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I’m An Introvert At Heart… But No One Knows

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I’m An Introvert At Heart… But No One Knows

Have you ever stood in front of a group of people, and in the middle of speaking, you just freeze? Your mind goes blank. You start sweating. Your fear and self-doubt paralyze you.

I’ve been there. Many times.

On the last day of my internship during college, I called in sick just so I wouldn’t have to deliver a short, 15-minute presentation to less than 10 people. I was crippled by fear. I’m not alone with this kind of thing.

In fact, according to a Gallup Poll, 40-45% of people are afraid of public speaking. It is often listed as the most common fear, after snakes and even death itself. Researchers have also found that introverts make up 26-50% of the population.

It stands to reason that the same people afraid of speaking are also introverted. That was me—about five years ago. But if you met me today, you would have no idea. That’s because I’m an introvert at heart but no one knows it.

What is introversion, anyway?

According to this Scientific American article, the extrovert-introvert spectrum comes down to two aspects: enthusiasm and assertiveness.

Extroverts have more, whereas introverts have less. Ambiverts—or, if you prefer, extroverted introverts—are somewhere in the middle.

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Enthusiasm is about sociability, excitement, and friendliness.

Assertiveness is about leadership, persuasiveness, and dominance.

How outgoing are you and what’s your social status? Do you make friends easily, laugh a lot, take charge, captivate people, and have the ability to talk others into doing things? If not, you’re an introvert.

Can an introvert become an extrovert?

There’s a reason I started this article off by talking about public speaking. That’s because, until I finally learned how to become an accomplished speaker, nothing I did gave me the confidence to engage with other people, take on leadership roles, or influence others.

Learning the skill—and art—of speaking transformed me so profoundly that I can honestly say you would think I’m an extrovert if you met me. Even though, really and truly, I am not.

I’m the guy who never spoke up at meetings and avoided making presentations at all costs. Today, I regularly compete in speech contests, hold webinars, deliver training, and speak in front of cameras and crowds.

How can you conquer your fear of public speaking to become an outgoing introvert?

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Two of the most powerful ways are:

  • Join the non-profit organization Toastmasters
  • Take an improv class

Toastmasters will encourage you to learn and practice in front of others in a safe, non-work environment. An improv class will take you out of your comfort zone and help you explore the positive, humorous side of speaking.

Why public speaking?

Here are 7 reasons why becoming a proficient public speaker can make even the most timid introvert come across as an outgoing extrovert.

1. People will get to know you

Introverts often have trouble making friends. It’s tough to open up to strangers.

If you work on the skill of public speaking, whether it’s through a training course, at work, an organization like Toastmasters, or an improv class, you will have to talk about something. And, your most knowledgeable subject is, well, you. By talking about your story, your experiences, your struggles and successes, others will get to know you, and you will get to know yourself. This will gradually bring out your confidence and inner extroversion.

2. You will become more enthusiastic and excited

When you’re on a deadline to come up with a speech topic, you learn to constantly look for ideas. Then, when you find an idea you like, you will start to dive in, read about it, research it, and put together your talk. This process, which many of us haven’t done since grade school, is a perfect way to ramp up your enthusiasm.

I recently gave a speech on grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef. Sounds boring, I know. But the process of learning about the food industry, agriculture, and nutrition motivated me to learn more and focus on my health.

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This enthusiasm and excitement builds on itself, and you build a repertoire of knowledge that makes dinner parties much more enjoyable. Without even trying, your introverted self becomes the life of the party!

3. You will have fun

Don’t get me wrong, introverts can have just as much fun as extroverts. But there’s a new sense of enjoyment that comes from gaining confidence speaking in front of others, and it brings out a side of you usually reserved for yourself. The same fun you get from reading a book or walking alone to think is suddenly expanded to encompass your audience, mentors, and peers.

I recently gave a humorous speech at a contest. Let’s just say comedy is not a strength of mine. But knowing that my speech had to be funny pushed me to learn about writing jokes, using punch lines, creating drama, and using my face and body for humor. It definitely brought out the comedian in me, and it was lots of fun getting there.

4. You will learn how to persuade others

This is a big one. Influence is a subtle art, and we as introverts believe it is out of our grasp.

Don’t despair. Becoming a more confident speaker also means you learn the skill of delivering your message, in a way that appeals to the audience. By practicing the use of your voice, appearance, and body, along with the structure, story, and words of your speech, you will have a recipe for persuading others that few learn or practice.

This ability will extend into your personal circle, enabling you to make friends more easily and open up opportunities in your career or business.

5. You will start to captivate people

Part of influence is the ability to gain others’ attention. To captivate your audience. You will learn to ask questions, appeal to “what’s in it for them,” use multiple methods of communication (stories, data, hands-on), and create calls to action.

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All of these serve to draw in your audience—whether it’s a room of people or a small group at a party. You will learn to captivate them.

6. You will gain tons of confidence

This entire process of developing your speech, learning the skills to deliver it, speaking in front of others, and, most importantly, getting feedback so you can improve, will make you more confident than you ever thought possible.

After six very awkward speeches, the feedback I had received started to come into place in each successive speech, and I became more and more confident. As with any skill, the more you practice, iterate, and learn, the more sure you are that the next iteration will have a certain outcome. This, in turn, breeds greater self-confidence.

7. Your newfound confidence will make you a leader

When you have greater self-confidence, you speak up more during meetings, seek interactions with others (no matter how intimidating they used to seem), and volunteer for more roles where extroversion is required. This creates amazing new opportunities.

After about six months of developing the skill of speaking, I had the confidence to try a new leadership position at work. I had new responsibilities that required me to mentor and speak to others, but I wasn’t afraid of this any more. In fact, I relished it. As a result, I found advancement where I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Create your own luck and become an outgoing introvert by learning the skill (and art) of public speaking.

Start by reading some good books, and then joining Toastmasters or taking an improv class.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via pexels.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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