Watch out for the quiet ones – Presenting the introvert

man with red paper bag over head

Is it possible that a self-confessed introvert could find the courage to speak for a whole 18 minutes on the highly prestigious platform of TED.

That very same speech has been viewed over 14 million times on TED and over 3 million on YouTube?

Susan Cain did exactly that

She walked onto the coveted stage holding a bag full of books.

She told the world that an introvert can have extraordinary gifts to offer the world too.

Actually, she didn’t just say it, she demonstrated it as well.

A self-confessed introvert shattered the myth that the best speakers are the gregarious exhibitionists.

Here is how she did it:

“So I just published a book about introversion, and it took me about seven years to write. And for me, that seven years was like total bliss, because I was reading, I was writing, I was thinking, I was researching. But now all of a sudden my job is very different, and my job is to be out here talking about it, talking about introversion. And that’s a lot harder for me, because as honored as I am to be here with all of you right now, this is not my natural milieu.”

She practiced:

“So I prepared for moments like these as best I could. I spent the last year practicing public speaking every chance I could get. And I call this my year of speaking dangerously”

At Mindful Presenter we meet people like Susan every day

People who consider themselves to be introverts.

Speaking openly in public is not their ‘natural milieu’ but they are required to do so as part of their job.

In less than a minute (40 seconds to be exact), Ms Cain has the audience, curious, engaged, relaxed and even laughing:

“When I was nine years old I went off to summer camp for the first time. And my mother packed me a suitcase full of books, which to me seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do. Because in my family, reading was the primary group activity. And this might sound antisocial to you, but for us it was really just a different way of being social. You have the animal warmth of your family sitting right next to you, but you are also free to go roaming around the adventure land inside your own mind. And I had this idea that camp was going to be just like this, but better. I had a vision of 10 girls sitting in a cabin cozily reading books in their matching nightgowns.”

‘Practise makes perfect’?

That’s not strictly true.

If you keep practising the same thing badly, it will just make you perfectly bad at it.

Practice requires focus, courage, discipline and presence of mind.

That’s when ‘practise makes perfect’

Many people believe that great speakers are just lucky; they were born that way.

It’s not true.

Whether you’re an extrovert an introvert or just a ‘vert’, (we made that one up) most of us have to work at it, as Susan Cain did.

The prerequisite to that practice though is having:

– Something important to say that will make a difference to others

– A belief that what you have to say needs to be heard

– A passion for what you believe in

– A conviction to express your passion and share your message

Many of the 18 minute TED Talks tick each one of these boxes; there are very few exceptions.

There are hundreds of recorded TED talks on line available to watch

Not all of them will interest everyone; in fact many are very niche:

How to upgrade democracy for the Internet era 775,000 views

New thoughts on capital in the twenty-first century 583, 000 views

Big data is better data 617,000 views

Crop insurance, an idea worth seeding 373,000 views

Why people need poetry 808,000 views

The neuroscience of restorative justice 512,000 views

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, Susan Cain has admirably demonstrated that anyone can give a brilliant speech.

Anyone can become a great speaker

If you’re an introvert all you need is:

A genuine interest and passion in a topic you wish to speak about.

To be prepared to practice and do whatever it takes to deliver your speech with impact.

If you  are an introvert and need help presenting:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

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