You Can Be Introverted & Excel at Public Speaking
Recently, after I gave a presentation, a few audience members came up to me and insisted that I couldn’t possibly be an introvert (could, too!). Why? They said I was “on fire”—fully engaged with my audience. I was giving a workshop on public speaking, and had a ball helping make such a universally feared activity accessible, and even fun.
Like many introverts, even though I need my quiet time to get fueled before and after a presentation, I enjoy being in front of the room, engaging with audiences. How can you do that? The trick is to take the spotlight off yourself and, instead, shift your focus to your audience—a win-win for you and them.
Many of the following tips are simple techniques teachers and trainers have used forever. So you may have personally experienced some of them, or even used them as a presenter. If you’re an introvert, consider how you can you use them to spice up your presentations while giving yourself precious time to take little breathers from “extroverting” in front of the room.
12. Take the Pulse of the Audience
Ask for a “quick show of hands” to find out what they’re thinking. Be sure to respond and adapt to what you learn from them (also poll the audience in advance whenever it’s feasible).
If thinking on your feet is not your forte, arrive prepared to take your presentation in several different directions. And to build those thinking-on-your-feet muscles, consider taking an improv class.
11. Get Socratic
Ask your audience questions to get them thinking. This will enable a useful dialog with them. And while they’re talking, you get to catch your breath and get a little thinking time in yourself.
10. Give Them a Pop Quiz
Challenge your audience to see what they already know or what they’ve learned from your presentation.
Ask them to jot down answers. While all that wood is burning, you’ll get another breather. Then, review the answers with the audience. Get them to explain their thinking, and throw in your own insights. Enjoy the dialog -- and another break from being the center of attention.
9. Get Them Tweeting
For more tech and social media savvy audiences, give them a few minutes to turn on their handheld devices and ask them to share their thoughts via Twitter, which you can project onscreen. This can work in person and online.
8. Divide the Audience Into Groups
You can do this in many ways.
For example, you could ask them to select their teammates or, if time is short, just divide them up by where they are seated. Get each group to discuss the topic at hand and ask them to choose a spokesperson to report back. Doing this will get everyone into the act. Give them a set amount of time and specific instructions, which you can post to a whiteboard or flip chart.
7. Promote Role-playing
This is another activity that can work well in groups or even pairs.
It’s an effective way to practice skills for interpersonal settings like meetings, interviews, or networking. Start by modeling an example yourself, or guide some volunteers from the audience into doing a quick demo. Then, have everyone do it for a set amount of time and report back.
6. Get Physical
Ask audience members to get on their feet and do stuff. This is great for those who have been sitting on their duffs all day and look ready for a nap.
Standing up quickly shifts the energy of the room—and will be a welcome surprise for most. You can get your audience to do anything from simply walking in place to taking a few stretches to learning exercises like solving a puzzle, designing a prototype, or building something. Kinesthetic learners will love you!
5. Provide Objects to Play With
Not only children like playing with toys.
Depending on your topic and audience, you could supply fun doodads to play with like pipe cleaners, which will give the fidgeters (aka, “makers”) in your audience something to do while they’re learning.
You can also use toys in your presentations. For example, having audience members toss a foam ball to choose who gives the next answer. Sources for ideas and said doodads are your local office supply store and online retailers.
4. Involve an Audience Member
Isn’t it lovely shifting the spotlight? This is another way to get your participants participating.
Invite them up to demonstrate something you’ve discussed or to elaborate on an important point they’ve made. Since some people suffer a public speaking phobia, avoid putting audience members on the spot. As one of the ground rules you state and post upfront, give them the option to say “pass.”
Surprisingly, bringing people upfront can also be an advanced "presentation-judo" technique to handle unruly audience members—rather than resisting their desire for the spotlight, you can give them as much as they can handle! This technique is best for more advanced presenters.
3. Fuel Your Audience with Food & Drink
It may sound like a cheap trick, but if your audience members haven’t eaten in a while, a little chocolate or other candy might just give them the second wind they’ll need to focus on your fascinating talk on macroeconomics.
If there’s a way to get them coffee and soda, go for that too. Let’s face it: people love free food, and it never hurts to have some reciprocity tendency working for you.
2. Raffle Off a Freebie
Speaking of freebies, another treat you can offer your audiences is a chance for them to win something.
The act of collecting their business cards, picking one, calling out the winner’s name, and congratulating them once they’ve won, is a simple, time-tested technique to interact with your audience while boosting their morale. You can raffle any type of goods or services that your audience would like.
1. Welcome Questions
Conducting a Q&A is the most obvious way to interact with your audiences.
If you’re an introvert, prepare for and practice your answers to the toughest questions you can anticipate. If you get silence when you ask the audience for questions, you can prompt them by saying, “Here’s a question I’m typically asked,” and provide the answer. This could spur on more questions.
A more advanced technique is to plant questions in the audience, just to ensure that you’ll have good ones to answer.
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