Public Speaking for the Quieter Half

By Guest

nancy ancowitz w photo creditBy guest blogger: Nancy Ancowitz
Business Communication Coach and Author of Self-Promotion for Introverts® 

When I was writing my book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®, Warren Buffett shared with me that he was terrified of public speaking as a young man. He said that he “got physically ill even thinking about speaking.” So he took a Dale Carnegie class where he joined 30 people who had trouble saying their names. Isn’t it comforting to learn that even Buffett, who now speaks eloquently off the cuff about everything from investing to the price of ethanol, has his own turnaround story as a public speaker?

Does the thought of giving a speech feel scarier than death to you? If so, you’re not alone—that fear is widespread among introverts and extroverts alike. However, since you die only once but you can give many presentations in your lifetime, why not make public speaking not only less frightful but actually enjoyable?

Public speaking is just a skill that anyone can learn, and it doesn’t typically take long to do so. If you’re an introvert, you’re probably more comfortable deep in thought behind the scenes than pontificating in front of a crowd under the spotlight. However, the beauty of public speaking for introverts is that it’s a highly efficient use of your limited social energy. When you get up in front of an audience, you can reach many people at once rather than having to ramp yourself up for meeting after meeting.

Whether or not you’re an introvert, if you’re afraid of public speaking, I recommend getting the support that you need to help manage your fear and to build your oratorical skills. Consider taking a workshop, hiring a coach, and/or joining Toastmasters International. Meanwhile, here are a few tips to help make your next speech easier, particularly if you’re an introvert.

1. If you typically find one-on-one interactions not so intimidating, consider relating to your presentation as a one-on-one interaction with each of the individuals in your audience (rather than as a scary blob of humanity!).
2. Remember why you’re there and what your audience will gain by hearing you speak. Focus on that rather than how they might judge you.
3. It’s particularly important for introverts to arrive well rested and to leave sufficient time between social interactions.
4. Prepare a few key points that target your audience’s interests.
5. Getting started is often the hardest part. So memorize your opening line. Use a quote, a statistic, a piece of news, or something else that your audience will find compelling.
6. Practice out loud, ask someone to videotape you, and then see what you do well and what you need to improve on.
7. Prepare something to do if you get thrown off, lose your place, or get a case of the shakes. My favorite technique is to focus on breathing.
8. Have a punchy closing line ready.

Check out her new book on

Nancy Ancowitz, Self-Promotion for Introverts®: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead, McGraw-Hill, 2009.


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