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For public speaking, what can a naturally introverted person do to become more comfortable and confident?

As an introvert, often I find it challenging to talk in front of large groups. Are there are any tips to facilitate these nerves to feel more confident?

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Pam’s Answer

I would advise you to start small. Research and present a topic in a community or small group meeting. Practice beforehand. You may still get nervous, but by practicing you will be sure to be able to present with confidence. Taking a speaking class can also help. Boost your confidence by fully understanding the topic. When you know your content you will be less nervous because you know more than the audience.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice. Leire
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Tara’s Answer

Hi Leire!

As an introvert, you'll need to build up your confidence speaking in public by accomplishing small "wins." Every opportunity where you can speak to more than 3 people is an opportunity to speak to a group. When you go to a party, try to tell a funny story to a small group of friends. In school, take every opportunity you can to give short presentations to the class. Volunteer as a camp counselor- talking to a crowd of kids is great practice as well. Do an Instagram Live and talk about something that is important to you. Host a Zoom meeting--you can create a virtual meetup with friends and discuss a topic or shared interest. Virtual meet-ups are a great way to get accustomed to speaking to a crowd. I'm also an introvert, and I find that it's easier for me to practice public speaking skills via Zoom as opposed to in-person face-to-face. You can keep everyone muted unless you call on them so that you don't have to worry about being interrupted.

Learn to use Google Slides or PowerPoint and create presentations for yourself. Being prepared and having a script of what you're going to say helps to give you the confidence you need to succeed. For introverts, it's important that you have a plan or bullet points of what you're going to say (notecards, slides, etc.) It provides that security for those moments when you get really nervous. When you go to college, there will most likely be plenty of assignments where you will have to present your project to the class. Practice makes perfect. The more you do a thing, the easier it gets.

Practice deep breathing exercises and try taking up yoga. Learning a few breathing techniques can really center you in moments of extreme anxiety.

Consider taking an acting class because it will help to build your confidence when speaking in front of a crowd. Join the debate team at your school. Take advantage of any opportunity to speak in front of people. Get constructive feedback and hopefully encouragement from your friends and family. It will take time, but if you rack up a bunch of small wins, eventually speaking in front of people will be no big deal at all!

Tara recommends the following next steps:

Take an acting class
Volunteer as a camp counselor
Learn how to use PowerPoint and a clicker
Host a Zoom workshop
Do a presentation in person face-to-face
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Leire
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Jimmy’s Answer

There is a secret that great speakers among groups of all sizes are not telling you! We are all nervous.

Over the years, I have spoken to groups from 10 to 3000 and the butterflies are always there. Your goal is to get practice managing the butterflies and redirecting that energy into your talk.

I suggest getting practice wherever you can. Most speakers join up with civic groups, nonprofits, and/or a Toastmasters club so you can get practice among friends and those friends you haven't met yet.

Also, my trick is to always have the first two sentences memorized. It helps me breathe and go further. My first two sentences often refer to my location and perhaps something said by an earlier speaker.

Practice, practice....you can do it!
Thank you comment icon Thanks, can't wait to put this advice into action! Leire
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Audrey’s Answer

I often get very nervous in advance of presentations. However, I think the key to developing presentation skills is strengthening your composure and ability to react quickly when the unexpected happens.

There are a few things you can do to best support your presentation skills:

My advice is to practice as much as you can. Say your presentation out loud a few times and get a sense of how to manage your breathing. You can always pause and slow down if you feel nervous.

Read through your presentation notes and make sure it makes sense to anyone new to the topic. This is a good way to look for knowledge gaps in your presentation that can cause confusion/derail your presentation.

Prepare professional-looking slides. Even the best public speakers can lower the quality of their presentation with bad support materials. In my experience, having very well-thought-out and professional slides give a good first impression to those viewing your presentation.
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Matt’s Answer

Some great advice here already. Practice definitely makes perfect! I would just add a couple more things to think about as you prepare for a speaking assignment:

1. Try not to over-prepare. As your confidence and experience grows, your goal increasingly should not be to learn your script or notes by heart (so you are simply reading from memory). It can be comforting to have a fully-prepared script as you start out, but audiences can tell when they are being read to and it is more naturally engaging when a presenter sounds more conversational. To do this, make a note of the central points you want to cover and make sure you are well-versed in them - but without writing it all down word-for-word. This will also help you, by the way, if you get a question and you are taken 'off-script' by someone in the audience... You won't be purely dependent on a fixed-flow that you have written down.

2. Remember that - in most cases! - the audience is on your side. They want you to be good! There is goodwill in the room (or on Zoom) when you stand up to present - the audience is not hoping you'll be terrible; in fact, quite the opposite. Think of that goodwill as you start, smile a big smile, and dive in!

3. If the topic and scenario allow, start off your presentation with something lighthearted, designed to prompt some smiles or laughter in your audience. This could be an amusing image on a slide, or an anecdote about something funny that happened to you that morning etc. I have seen many presenters do this: it has the dual-benefit of making you more relatable to your audience, and of helping you relax into your presentation. Seeing those smiles and receiving confirmation of the audience's goodwill (mentioned in #2 above) can do wonders for your confidence and sense of comfort.
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Scott’s Answer

Hi Leire! As someone who has experience with public speaking and has helped many introverted individuals feel more comfortable and confident on stage, I'd be happy to share some tips with you.

Firstly, remember that feeling nervous before a speech is completely normal, even for extroverted individuals. So don't feel discouraged or beat yourself up about it. Instead, try to reframe your nervousness as excitement - you have the opportunity to share your ideas and connect with others!

One way to prepare for a speech is to practice, practice, practice. This can help you feel more confident in your material and delivery. You can practice in front of a mirror, record yourself and watch it back, or even ask a trusted friend or family member to listen to your speech and give you feedback.

Another helpful tip is to visualize your success. Take a few minutes to imagine yourself giving a successful speech - you feel confident, your audience is engaged and receptive, and you deliver your message with ease. Visualizing success can help boost your confidence and calm your nerves.

When it comes to the actual speech, remember to breathe deeply and speak slowly. Take your time, and don't be afraid to pause if you need to gather your thoughts. It's also helpful to make eye contact with your audience - this can help you feel more connected to them and less isolated on stage.

Finally, try to focus on your message and your audience, rather than on yourself and your nerves. Remember that you have something valuable to share, and your audience is there to listen and learn from you.

I hope these tips are helpful for you, Leire! Remember, becoming a confident public speaker takes practice and patience, but with persistence, you can overcome your nerves and shine on stage. Good luck!
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Erin’s Answer

As a fellow introvert, I understand public speaking can seem scary. My number one piece of advice is to PRACTICE! I go through a presentation at least twice before I present before an audience. I write VERY detailed speaker notes and practice those, but also give myself the space to add additional comments during the live presentation if it feels right. One thing to keep in mind is that when we're nervous, we tend to speak quickly. So, take a deep steadying breath before you begin and speak slowly and clearly.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for this advice! Leire
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Archived’s Answer

Definitely start with a small group of people that you know and with a topic of which you are familiar. This is one extreme (and hopefully, an easy place to start). At the opposite end of the spectrum is talking in front of a large and hostile (or at least, unfavorable) audience - not something to look forward to, but necessary for some jobs.
You may want to try with an organization known as Toastmasters International (which helps people with public speaking). They have many local chapters, see https://www.toastmasters.org/.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, I will be sure to take a look! Leire
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Kristy’s Answer

Public speaking can be a challenge for introverts, but there are various techniques that can help overcome the fear and build confidence. Here are some suggestions:

Practice: Regular practice can help build familiarity and comfort with public speaking. Rehearse your speech or presentation several times, either alone or in front of a small, supportive audience, such as family members or friends.

Prepare thoroughly: Develop a deep understanding of your topic and organize your material in a logical and coherent manner. Anticipate potential questions from the audience and prepare well-reasoned responses.

Start with small groups: Begin by speaking in front of smaller audiences to gradually build your confidence. As you become more comfortable, you can progress to larger groups.

Focus on your message: Concentrate on the value and importance of the information you're sharing, rather than on yourself. This can help shift the focus from your anxiety to the content of your speech.

Visualize success: Imagine yourself delivering a successful presentation, with a receptive and engaged audience. Visualization can help build positive expectations and reduce anxiety.

Develop a routine: Establish a pre-speaking routine to help calm your nerves and put you in the right mindset. This could include deep breathing exercises, positive affirmations, or a brief moment of meditation.

Engage the audience: Make eye contact, smile, and ask questions to create a connection with the audience. This can make the experience feel more like a conversation and less like a performance.

Use notes or visual aids: Having notes or visual aids can help you remember key points and serve as a safety net in case you lose your train of thought.

Manage your pace: Speak slowly and deliberately, giving yourself time to think and breathe. This can help you stay calm and focused.

Accept imperfection: Remember that even experienced speakers make mistakes or encounter unexpected challenges. Embrace the learning process and be kind to yourself when things don't go perfectly.

Join a public speaking group: Consider joining organizations like Toastmasters International or local public speaking clubs to practice your skills and receive constructive feedback in a supportive environment.

Seek professional help: If your fear of public speaking is severe, consider working with a therapist, coach, or attending workshops to address the underlying anxiety and develop coping strategies.

By implementing these techniques and being persistent in your efforts, you can gradually overcome your fear of public speaking and become a more confident and effective speaker.

Kristy recommends the following next steps:

Join a public speaking group
Thank you comment icon Thank you very much! Leire
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Kristina’s Answer

Whenever I'm faced with the task of speaking in front of others, such as leading a work meeting, I tend to feel a bit nervous. However, I've discovered that taking three deep, calming breaths before I start helps to soothe my nerves. This simple technique allows me to gather my thoughts and approach the task with a calm demeanor. Additionally, rehearsing my speech prior to the meeting significantly boosts my confidence. Being well-prepared is indeed a surefire way to foster self-assurance. Having a presentation as a visual aid also makes the process smoother, as it assists me in remembering the key points I want to share. Above all, it's crucial to be kind to yourself. If you stumble or make an error, simply correct it and continue forward. Remember, nobody is perfect and every mistake is a learning opportunity!
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Ekaterina’s Answer

1. I would recommend to check out the Toast Masters community (toastmasters.org) - it's a great opportunity to practice your public speaking skills along with overcoming the barriers you have when facing an audience.
2. Practice and rehearsals are king. Once you are very comfortable with your subject and the flow of your presentation / speech, your just need to go in front of your audience and do your best. Most of the times people get lost when facing the eyes of the others. However, when you know your topic by heart you can avoid the confusion or shock because you won't forget your speech.
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Melanie’s Answer

Hi Leire,

I was, and very much still am, an introvert. After 20 years in the communications profession, I can share two simple tips: practice and prepare. The more you present, the easier it will be to overcome the discomfort you feel. On top of that, preparation will make you more confident about what you're saying. By organizing your thoughts and content ahead of time, you will be more relaxed and at ease.

Also, I once learned trying to fight your nerves will only make them worse. So, if you start to get nervous, take a deep breath to calm yourself down and remember that most of the people in the room wouldn't want to be up there either!

Melanie
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Adrian’s Answer

Hello,

Being an introvert myself, I can assure you that with practice, it gets simpler as time goes on. The best approach to enhance your skills is to begin with small audiences and gradually progress to larger ones if you can. You might want to use a script to boost your confidence at first. Another helpful tip is to practice speaking in front of a mirror, addressing yourself directly to overcome any awkwardness. Keep going, and you'll see improvement!
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