five tactics for introvert presenters

Confession time: I’m an introvert. You’d not know it if you saw me on stage, of course, and I’ve recently been described as “a very social chatterbox, like me” but that misses the point of the real me… the me that my clients and audiences don’t see. My job pretty much requires me to be able to interact with people comfortably and over extended times, so with that in mind, here are five of my favourite tools for being an introvert presenter.

Before we get into it, remember that there are lots (and lots!) of tools available. I’m not going to attempt to be comprehensive here. This is just a set of five tools that I’ve found to be the most use for me, in my circumstances. Your milage will vary, as they say! And no, I’ve not put them in order…

Feel free to throw your own ideas and tools into the comments!

Side note: remember, being an introvert is not a problem to be solved! There’s nothing wrong with you, just because you’re an introvert!

And don’t be put off by people who are actually extraverts thinking they’re introverts because they once needed to sit down on their own for ten minutes! 😉

Introvert presenter’s tool #1: it’s not about you.

Confused woman watching a presentation

You are not the centre of attention. Sorry to burst your bubble but no one comes to your presentation to listen to you. No one cares. They aren’t thinking about you at all. Those who don’t want to be there are thinking about something else and those who do want to be at your presentation are thinking about what’s in it it for them. Audiences are like that. (So are you BTW, when you’re in someone else’s audience!)

So… have a word with yourself and remember that it’s not about you. I’ve found that this really helps me get my head where it needs to be – I concentrate on being helpful to the audience with the idea that the more use I am, the more I give them to think about, the less they’re thinking about me in the first place.

Let’s take that further… being an introvert makes it more likely that you’ll do what all presenters should do. That is to ‘serve your message’. Extraverts are more susceptible to responding to audiences and their feedback. It makes them vulnerable in a way that introverts aren’t! Think of introversion as your superpower 😉

Introvert presenter’s tool #2: be more Batman

Unless you’re actually Batman, being more Batman is almost always a good idea. 😉

Okay, I don’t actually mean Batman – what I mean is that you should create a persona that can do your presentations. The ‘real Simon’ doesn’t go on stage to make presentations. That’s not to say I’m fake on stage or that I’m insincere, but I do wear something of a mask. For big conferences in particular, the Simon that goes on stage is Simon The Speaker.

I know how Simon The Speaker stands. I know how he walks. I know how his voice sounds. And I know those things before I step to the side of the presentation-space or stage.

Finishing the presentation playing a cajon
Finishing the presentation playing a cajon

The real Simon would never play a cajon on stage, but Simon The Speaker knew it was a good way to make a point, so Simon The Speaker got on with it.

There’s another advantage too… by disassociating yourself from the presenter-version-of-you, when things aren’t perfect, or someone doesn’t like your ideas, they’re not critisizing you. They’re commenting on the performer version of you – and that performer is a tool, just like your car is a tool. If I’m rude about your car, it’s not nice, but it’s not the end of the world!

Introvert presenter’s tool #3: it’s a process

I’ve found that the time immediately after the presentation is often the hardest for me. People have questions and want to speak to me most at the very time I’m at my most knackered. The problem I had was that I considered the presentation the end of the process and that I could then relax and recover… but I’ve since changed that.

I now think of delivering the presentation as the climax of the process but not the end of it.

I now it sounds a bit like semantics, but it means that I plan accordingly. I don’t, for example, get annoyed when people interrupt my “recovery time”, because I have now re-labelled it as “post-presentation-delivery-contact time”.

By the way, I’d include in this tool things like putting time in my diary both before and after the presentation to be in ‘recovery mode’. Yes, I said “putting time in my diary”. That way you’re more likely to actually do it and stick to it!

Introvert presenter’s tool #4: playlist

I’m not suggesting you take this one too literally – use your imagination and your common sense to find your version of it – but I have a specific playlist I use before presentations. It’s called “Here I Stand”.

I tend to use this more for bigger presentations when I need to hype myself a bit more. For conversational-sytle presentations when I’m sitting in a room with a few people this would be over the top.

Mind you, I still might hum (or even play) one of the tracks in the list, even then but I’d not play the list and I’d not blast it out. I use a blue-tooth headset linked to my iPhone to be able to play it pretty loudly without annoying anyone else.

I’ve got to the point now where I don’t even need to play the full length of each song – as soon as it’ had ‘the effect’ I can skip forward, especially if I’m in a hurry. The Thunderbirds theme, for example tends to get played only to the softer sax bit in the middle 😉

I’m about to confess here. Remember this list is created for a reason, not just for fun (although there’s a lot of fun in it!)…

  • Dire Straights – Local Hero. It’s got a lovely slooowwwww long build before it kicks off. Too much too soon doesn’t work for me
  • I am the Doctor – Murray Gold. It’s one of the absolute best things about Dr Who – the music played in series 10 when when the Doctor was being ultra cool
  • This is Me – from the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman (guilty secret!)
  • Thunderbird – the theme from the puppet version. It’s fun, it’s uplifting and it makes me grin like a loon
  • Thunderstruck – AC/DC. Obviously
  • Circle of Life – from the Disney film!
  • I Was Here – Beyonce. This one works particularly because of conversations with my children.
Side two, track one, if I remember rightly

I’m toying with adding Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain to that list too, but it takes too long to get to the bass guitar bit to work. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve missed one of the best few bars of music ever 😉

Introvert presenter’s tool #5: do it right

Don’t try to wing it. Don’t try to deliver presentations when you’re not absolutely sure of your content. Get your structure absolutely spot on before you try to learn it or rehearse your delivery. Extraverts are statistically more likely to be able to go with the flow than you are because they thrive on audiences. It’s one of the things that makes presentations a bit easier for them sometimes (until it all goes horribly wrong for them, of course!)

Remember, because you tend to know more about your subject (and you really do!) there’s nothing to fear. Even questions! Remember that questions actually show that you’ve 85 to 90% of the way to winning. Audiences don’t ask questions unless they care!

… and, of course, you can plan for questions.

Wrapping up

Like I said, I’m not pretending this is a comprehensive list – just mine! Let me know what you do!

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