Public Speaking & the Introverted Extrovert

Growing up my Mom always had to make excuses as to why her adorable little girl, dressed in a bonnet and rubber boots was so quiet.  My Mom would say, “Oh she’s just shy, she’d love some cake!”  My Dad on the other hand would give me the glare, and then tap my shoulder until I spoke up.  To speak or not to speak was the question.  Either way, Mom made sure I got some cake, despite the disapproving look of my Dad.

My Mom, the woman who taught me to be myself and speak up for that piece of cake.

As we get older though, we can’t take Mom to work.  If you need to speak up either because you run a department, or because you’re an employee who is leading a project, then you just do it.  You get up, you speak, and sometimes you flail around until you get comfortable.  I unfortunately had to learn the hard way how to speak in front of large groups.

I was an introvert, and I needed to be an extrovert in order to climb that ladder.  I realized this during my first office job, when I was screamed at by the owner of the company, in front of the entire company.  I believe the words stupid, incapable, and idiot were used.  But I don’t remember, I saw flames rising from his head, and I cowered down into my chair.  I knew what was right and what was wrong, but I was too scared to speak up.  I made a plan to find a career path where I could grow and feel confident about speaking.

That’s what attracted me to healthcare.  I wanted to learn, and I wanted to be an independent woman.  I would practice what I was going to say by doing research, saying speeches in the shower, and giving myself a pep talk before heading into the office.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I still panic inside and sweat a little before speaking in front of a group, but these steps helped me overcome the fear of flames:

People will Listen

Before you get into work remember, people will listen to you.  You are the expert that day, and that’s why you are up there speaking.  And, they might even appreciate that you are up there instead of them.  So give yourself a break!

Pep Talk Yourself

When you get up eat a good breakfast, give yourself plenty of time, and brush your hair.  Tell yourself, “Self, you are freaking amazing today.  We got out of bed on time and we remembered to brush our hair.”  Repeat to yourself positive messages, “I am smart.  I like myself today.  If I mess up that’s okay, at least I am not speaking to Congress.”  Oh, but if you are speaking to Congress, YouTube their bloopers, they are pretty hilarious and I bet you’ll do great!

Prepare your Agenda in Advance

If you are running a meeting come prepared.  Let the group know what you are talking about in advance.  These talks shouldn’t be a surprise.  If you’re teaching something, bring some handouts to break the ice or send out the curriculum ahead of time so your group can prepare.

Breathe and Smile

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly.  Smile at the group.  Make eye contact.  Stay positive.  I can’t say this enough, if you are nervous don’t let them know.  Keep smiling, it’ll lighten the load you have on your shoulders and show them that you are confident.

Listen to the People

No matter how much planning goes into your meeting, training session or speech, you might get interrupted and asked tough questions.  Bring a notepad to your meeting and plan to write some important questions down, to be answered with a follow-up email or call.  All questions are good questions, if you have the answer, even better!

And don’t imagine people in their underwear.  That is a terrible, unfortunate idea that someone had.  I don’t recommend it.  I tried it once, and I couldn’t get out of my head, “What if so and so is going commando…oh my gosh, but they are in jeans, wouldn’t that….” You can see how easily my mind wanders huh?  Picture them in hot pink track suits if you need some humor to bring out your confidence.

My brother David will sometimes remind me that I am very confident, and he’ll just post this sweet doozy of a picture on my Facebook timeline. As a sweet reminder. I think!

Cover photo by Quinn Dombrowski

You may think you're shy or unable to speak in front of crowds, but with these amazing tips you won't have any trouble with public speaking at work any longer.

Liz Benson
Liz is a double agent — corporate lady by day, freelance writer by night. In the middle, she is a mom of three wonderful children and a supporter of the underground gaming world of Twitch & Beam. She can be found tweeting out the latest and greatest on Twitter @BtmBlondie.
Liz Benson

Liz Benson

Liz is a double agent -- corporate lady by day, freelance writer by night. In the middle, she is a mom of three wonderful children and a supporter of the underground gaming world of Twitch & Beam. She can be found tweeting out the latest and greatest on Twitter @BtmBlondie.

4 thoughts on “Public Speaking & the Introverted Extrovert

  • January 26, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    These are some great tips. I’ve never been fond of public speaking; and even after receiving a psychology degree and understanding different mechanisms I could employ, I still hate it. =) However, I am totally fine having discussions and conversations within a group setting. My husband always says that he believes I would be an amazing Professor/Teacher, because I like to challenge others and I like to be challenged when learning myself or teaching our little one. However, I cannot stand being in front of a crowd of people. However, within the last 2 years I’ve taken on more and more responsibilities; which could potentially lead me to have to speak in front crowds. So, thank you for these tips.

    • Liz Benson
      January 26, 2017 at 9:18 pm

      Alisha- Sounds like you’d do great at teaching. The school system needs people like you, honestly..have you ever tried being a substitute? I know it’s not fun to be the temporary person in a classroom but it might get your feet wet and motivate you to go after it 🙂

      Thank you for reading the blog!


  • January 24, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Great tips because I am not a fan of public speaking either!

    • Liz Benson
      January 26, 2017 at 9:17 pm

      I am still getting used to it Grace! 😀

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