I am an introvert, but I am also a TED Speaker. I prefer solitude, but I love connecting with other people. It's less a contradiction and more the complex nature of introverted leaders. I can count Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and Ev as contemporaries, so it's good company.
That said, leadership often requires commanding an audience, whether it be at a sold out conference or in a cramped startup office. "We often try to be super extroverted and even feel guilty when we feel low energy after going to an event," Myers-Briggs Lead Trainer Michael Segovia, an introversion-leaning speaker himself, told me. "The best way we can present is by honoring who we are." Here is some of his top advice along with my own:
1. Get an agenda: As introverts, our quiet time isn't just to gather social energy, but to get time to think before we speak (extrovert-leaning folks talk to think, while introvert-leaning folks think to talk). Learn or create the agenda for any meetings so you have time to think about the topics. By the time the event happens, you'll have processed your thoughts and be ready to talk. For me, I keep my agenda on a simple index card, a technique I turned into a TED Talk.
2. Get to the space early: "Get up earlier to get to the venue and spend some time meditating in the space," Segovia says. It doesn't mean necessarily sitting down in the lotus position onstage, but just taking in the area and getting comfortable with the setup. One of the challenges we have is being overstimulated by the outside environment. By getting to know the venue or room, you have one less thing to adjust to.
3. Get to know individuals in the audience: I always, and I mean always, make time to meet people who will later be watching my talk or participating in my meeting. It is a show of social respect, but, for introverted leaders, it gives us crucial one-on-one time that helps us connect with at least one individual in a sea of faces. And if there is a moment when things feel rough onstage or at the front of the conference table, I can gain strength from the connections made earlier.