Recently, during conference organized by local technical university, I gave a lecture on leadership. Somewhere along the way, I was asked a rather interesting question – can introvert be a good leader? As I was about to answer, the craziest of ideas came into my mind.
I asked the audience to raise their hands if they thought I was an extrovert.
The results were staggering. 9 out of 10 people raised their hands. Which probably means, that the remaining 10 percent weren’t listening or misunderstood the question. The actual answer is quite the opposite.
I’m as introvert as one can be.
Now, that left both me and the audience somewhat puzzled. My performance was brutally honest, loaded with sarcastic humor and real life stories. Which, in this context, is a cookbook recipe for being entertaining. The perception of my personality came as a surprise to me. Now, how can it be, that someone as closed, over thinking and hateful of “networking” as I am, becomes utterly different person upon ascending the stage?
And then it hit me.
Basically, standing on stage is the everyday reality of introverts. Your stage may be team daily meeting. It may be a family dinner. It may even be shopping, boarding a plane or visiting your local gym. Not to mention the most notorious example of job interview.
The stages change all the time, the actor remains the same.
Whenever facing a social situation, we just enter the role. There’s an old (and not entirely true) concept that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. It’s several years of full time job. Now, imagine, that you perpetually improve a single skill over your lifetime. How good would you become?
Introverts master the trade of public speaking this way.
Why aren’t they the first to come into mind when thinking about this kind of performance? It’s quite easy. Take the situations I mentioned previously: team meeting, family dinner, job interview. Each of these exhausts introverts. Each, however, to a different extent. Why is that?
The more insecure we feel in a given social situation; the more willpower it takes to make it through. That’s why some situations drain us out completely, while some other are mere nuisances. Family dinner is likely be just a joyous event. Job interview, however, might feel like extensive workout at the gym. While being chased by angry German Shepherd. While being on fire.
There’s only one way to make the horror bearable. Security comes from familiarity. You know your team members. You know the meeting. You’ve done it hundreds of times. You know there’s nothing to be afraid of. Likewise, you (hopefully) know your family. You’ve had thousands of dinners with them and the only fear you might have, is that of kids staining your favorite shirt.
Want to do some public speaking then, dear Introvert?
Start doing it. Start your journey of thousand miles with the single step. A short presentation, just for your team. Then, maybe a longer one. And, maybe for some larger, yet still safe audience. You’ll notice how things get easier and easier. You’ll get to master the stage.
I know I did.
The path is laid out. Now go out there, make your point and be heard.
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Originally published on LinkedIn.