Wednesday, March 21, 2012

6 things extroverted public speakers can do for introverts

It will surprise most of the people who know me to hear that, according to official measures, I am only slightly extroverted...which is to say, not as extroverted as they think I am. But I know the reality: While I have a bit of an extroversion edge and I do get energized by being around people, I need my alone time, too. And when I have to speak on too little sleep or am otherwise off my game, in turn, I can pull from that extrovert side, but only for so long.

Knowing that has helped me figure out how to be a better speaker, but it's also helped me to pay attention to introverts in my audience so I can do a better job connecting with them. Extroverts will come find me before a talk, raise their hands (sometimes too much), volunteer to do demonstrations, answer questions to the audience. Introverts need a bit more (and sometimes less) from you. Here's my personal list of 6 things you can do for the introverts in your audience when you're the extroverted speaker.
  1. Give fair warning: Introverts benefit from and need extra time to prepare--where an extrovert would jump in and wing it, the introvert skids to a halt without time to anticipate. So clue them in early about what to expect. One of my most prized comments on a feedback form said, "Thank you for taking us outside our boxes--and for warning us early on that you were going to do that." 
  2. Provide openings: Just because people are introverted doesn't mean that they don't want to participate--from getting up in front of the room to try a public speaking exercise to just raising a hand to answer a question. But it falls to the speaker to make sure that she's not just calling on the more obvious extroverted volunteers, by taking questions from all sections of the room and staying aware and acknowledging of the quieter audience members. If you're speaking and notice someone who hasn't participated, make sure you ask what they think or whether they have a question.
  3. Provide closings: For starters, provide yourself some closings and stop talking long enough to let the introverts get a word in edgewise, since being the all-encompassing speaker can make introverts feel shut out and unable to contribute. Introverts also are great listeners...which might seem like a signal to keep talking. Don't. If you've brought an audience member up to demonstrate something, make sure to close out the experience with a thank you, round of applause for the volunteer and the closure she needs to escape back to her seat.
  4. Play to your strengths: Extroverts connect well with people, so make sure you are doing that even with the quieter audience members, using eye contact, moving around the room and other tactics to quietly let introverts know you see them, too. If you can give voice to their issues and concerns, do it--that's one of the strongest ways extroverts can give introverts a hand.
  5. Play to their strengths: If you're working on audience involvement, think through some alternatives that don't require people to get up in front of the room. What can they do in their minds, at their seats, or by turning to the person next to them? When it comes to making yourself available to audience members, do hang around so those who wouldn't question you in front of the group can approach you one-on-one afterward.
  6. Offer alternatives: I often do workshops where some participants wind up on video--and because I use ultralight cameras anyone can use, I clue in the introverts by suggesting they volunteer to operate the cameras if they don't want to be on camera. Don't be surprised if some introverts stretch themselves to be on camera, but do offer options so they don't have to do that if they don't want to.
Extroverts can benefit from realizing that they don't need to fill the silent void all the time, which is what prompted my post on 7 reasons I want you to talk less, speakers. I'm sure I don't have the market cornered here, so let me invite introverts and their friends to suggest more ways speakers who are extroverted can help the introverts in the audience. Please add your tips and advice in the comments....anonymously if you wish.

Looking for famous speeches by women? Check out The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, with a wide variety of women speakers, types of speeches and topics to inspire your next speech. Each one comes with lessons for speakers, plus video or audio and a transcript, where available.