An introvert’s guide to speaking in public

Things have got busy in my little world all of a sudden. Which is great, I’ve got to fund these imaginary renovations somehow, but it does mean less time for things like…well…doing nothing. I have a couple of new ongoing contracts and some other interesting professional-related things are hovering about. But what has been most occupying is the preparation for my first presentation at a seminar that I gave recently. As a self-admitted introvert, I’d never entertained such an idea until late last year. You see, there’s a little part of me that wants to be worshipped. There—I admit it. And that part of me got a little bit of exposure when I gave a brief acceptance speech at the gala awards last year. I wanted more of that. Also, the frequent flyer miles and access to airport lounges that might come along with it. But whenever someone suggested I deliver my topic to a seminar presentation, I said ‘aww, no. I don’t think I could do that’. The dilemma.

It’s March 2012 and I declared this year would be the year of speaking engagements. With one down and three more to go, I’m pretty pleased with how that plan is working out. My first ever speaking engagement was well received, made people laugh, and at least lived up to, if not exceeded, expectations. I had a lovely lady come up to me afterwards and thank me for my talk. She’d come especially for it, and I didn’t disappoint. So, I guess as a first-timer, I must have done something right. Though, I do need to work on not having to refer to my notes.

In the interests of helping other introverts to face these public speaking challenges, I thought I’d put my process here in this post.

How to speak in public like a pro. Almost.

1. Have coffee with someone who will make you commit to the seminar/conference/event in question. After they’ve nagged you about it for the tenth time in as many minutes, call or email the organiser/s of the event right in front of your coffee buddy. Now you have a witness.

2. Start preparing your material. I had 90 days to prepare, and I already had most of the material written as a white paper. I just had to turn it into slides and add some extra content to fill up the 30+ minutes time allowance.

3. Go to bed most nights with “success” or “confidence” or “public speaking” hypnotherapy apps playing in your headphones. Really.

4. Ideally, you will have been to a related event before, so you will already know people who will be there. If not, try and plan a social occasion with a few of them so you can have some friendly faces in the crowd when it’s time for you to present.

5. You will have Powerpoint open for around 80 days, continuously, and you will probably lay awake most nights having great ideas come to you for the content of your presentation. Accept it and leave those mental doors open.

6. Have a talented writer/educator friend check your slides for feedback.

7. Read books on how to give presentations and apply what you learn. Lend Me Your Ears is a good one.

8. Insert more jokes. This is dependent on your topic, I guess. But making people laugh is pretty important, especially when delivering a dry topic area, which is what seminars are typically full of. My Dad is my inspiration. He’s a bigger introvert than me, but he tells a fantastic story. Find the funny stories in your life that you could use to support your subject. Everybody has at least one.

9. Admit your insecurities to a few select fans and supporters. They will build you up.

10. Have coffee with someone who can give you some public speaking techniques.

11. Watch TED videos. Susan Cain is an introvert.

12. Rehearse. Some people say it’s better not to over-rehearse. As introverts, we need to know our material well to feel comfortable enough to share. For us, there is no over-rehearse. I felt better rehearsing to the cat, than to friends or family. I’m weird like that. I would rather deliver to a room full of mostly-strangers than to my loungeroom with my husband and kids.

13. Be like Barney. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says, you just feel like you can’t pull this thing off. At times like these, you need to find your inner Barney—your inner Awesome. Believe you are awesome and others will think so, too.

Because you are awesome, and people want to hear what you have to say.


  1. Love it….and want to replicate your steps. Keep the words of wisdom coming! Will check into the the books you recommended. Best of luck for the next ‘engagement’! any tips for your hubby…he’ll need them Wednesday night!

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