There’s a book called “What to Say When…You’re Dying on the Platform” by Lily Walters.
It’s full of clever quips and responses for when things aren’t going your way during a presentation or speech.
My partner Tony loves it. I could never use any of it.
He’s an extrovert. I’m an introvert.*
*Here’s my working definition of the essential difference – extroverts are energized by being with groups of people, whereas introverts are drained by that and recharge by being alone. Being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re shy, nervous or even reserved. Most of us are on a continuum between extreme extroversion and extreme introversion.
Tony is quick-witted, funny and can come up with any number of quick responses – whether it’s during a presentation or just a conversation around the dinner table. His challenge is choosing from the many different responses that his brain offers up to him.
My challenge is coming up with just one response in the heat of the moment. Tongue-tied is the expression that fits for me.
And this is one of the differences between extroverts and introverts. Extroverts function well in highly stimulating environments – they love being with lots of people and talking a lot.
Introverts function best in less-stimulating environments. When an environment is too stimulating for us it impacts on our short term memory. We’re simply not good at thinking on our feet in these situations. We can’t summons up those clever, humorous responses under pressure.
And that’s just one difference between introverts and extroverts. Those differences make an impact on whether conventional public speaking advice works for us.
But up till now, most public speaking advice has been “one size fits all”.
And because most public speaking coaches, trainers and authors are extroverts (no surprise there, it’s a natural career choice for an extrovert) most public speaking advice naturally works best for extroverts. it’s written for extroverts by extroverts.
I’m in the unusual position of being a public speaking coach by accident.
Tony started the business. To begin with I was only involved in the back-end, doing the administration and helping at the back of the room during training courses. But after having watched Tony a few hundred times I decided I could be at the front of the room too. Over the last 15 years we’ve been running the business together, I’ve been able to study the differences between us when it comes to public speaking. And I’ve also studied how best to help the people who are our clients and for whom the conventional public speaking advice doesn’t work – introverts.
In making this distinction between what works for introverts and extroverts I acknowledge the thought leadership of Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”
So as I reinvigorate this blog (longtime readers will know that this is my first post for a number of years) I’m going to be writing about what works for introverts.
Public speaking and presentation advice for introverts, by an introvert.
I’m also going to be looking at what keeps us quiet – turning down opportunities to present, not speaking up in meetings, keeping our best ideas and passionate opinions under wraps – and how to speak up when we want to.
What are particular challenges, issues and obstacles that you’ve had an introvert when it comes to public speaking and presenting? What advice have you come across where you’ve thought “I could never do that”. Let me know in the comments.