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An Introvert’s Guide to Presentations

Blog Post
Sara-Jayne Terp

I’m Sara, and I’m an introvert. I’m also a regular speaker who used to throw up before every presentation I gave (see under “introvert”). Here are some notes I made before the last talk I gave, explaining how I went from terrified to “Hey, let’s talk”:

  • This is not about you. What you’re doing up there on stage is starting a conversation — not being interviewed for your role of “acceptable human being”. Start that conversation (which will happen after your talk).
  • Stories sell. Give your presentation a story arc, so people can follow the ‘big story’ you’re telling, while you drill down into details.
  • There is no one ‘right’ way to do slides. Do what is comfortable to you. If that means bullet points, then use bullet points. (Don’t try to just read off your slides. The audience will forgive most things if you have a good story, but it does need to be a story).
  • Get comfortable with the stage. If you have a chance to stand on the stage before your talk, do it. (I sometimes arrive early to do this). That way, the only thing that’s new to you is the audience.
  • Make friends with some of your audience. If you’re at a new event, pick out a few people who seem to be “friendly faces”. If you get scared, talk to them. If you’re scared of questions, tell some friendly people what you would like to be asked.
  • Wear something comfortable to you. ‘Comfortable’ might mean clothes (and shoes) that you feel physically comfortable in, or clothes that you feel powerful in. You don’t need the extra stress of painful shoes and/or worrying about how you look. And if you need to take your favorite teddy bear in with you, do it.
  • Make friends with the technology (another good reason to go in early). You don’t need the extra stress of your video not playing on their machine, hunting for the right cable, or not knowing how the clicker works.
  • Do this more than once. Speaking can be terrifying for introverts, but after a while it gets easier. It can help to practice by talking about ‘known’ topics instead of new work: that takes some of the pressure off you, letting you concentrate on talking. It’s also okay to say “No” to giving talks on topics you’re not very familiar with, until it gets easier (h/t Andre Bickford).

That’s my list of tips so far. What advice do other speaking introverts have for their peers?