As an introverted business owner or leader, you may not think much about presentation skills.
You may even avoid opportunities to speak in public.
But avoidance may not serve you well. The ability to present with credibility and confidence is a crucial skill. It can help position your company as an industry leader, attract positive attention and help you influence prospective customers.
Here are a few tips to improve your presentation skills and help you mitigate your anxiety about public speaking.
1. Address your fears and control what you can.
Some of the nervousness a public speaker may experience comes from the fear that something might go wrong during the presentation.
While this can apply to an extrovert, the anxiety may be more pronounced for an introverted speaker.
As a speaker, it's not about you. It's about serving your audience. Ask yourself what your audience needs to hear, and how you can share with them the knowledge they seek.
—Susan Cain, author, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
You can't control everything that could go wrong. However, you can mitigate some of the anxiety by asking yourself: “What can go wrong?"
Brainstorm everything that comes to mind and prepare for it. For example:
Fear of Anticipated Questions
Is it fear that you will not have an answer to all the questions? Prepare and rehearse answers to anticipated questions.
Generally, if there's any cost associated with whatever you're proposing, questions on value are likely to come up. Concerns with costs include not only monetary but time investment, extra resources, extra space or additional human resources. Other commonly asked questions include the feasibility or benefits of whatever you're proposing.
Once you've identified all the questions, you can also create some hidden slides with brief bullet points. These slides can address some of the more complex questions that might come up.
Note the slide number of these hidden slides so that you can easily pull them up when needed. (You can do this by typing the number of the slides and pressing "enter." This will take you to the desired slides without having to use the slide sorter.)
Using slides to answer the more complex questions that might come up shows that you have prepared and went the extra mile to make sure you have all the answers for your audience.
Fear of Technological Difficulties
Is it fear that your PowerPoint will not work? Make sure you backup a copy of your PowerPoint slide deck on not only one flash drive but on two or three as flash drives can malfunction. You could also save it to a cloud server.
You can also save your slide deck in PDF which you can use in case your PowerPoint doesn't work at all.
Fear of Forgetting
Is it fear that you will forget what you have to say? You can improve your presentation skills by using the notes section in Presenter View.
You can glance at some of your notes to refresh your memory without the audience noticing that you had a momentary blank.
I asked Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, for her tips on managing the fear of forgetting your content.
"Have a conversation with your audience," Kanhweiler advises. "Get out from behind the podium. You know your material and where you want to go, so connect. You can memorize your opening and close and think about the rest of your speech as having key talking points or 'beats' as the stand-up comics do."
And when you get tense, adds Kahnweiler, "just breathe slowly. Take that pause, as it lets your audience breathe too."
2. Focus on your content.
One way to improve your presentation skills is to avoid approaching your presentation as a performance. Leave that to the extroverts who may do this naturally and enjoy doing it.
People crave meaningful and useful insights to improve their business or their life. If you focus on providing helpful content, the performance will take care of itself.
I asked Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, what is one piece of advice you would give to an introverted speaker who wanted to gain credibility as a presenter.
“Don't act like a motivational speaker if that's not who you are," says Cain. "As a speaker, it's not about you. It's about serving your audience. Ask yourself what your audience needs to hear, and how you can share with them the knowledge they seek. Then you've done your job," she adds.
You're there to present your well-thought-out ideas or insights.
Perhaps you're speaking to outline some useful data the audience has come to hear.
Maybe you're planning to unveil some new, essential initiatives for your company.
Perhaps you intend sharing your unique insights on a topic of interest to your listeners.
Focus on that.
You don't need to tell jokes. Just spend the time to craft a clear exposition of your ideas the way you would do when conversing comfortably with another person. Craft a simple story to illustrate your points, and give some examples to clarify what you mean.
3. Untangle social anxiety from presentation skills.
As an introvert, you likely don't enjoy having to schmooze at cocktails parties. You may also dread small talk or chit-chat with many people at networking events. And large group discussions probably isn't high on your list of favorite activities, too.
Public speaking, however, is different.
For one thing, you are the only one up there speaking, and you don't have to struggle to be heard in a noisy room filled with extroverts. Everyone is there to listen to you!
Moreover, there's no chit-chat or small talk required. You are there to talk about what matters, about your knowledge and expertise. Focusing on the difference between social events and presentations may help lessen your anxiety and improve your presentation skills.
4. Take advantage of technology to manage your anxiety.
Consider a few technology aids that can help mitigate some of your public speaking anxiety and boost your presentation skills.
Presentation Anxiety Apps
- Azumio: instant heart rate monitor to prompt you to take a few deep breaths to lower your heart rate.
- Public Speaking HiveBrain: guided meditation to help you relax before the presentation.
- Virtual Speech: helps you practice in front of a virtual mock audience.
Teleprompter apps may lower your anxiety about forgetting what you want to say.
Timer apps can mitigate the fear that you will run out of time or speak so fast that you finish speaking too soon.
5. Relax after a job well-done.
After a successful public presentation, extroverted speakers may seek more contact with others to schmooze, relax and savor the moment in the company of others.
Introverted speakers, on the other hand, likely need some downtime. You may prefer being alone or in the company of a close associate, to reflect on the event and replenish your emotional battery.
Knowing this about yourself, you may want to pre-plan an enjoyable après-presentation ritual to reward yourself for delivering a successful presentation.
Read more articles on presenting.