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People often assume that extroverts make better presenters than introverts. That assumption belongs in the category of, blondes have more fun. It is flawed for a number of reasons, and that is good news for introverts who want to be heard.
Says Susan Cain, author of Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” And that is just one of many reasons why introverts can actually be better presenters than extroverts.
Carl Jung proposed and developed the concepts of introversion and extroversion, suggesting that they both exist inside the personality, though one is usually dominant over the other, in the way that you prefer the use of one hand over the other. Moreover, he suggested that introversion was not the same as shyness, but rather a preference for drawing energy from internal sources, as opposed to extroversion which draws energy from external sources.
Extroverts tend to seek the spotlight and dominate the stage, and are keener to compete for media attention. But Susan Cain and other introverts are stepping forward to say that introverts can make a difference through quiet influence.
In some ways the media has given us too much exposure to extroverted speakers. During his presentation on What Makes a Great TED Talk, given to over 100 TEDx organizers from 43 countries at TEDGlobal 2013, TED Curator Chris Anderson made it very clear that TED was not interested in motivational speakers, telling the organizers, “Just say no. We’re not interested in inspiring talks. We’re interested in minds being shifted. What is the core idea that you have that is fresh?” This reflects a shift in what audiences are looking for from speakers. There is more room for new voices and fresh ideas, and less tolerance for sales and self-promotion.
This is also good news for introverts, because their personalities prepare them to go deeper, reflect and prepare more before speaking out. What they lose in spontaneity, they gain in depth. Nevertheless, introverts do have certain advantages, if they don’t go recede too far from their counterparts.
There are a number of things that introverts tend to do better than extroverts, and each of these can give them an advantage as presenters.
Pause effectively. Great presenters pause before they speak, after they make a point, or ask a thought provoking question. The pause is not silent in the head of the listener, whose mind is fully responsive inside. Reflect and take notes. Great presenters think deeply about their topics, and take lots of written and visual notes beforehand. The quality and quantity of these notes reflect the level of internal dialog on the topic.
Think before speaking. While introverts may not be the first to speak, when they do speak it will be after listening or giving thought to what they say.
Research and follow up. Not content with surface appearances, introverts prefer to look deeply into a subject, and return to it after others have quit. This can result in new discoveries and reveal deeper layers of insight.
Read books. While people today seem to read fewer books, introverts never gave them up. They return to books again and again for ideas and inspiration.
Rehearse. One of the most important elements in the success of a presentation is rehearsal. Like good theater, it is not something that can just be created on the spot. Great presenters even rehearse in their imagination.
Write scripts. While reading a script can kill a presentation, writing one can bring it to life. The process of writing enables you to see your thoughts and come up with better ways of expressing your ideas. The only parts that should be committed to memory are the opening, the closing, and the most important phrases.
Tools for improvement. Great presenters seek and use tools for to improve their presentations. They are never satisfied with the status quo.
Of course these approaches are not limited to introverts, anyone can take advantage of them. They will help ensure that your voice is heard, without having to raise it.
It is interesting that some of the books on the bestseller lists today are written by college professors, in fields that are generally considered quite esoteric. They also make great teachers and speakers. Consider the following.
For the Love of Physics: From the End of the Rainbow to the Edge of Time - A Journey Through the Wonders of Physics, by Walter Lewin, Professor of Physics at MIT, whose popular lectures are featured online.
Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality, by Edward Frenkel, Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been featured in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, by Michael J. Sandel, Professor of Government at Harvard, whose undergraduate course "Justice" has enrolled over 15,000 students, and has been made freely available online.
If you watch the videos of these authors speaking, as well as videos of other speakers on TED, you find that passion can sometimes even make introverts appear as extroverts. Or perhaps it brings them to the happy middle, somewhere between introversion and extroversion, and able to communicate well to both sides.
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William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.