Personal note

Last Saturday was my first ever “Confident Introvert” seminar, and I’m still pleased, proud, and a little exhausted from that event.

Like many opening nights, it was successful, but with small glitches: people having difficulty registering, a Power Point program that worked superbly up until the time the webinar actually started, and a telephone system that acted up half-way through the seminar.

Why didn’t it bother me?

Well, I come from a theater background, where you know anything can happen at the last minute. You prepare a wonderful program, and a piece of scenery falls down, or the sound system decides to misbehave, or anything, really, and suddenly you have to improvise. You rehearse well, learn to roll with the punches and practice what a friend of mine used to call “The art of instant self-forgiveness.”

That’s what prompted this week’s article.

Are you bothered by public speaking?

Your work or life may require speaking in public. Some people think of public speaking as delivering a talk to a large audience; others think that two or more people constitute a large enough audience to be intimidating.

Are you one of the rare people who is frightened of public speaking? Note the use of sarcasm here: actually public speaking has long been the #1 fear in the United States, just ahead of nuclear warfare. You are most emphatically not alone.

It’s just that people who have this fear seem to feel so very alone, as if everyone else is blasé about it, and only the victim feels somehow publicly naked and ashamed, sure that everyone else is seeing that fear.

So you need to know that just about everyone who performs in any sphere – speaking, music, dance, acting – is scared to death.

One famous artist I can think of regularly faints before going on stage; another vomits. Yet they both go out and deliver superb performances.

I personally wake up the day of a big talk feeling a little as if I were going to my execution. Yet as the day wears on, I become more and more energized and excited, and finally end up, always, loving the very act of speaking.

So what distinguishes stalwart performers from the chickens?

As the New Yorker said to the tourist, who asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” – practice, practice, practice.

You can’t think through a talk and expect to deliver it with ease. You cannot perform any skill in public that you have not practiced in the exact form in which you expect to deliver it. No one would think to compete in the Olympics by thinking through their skill, suiting up at the last minute, and then trying it out live for the first time.

If you’re going to speak, you need to open your mouth and learn to project your voice. 

Ideally, your practice should not only be live, but you should replicate the environment of your talk as closely as possible. What will you be wearing? What props will you use, including microphones? What size room will you be in; a large room to which you are unaccustomed can be intimidating.

Find a room – in your church or your school perhaps? – that will resemble your upcoming venue. If you can assemble a small audience of friends or supporters who will give you feedback (important information, kindly delivered) not criticism (blaming and shaming), so much the better. If not, use a recording device to hear how your voice sounds and if you need to adjust the volume.

What if your venue is simply a networking meeting, at which you must get up, introduce yourself, and deliver your elevator speech? Same model – practice, practice, practice.

For example, vary your distance from the recorder to see how much volume your voice needs to carry across difference spaces. You could say, “I am (name) and I am six feet from the recorder.” Then say a few more words. Then try it again at a different distance. This will give you a good idea of how to control your sound, and relieve that embarrassing feeling that you either sound too soft and timid, or that your voice has suddenly boomed out embarrassingly loud.

Don’t expect one practice session to produce results so superb that you never worry again. After all, if performers who earn $50,000 per concert still have to practice, why shouldn’t you? Step up to the practice; don’t let anyone else star in your very own Carnegie Hall.

The Confident Introvert

“I used to be an introvert – but I got over it.” I hear this a lot when I go out in public and talk about my new book and program. It’s a little like saying, “I used to have blue eyes – but I got over it.” Or, worse yet, “I used to be introspective and richly imaginative – but I got over it.”

Often the person who has offered this observation then gets up to speak, and leaks insecurity in tiny ways, declaring subtly that there is internal discomfort.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Our extroverted culture has made us overlook the valuable contributions of introverts. Discover your inner richness, strengthen your pride in it, then learn to express it openly and safely.

Read The Confident Introvert, then sign up for the programs of the same name.  For information and to purchase, go to http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com.