Can Introverts be great speakers?


Microphone in the centre of a busy room with text below reading "Should public speaking be something to fear?"

Professional speaking coach Aly Harrold shares her views on why she thinks introverts make the best speakers and provides tips to help both those who may be reluctant to step forward and those who are more confident, addressing some common misconceptions along the way.

Do you admire the person up on stage? Thinking “they are so brave, I wish I could do that”? Then let me share some secrets with you…

Firstly, why speak in front of an audience at all?

Because we are the best advocates for our business. We spend time thinking about what our customers want to hear about our products and services and how best to reach them. There are so many ways to communicate with our target audience nowadays but imagine for a moment, how powerful if would be if we could talk to them directly, in a friendly conversational way, and answer their questions immediately. Public speaking in our business lives takes many forms, from the TEDx talk to a presentation to new client, a one-minute intro at networking groups to a vlog, Facebook Live or a webinar.

Through public speaking, we have an opportunity to showcase the person behind the brand, convey authenticity, passion and connect with our customers on a personal level.

However, that is easier said than done when speaking in public for some it holds a very real fear, known as glossophobia formed by the Greek words ‘glossa’ meaning tongue and ‘phobos’ meaning dread or fear. Some studies claim that as many as 3 out of 4 of us experience some form of speech anxiety. Reaching for the beta-blockers or a swift glass of something before we present is not the answer!

Why are we so afraid?

Of course, there are a number of reasons; a bad experience in childhood (or adulthood) but do our natural characteristics play a role? For example: Do you enjoy having time to yourself and is your best thinking time when you are alone? Alternatively, do you love meeting new people and feel isolated if you have too much time on your own? If you are nodding in agreement at the first statement, you probably have introvert traits but if you are associating yourself with the second, it’s more than likely you are more extrovert.

Introverts are:

  • Good listeners
  • Extremely focused
  • Enjoy studying
  • Committed to their goals
  • Creative and inspired
  • Lovers of solitude
  • Gain their energy from their internal world

Extroverts are:

  • Life and soul of the party
  • Talkative
  • Gregarious
  • Friendly and approachable
  • Act first without thinking
  • Enjoy being the centre of attention
  • They gain their energy from external stimulation

Surely then, extroverts make better speakers?

It sounds quite plausible, they feel comfortable in front of people and seem to exude confidence, whereas conversely, introverts must surely make poor public speakers as they tend to shy away from group situations and voicing their opinions. However, this is a real misconception. Many of the world’s greatest orators have been classified as introverts. The following makes for quite a list, Ghandi, Winston Churchill, President Barack Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Introverts have wonderful strengths and these strengths support them greatly when applying themselves to speaking.

A woman giving a speech

Preparation is key

An introvert’s focus is to look inwards as this inner world is stimulating and rewarding. When it comes to giving a speech, preparation is paramount and introverts tend to enjoy writing and can almost lock themselves away until the speech is ready. With no distractions and they can focus totally on the job in hand.

Taking care of our physical and mental state of well-being

Physically, introverts can also be in great shape as their calm persona and lack of desire to seek company allows them to eat properly and sleep well. They will more than likely conserve energy before giving a speech by relaxing with a good book. Whereas, the extrovert may be up all-night partying, enjoying the company of others, or busy preparing their speech at the last minute. Their appearance the next day might reflect this and their energy levels could also be severely drained.

Ensuring the speech is tailored for the audience

An extrovert can be so focused on themselves that they forget that the speech is not about them. The objective of any speech is to get the message across to the audience expressing the benefits to those listening.

Is it true that introverts shy away from the spotlight?

The Huffington Post in an article originally published on August 20th, 2013 identifying introvert traits includes the following:

“Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.” It goes on to say that, “Introverts can be excellent leaders and public speakers – and although they’re stereotyped as being the shrinking violet, they don’t necessarily shy away from the spotlight.” Performers like Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera and Emma Watson all identify as introverts, and an estimated 40 percent of CEOs have introverted personalities.

The introvert can, however, suffer with a louder ‘inner critic’ on their shoulder so may convince themselves not to step up to speak.  Everyone suffers the same kind of nerves and apprehensions but for the introvert, they can often feel even more daunted by the idea of standing out and speaking up.

The biggest misconception of all?

That the speaker has got up onto the stage, delivered a great speech – just like that! Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said ‘Great speakers are not born, they’re trained’.  Working with a professional speaking coach can help in so many ways from teaching you to control nerves and anxiety, to delivering a memorable speech presentation with clarity and confidence. I believe that introverts can be brilliantly effective speakers and I wonder if it is because they are also more comfortable admitting that they need a little extra help to deliver a truly polished performance.

Aly Harrold

Award winning, Kent based, professional public speaking coach


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