It happens every semester. The student who can barely introduce herself on the first day of class without turning bright red ends the semester delivering some of the best speeches in the class. What’s up with that? Can’t we extroverts lay claim to at least one easy A? Public speaking class? No, we can’t.
I’m reading Susan Cain’s wonderful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Cant Stop Talking (Crown, 2012) and like a true extrovert, here I am blogging about it before I’m done reading it. But the part I am eager to discuss is that the idea that balance — not labels — is the key to a successful life. I’m also eager to encourage introverts that they have the power to bring down the house as public speakers.
Cain uses Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt as examples of an introvert and extrovert who developed the ‘other’ parts of themselves in order to fulfill their life’s mission. I kept thinking about Hillary (introvert) and Bill (extrovert) Clinton who did much the same thing. Hillary Clinton in no way relishes campaigning, small-talk making and baby-holding as much as her husband does, but to develop into Hillary the politician, she had to embrace that part of her personality more and stretch it — like rubber bands — as Cain says in order to be successful as a politician.
That’s what I’ve noticed my introverted students do in public speaking class. The smart ones are smart enough to know that to be successful they have to speak (it is speech class after all), but they don’t have to love every minute of it and they might even be very uncomfortable. But, like the Avis commercial of yesteryear, they try harder than the natural speakers. (Like the silver-tongued extrovert who got a B- and has sent me three emails haggling about his grade). Charming guy, actually effusively charming, but his speeches lacked structure and research. My introvert A student’s speeches had great structure, considerable research and (bonus!) she did something a lot of extroverts never do before they give a speech: she practiced it. Probably ten times.
So, if you are out there, reading this, all introverted and hoping that in 2013 you will avoid public speaking at all costs, don’t do it. You will be robbing your audience of excellent speeches. Here are a few tips to get started:
Choose a topic you are passionate about
Figure out the goal of your speech (teaching, persuading, entertaining)
Research the topic
Organize your speech into an attention-grabbing intro, a well stuctured body and a capitavating conclusion
If you have a smart phone, you have a little hand-held speech studio. Deliver your speech into your smart phone and play it back several times. Show a friend or a nice public speaking professor from your local college campus. Get feedback.
Watch yourself and realize that you are better than you think!
I’ve come to realize that great public speaking may be an introvert’s game.
And now that she is stepping down as secretary of state, stay tuned for introvert Hillary Clinton to re-emerge on the national stage. Will she run for president? Maybe. But leaders lead and she’ll tire of HGTV before too long.