychology class, and I was told after I gave my speech, that my classmates couldn’t even understand what I was saying because of the distracting sound of paper shaking. Even with pens, don’t hit the pen top over and over again. That sound is distracting and as small as it is, it will drown out your words.
TEN. Practice talking in general. From now on, every opportunity that you get to speak, use it. Take it. This is might be scary, but you got to do it. That’s the advice that the Leadership Activities Coordinator in college gave me when I went to him for help. I had just gotten elected to being president over my honor society and that means I had to speak at mass meetings, exec board meetings, major events, just the overall representative of my honor society. Knowing about my lackluster speaking skills, I went to him for advice. He told me about Toastmasters where you can go practice speaking with other people. Well I had enough activities on my plate so I couldn’t try that one (but I’m thinking about joining a local chapter soon).
So instead, I took his advice to talk at every opportunity I had. Any time the professor asked the class a question and I knew the answer, I gathered up the courage and raised my hand. I was nervous doing it at first, but the more and more that I did it, the easier it became. When I started my term as president, I had a LOT of practice then to where when the year was up, my shaking voice and hands had stopped. Now like I said, I do tend to trip over my words every now and then, but I just breathe and smile and then I’m good.
So if I CAN DO IT, which I wish yall only knew how LONG of way I’ve come, then I’m positive you can too. It’s going to be a little scary at times but you can do it. You can overcome this. One thing about being an introvert, we may have some weaknesses in some areas but that doesn’t mean we have to accept them to always fall victim to them. You can work on your weaknesses to eventually become strengths.
And I know I’m not that only introvert out there that is now able to do public speaking. If you checked out the Susan Cain video, she did an amazing job talking about her book. I talked to another introvert, Irina, and she talked about how she now has a career in public speaking and loves it. It’s possible to be an introvert, and speak in front of others. So stop doubting yourself and just go out there and do it. I’m not saying you’ll be a pro speaking the first time you try these tips, but if you keep at it and keep practicing eventually you will overcome your fears and become a fantastic speaker!
Hope that helps! =)
PS: As I spoke with my introverted buddy, Layla Saad on instagram (@_laylasaad_) for introverts, it is DRAINING to do any public speaking. We may can get up there with confidence and do such a great job that you think we’re extroverts but AS SOON as we step down from speaking, we want to retreat to recharge. I feel that way all the time so it’s perfectly normal. While public speaking may energized an extrovert, it can drain an introvert but that doesn’t mean that we can’t excel at it!