Author and advocate for introverts Susan Cain offers three tips for quiet types to master the art of public speaking.
You can't choose how much talent you have for an activity, but you can choose how you view the relationship between talent and excellence--and according to recent research, that choice makes a big difference.
Be yourself; good speakers are not necessarily "naturals." Have you ever watched a fiery orator or a speaker who has the audience in stitches, and thought, "I can’t do that"? You might be right--and that’s okay. The best speakers are not necessarily dynamic or hilarious – they are simply interesting. They communicate valuable information. "People think that being a good speaker means being funny or glib," says David Lavin of the Lavin Agency (who happens to be my lecture agent). "But that’s wrong. The best speakers are compelling. People underestimate the power of content and of storytelling."
What do Malcolm Gladwell and Lady Gaga have in common? At the same time, public speaking is a performance, and that’s a good thing, even if you’re not a natural actor. Have you ever wondered why people enjoy costume parties? It’s because they feel liberated when interacting from behind a mask. Dressing up as Cinderella or Don Draper removes inhibitions as effectively as a glass of wine. Think of your onstage persona the same way. Surprisingly, both Gladwell and Lady Gaga have this in common.
Serve the audience. Introverts are phenomenal listeners, which attunes them to the needs of others. And that’s why speaking (instead of listening) can feel uncomfortable--unnatural, even. But remember that public speaking is not about you. It’s about the audience. Your job is to take care of the audience, not to be judged by it or even to entertain it. Remind yourself that you are not seeking approval or love. You are a teacher, a giver, an enlightener.
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel