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The Shy Presenter: braindumping an introvert’s guide to public speaking

Why speak

  • You’ll learn even more about your topic
  • You’ll meet lots of people without having to start the conversation
  • You can make a bigger difference

Challenges

  • Don’t know what to share
  • Don’t know how to share it
  • Don’t know whom to share it with
  • Anxious about reception

Typical approach (scary!)

  • Practice with friend or mirror
  • Join Toastmasters and other speaking groups to work on confidence and delivery
  • Typical advice doesn’t help you figure out what you want to say, how you want to say it, and how to get up there

Here’s another way

  • Write (journal or blog) until you figure out what other people ask you for help about or something that can save other people time
  • Test your material by writing a blog post.
  • Share a lot of blog posts so that there are plenty of opportunities.
  • When you see that there’s interest, test your topic again by making a short slide deck. Share this on Slideshare or some other presentation site. Keep your presentation short and simple. Less to remember, less to forget.
  • Share lots of those and see which take off.
  • Based on interest, decide which ones you want to turn into a webinar. Webinars are a good way to start because you can refer to your notes and not worry too much about body language.
  • Propose your webinar to a virtual conference or webinar series organizer.
  • If accepted, revise your slides, rehearse your ideas, and go for it!

Why this works

You’ve already done the hard work of thinking through your topic, checking for interest / sense, and preparing your slides.

You don’t have to worry about people not being interested or people not finding value in your work because you’ve tested the topics beforehand.

You can connect with a friendly audience before and after your talk.

Next steps

Make a list of things you know that other people might benefit from.

Write a journal entry or blog post that explains one of those things. Repeat.

Notes from WITI: The Shy Connector

100 people and I chatted about networking for introverts in The Shy Connector, a webinar hosted by Women in Technology, International.

I’d love to hear from you. If you have any thoughts, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to post a comment or contact me privately. If you attended the presentation, please fill out the survey, suggest improvements, and tell me about other topics you would like to learn more about!

Slides:

Jump to the text chat

Speaker’s notes:

Hi, I’m Sacha Chua, and I’m an introvert. <clapping>

You might be, too. Do you prefer bookstores over bars? Puzzles more than parties? Close friends instead of crowds? If so, you might be an introvert.

It can be hard to connect as an introvert. LinkedIn and Facebook can feel like popularity contests. How many friends do you have? Should you say yes to invitations from strangers? Meetups can be overwhelming. So many choices to make, so many people to meet…

So what can you do if you’re shy?

There are plenty of books and blogs about social networking, because success and happiness often depend on whom you know and who knows you.

“Sell yourself!” “Brand yourself!” “Attend as many events as you can!” “Talk to people in the elevator!” they advise. Right.

Most of the networking tips I’ve read are geared toward extroverts who don’t need tips on how to talk to strangers.

Me, I hate starting conversations. I find it hard to make small talk. I’m too shy to reach out. Following up takes focused effort.
Sound familiar? Ever felt that way, too?

Here are seven things I’ve learned about connecting as an introvert. I hope these tips will help you play to your strengths.

Tip 1: It’s okay to be an introvert.

You don’t need to fake being extroverted. You don’t need to be a glad-handing, business-card-throwing networker in order to connect. Just listen and ask a few questions during conversations. Give yourself quiet time to recharge. Connect online if you feel more comfortable that way. Figure out what works for you.

For me, blogging often works out better than going to events. Now that I understand that about myself, it’s easier for me to say, “No, I’m planning to stay home” when faced with an invite. I’m much more comfortable blogging than partying, and I can share in a way I simply can’t do in person.

Tip 2: Change your perspective.

It’s not about selling yourself. It’s not about marketing your personal brand. It’s not about figuring out what other people can do for you. It’s about focusing on what you can do to help other people.

Focus on what can help other people be happier and more successful. Ask questions. Explore ideas.

Focusing the spotlight on the other person makes it easier to make conversation and get to know others.

Tip 3: Give people reasons to talk to you, both online and offline.

Most people find it hard to start a conversation, too. Do them a favour and give them an excuse to approach you.

An interesting hat makes you easy to find in a crowd. Accessories with character draw remarks. Keywords on your nametag lead to conversations.

Online? Share your interests and thoughts. People can find you through search engines and reach out to learn from you.

My favourite? Giving a presentation. Talking to a hundred people at once is easier than talking to two at a time because I can rehearse what I want to say. I reach way more people this way, and I don’t have to start any conversations!

Tip 4: Look for ways to help.

While you’re listening, think: What do I know? Who do I know? How can I help?

Have I read a book they might like? Have I talked to someone they should meet? Do I have an interesting idea that can save them time?

Even if you can’t help right away, if you make it a point to remember their need, you may be able to connect the dots later.

Tip 5: Give yourself homework.

Following up with someone is easier when you’ve promised to send them a link or introduce them to someone else who can help.

That’s why you should always carry something you can use to take notes. Why worry about forgetting when you can write things down?

Tip 6: Make it easy to get to know you.

So you’ve met someone, learned about their interests, and followed up. How do you build the connection from there?

Even if you don’t like talking about yourself, you can make it easier for other people to get to know you.

Share your interests, skills, and goals. The more people know about what you can do, the more you can find opportunities to help them.

A personal website or profile page is a good way to start. Link it in your e-mail signature and put it on your business card.

A blog is even better. If you share tips, ideas, and a bit of a personal touch, people might even subscribe and really get to know you over time. They might even help you grow! =)

Tip 7: Keep growing, and your network will grow with you.

As you develop your passions, improve your skills, and grow your network, you’ll be able to create more value — and more, and more, and more.

The more you understand your passions, the easier it is to communicate them.

The more you improve your skills, the more you can help others.

The more people you know, the more introductions and connections you can make.

If you share what you’re learning with people, your network can grow along with you.

Then you won’t have to fake being an extrovert or drain yourself of energy; people and opportunities will simply flow to you.

Which of these tips would you like to focus on, practice, and learn more about? How can I help you explore your networking potential?


Notes from the text chat:

General notes

I’m an introvert in a business environment and an extrovert outside
The whole marketing myself through social media is a real challenge

Giving people reasons to talk to you

The name tag words are a good idea!

I want to see your funny hat
I think people would think I was strange if I walked in with a funny hat
I would be more shy if I have a hat on
Depends… sophisticated hat = empowering. goofy hat = loss of professional credibility

Living in an extroverted world

I pretend to be an extrovert all the time. People think I know what I’m doing but I am a mess inside.
People think i’m extroverted and don’t understand when i try to explain that i need down time or can’t overschedule myself
What about someone who complains all the time about personal issues?
Being a person that does not watch a lot of TV, I find that I need to watch the news more in order to be able to converse and stay up on current events, all over, including in the entertainment world. To be more well-rounded.

Conversations with introverts

Sometimes people just don’t talk back. I may start the conversation asking questions, but get yes/no answers.
I hear that!
Yes — when you’re trying to talk to other introverts!

Starting the conversation

What do you say when you first see someone besides “how are you”?
Instead of people “how are you” I ask them what brought them to the event, which has worked for me
brava i like the question, what are your passions
I’m a new grad and I work in a team with members that have been working in the company for 15+ years. I have a hard time connecting with them and often times i feel intimidated to even start a conversation that isn’t work related… : |
In a corporate environment, how do you initiate the connection – i always feel awkward inviting a “stranger” to lunch
I agree that it is hard to start non-work-related conversations.
new grad; ask one of those people to help you / take you under their wing

Leaving conversations

I have a hard time exiting a conversation gracefully…
How about “It was great talking to you…”
What about saying, I have to go, I have a few other people to meet with

Energy

How can you calm yourself down if you have to lead a conference call, or even worse, make a business speech in front of your peers?
I jump up and down about 20 times to get rid of nervous energy.
Don’t think as talking to peers. Talk to a friendly face or voice you already know.
Talk to “A” person.

Resources

I’m coaching a very shy young woman who is starting a business where she has to invite people to hear about her new business. She isn’t in WITI. Where could I get other information to help me help her?
Joining a local Toastmasters club is an excellent way to improve personal communications as well as giving business presentations.
Yes, Toastmasters is great. We used to have one here. You’re able to get feedback.

Meetings

What are techniques to interrupt people in a meeting when you want to make a point but everyone is talking and there’s no break in the conversation?
What about making more of an effort to speak up in meetings (especially remote)? People could incorrectly interpret shyness or quietness as lack of interest.

Voice and speaking

I get more nervous because I can’t get the “quiver” out of my voice. Any suggestions?
Doesn’t matter how prepared I am.
I get so nervous my neck and chest get red with hives!
When I speak in front of crowds, I stammer over my words. HELP!
Practice with a friend.
Practice in front of a mirror.
When I hear a speaker having trouble, nervous, stammering, I always, always feel I want them to do well, and I usually try and pay attention to them and smile to give them confidence, maybe knowing others (strangers) are on your side might help with the jitters

Personas – professional and social

How do you mix personal and business in social media?
I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting my personal site in my business signature
I use LinkedIn for professional networking and Facebook for personal networking and try not to blur the line
Social networking is big; however, I believe that you need to be careful with what’s put on there, especially in the business area. I’ve seen it used against people too.

Can you say something about posture? How do we show a positive posture?
I meant posture as far as your attitude
How you present yourself

Impressions

I had a friend share with me recently at a networking dinner that I had my hands clasped near my chin a lot, and she said that made me appear disengaged… so I had to watch that.
Here’s my favorite tip & it allows your first impression to be a strong one even if I don’t feel that way– Be the first to extend your hand to say “Hello, I’m Vickie.” You appear to be an extrovert
I did a Krispy Kreme fundraiser for Haiti at work for them to put a face to my name. :D One of the executives came by to pick up a couple of boxes and it was good to meet him!

Keeping your spirits up

How do you stay positive if people don’t respond or turn you down?
That is hard for me too – to stay positive.

Presentation style and delivery

This is the first entirely visual presentation I’ve seen and appreciate the clarity in ways it portrays the message
These are great slides. Simple and clean and really get the point across.
brava
Thank you Sacha your presentation was great!
This is the best webinar I have ever participated in
Thank you so much, Sacha — I totally relate to your perspective on being an introvert — thanks for doing this!
My first experience with this type of presentation – it was very helpful
I feel like the ‘It’s okay’ smiley guy right now :)
thank you!
Great presentation. Thanks Sacha.
Very helpful–thanks
excellent presentation – great innovation with your deployment

From the interaction: Challenges people faced: Fairly even spread, more emphasis on small talk and building the relationship

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From the interaction: Tips to take forward: Perspective and growth

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Previous Shy Connector discussions

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Post a comment or contact me privately!

Next step for me: Blog about the different topics we discussed, then plan follow-up presentations or articles. Stay tuned!

Reflecting on introversion and shyness; help me find better words!

I’m an introvert. It’s not a bad thing. I’m growing into my strengths.

It took me a while to understand that part of me. My parents wanted me to enjoy myself at family reunions. My sisters called me square because I didn’t like hanging out at bars and clubs. Sometimes they let me just read. Other times, I think they wished I was more outgoing. I felt outgoing enough. I liked my own company, and that of a few others. I could spend hours just reading or using the computer. I wasn’t one of the popular kids, but I had a close-knit group of friends I brought together.

People don’t believe I’m an introvert. I speak. I write. I introduce people to others. It seems introverts should be tongue-tied in company, shying away from social contact. I’ve met some like that: hard to get to know, but rewarding when you do.

I’m learning to work with who I am. I plan my schedule so that I don’t overextend myself with events. I enjoy organizing my thoughts and communicating them through presentations, blog posts, and sketches. I get my energy through quiet time.

Thanks to books about introversion, I feel comfortable saying, “Thank you for the invitation to the party, but I’m looking forward to a quiet evening.” No need to pretend I’m over-committed. No excuses about work that needs to be done.

I can fill a conference with energy and hold my own in a room when needed. I even enjoy the buzz. But I know I’m an introvert, so I build quiet time into my schedule and I don’t feel guilty if I need a break.

Shyness is a different matter. There are shy extroverts. Shyness is social anxiety–a feeling of awkwardness, a lack of confidence.

I need a better word. I am not shy. I would just rather jump into the middle of a conversation than start one.

Given a choice between going to a cocktail party with mostly-strangers and hoping for a serendipitous connection, or reflecting on a topic and writing a blog post that can lead to more conversations over time, I’ll pick writing. It gives people reasons to start the conversation with me. It scales, too.

I mix in some randomness so that I’m not constrained by homogeneity. I take up different interests and meet different people. I reach out, read blogs, and leave comments. Yes, sometimes I start the conversation—when I can jump into the middle of it, informed by what people have shared publicly.

I don’t reach out to random people on Facebook and ask them to be my friend. I don’t chat people up at bus stops and in elevators. People who do that make me nervous. Being singled out in an anonymous crowd makes me wonder about people’s intentions. I value the ability to choose when to withdraw and when to engage.

I share, publicly and non-intrusively, so people can choose to reach out to me. We can jump into the middle of a conversation. It’s an odd sort of intimacy. It works.

So what is this? Not shy, not anti-social, not asocial… Pragmatic, because this approach lets me reach far more people? Lazy, because it reduces the work of connection? Respectful, because I give people the choice? None of those quite seem to fit. What word expresses this well?

The shy connector’s guide to business travel

As an introvert, I often find business travel quite stressful. I know I should be making better use of the time and money spent getting me there by meeting lots of people while I’m in town, but the workshops and presentations I’m in town for are usually intense, so I don’t want to overcommit. Here are some things that have helped me with business travel:

  1. Fly with just a carry-on. With some clever packing and trimming, you can fit all of your needs for short business trips into a single carry-on piece of luggage (or maybe one piece plus a small bag, which many airlines will allow). Not only will you never have to worry about dealing with airline customer service when it comes to tracking down lost luggage, you’ll usually be able to skip the lines by checking in online and or through a kiosk. This makes it easier to avoid rush hour, too.
  2. Leave space in your schedule. You’ve already invested so much on travel and lodging. You might be tempted to maximize your trip by cramming every break, morning, and evening with meetings. Don’t. Give yourself time to recharge, especially on your first day in and before any important presentations. It’s okay to spend some quiet time in the hotel room or walking around. You can experiment with meeting people, too. Find people on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Doppler and arrange something beforehand, or use Twitter to plan something on the fly. I tend to prefer organizing things on the fly because that lets me adapt to my energy level.
  3. Ping people. You might not have time to meet everyone (see tip #2), but a trip gives you a natural excuse to reach out to people in the area and tell them you were thinking of them. Check your address book and social network, and send off some notes to say hi. If you share a few details about why you’re in town, you might end up making unexpected connections.
  4. Find a local spot if you want to shake up your routine, or keep it consistent if that works for you. Find out what you like. Staying in interchangeable hotels and eating at chain restaurants can make business trips blur into each other, but that can be a good thing. On the other hand, local favourites might lead to new discoveries. Figure out your style, and work with that.
  5. Have little rituals to ease the transition, and enjoy the silence. It might be the way you pack your bags. It might be the kind of book you take on the plane. It might be the long bath you take after you reach your hotel. Enjoy the silence. You’ve got a hotel room to yourself and no chores to do. Relax in the bliss of being alone, and come out of your shell when you’re ready.

What other ways do you make travel easier?

The shy connector’s schedule: making time to breathe

hamsterwheelIt starts innocently enough. You’re asked to attend a meeting next Tuesday. You accept. Your coworkers invite you to lunch on Wednesday. You agree. A friend invites you to her birthday party next week. You put it on your calendar. Then another meeting invitation comes, and another, and another. Networking events, coffee breaks, and presentations crowd into your schedule.

If this has ever made you feel suffocated, exhausted, and in dire need of some alone time, you might be an introvert.

I know it’s difficult to say no to opportunities. I’ve accepted too many invitations and tried to attend too many events. Last year’s conference season was particularly stressful. The first week, I was in New York for the Best Practices Conference, giving a presentation on blogging. The second week, I was at the even bigger Technical Leadership Exchange in Florida, giving a presentation on Generation Y. By the time I got to the Web 2.0 Summit (which I was helping organize), I was ready to hide. (And I did, behind the podium.)

As much as I enjoy learning from people in conversations and conferences, needing to be “on” all the time is incredibly draining. I’m learning how to manage my schedule and how to say no.

It’s important to figure out what works for you. For example, I don’t want to be out late two nights in a row. In fact, I’d rather not be out late at all. This means that before I accept an invitation, I look at my schedule for that time and my schedule for the week, making sure that I’m not trying to pack too much in.

In addition to getting better at saying no, I’m also getting better at scheduling time for myself. I’ve blocked off time on my calendar for planning, working on important tasks, and responding to mail. Sometimes people still schedule meetings during those times, but in general, I can be sure that my day won’t be full of conference calls. I sometimes block off time during evenings and weekends for particular projects, too. If I’m going to travel for a workshop or a presentation, I want to have a quiet week before and after the trip, and I plan accordingly.

Does this limit opportunities compared to extroverts who are out there schmoozing? Maybe. But I’ve tried running in extrovert mode for extended periods of time, and I can’t do my best if I feel like I’m coming apart. Besides, the things I do in my quiet time—read, write, reflect—also help me connect with people, although in a more introvert-friendly way. It’s better to work with the grain instead of against it.

It’s important to make time to breathe. If you find yourself running ragged because you feel that you have to say yes to everything, stop and slow down. Schedule introvert dates with yourself. Make time for breaks. Say no. You’ll find that the quiet time you give yourself will make it even easier to connect with people when you do, because you’ll be happier and better rested.

What can you do to free up some time for yourself?

Vacations and the introvert

What’s your ideal vacation? Many people would probably describe an idyllic retreat on a pristine beach. Others dream of action-packed adventuring or blitzing through foreign hotspots.

Me, I want a clean, well-lighted place. So I’d better figure out what I want to do with my vacation, or else I won’t get to make space for it.

I don’t think of a vacation as an escape from work. I like my work, and I live an awesome life even during the weekdays. I like investing blocks of time to prepare the foundation for even more awesomeness. I like developing skills. I like catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while. I like reflecting, writing, drawing, expressing. For me, a vacation is a block of unstructured time that I can use to make things happen.

Last August, W- and I took a staycation. We got so much done around the house. We picked up a new hobby (canning), deepened existing interests (sewing and photography), got some exercise (biking), and puttered around for two weeks of weekends. It was absolute bliss.

I guess I’m a strong introvert that way. It’s not about external stimulation from scenic views or activities. I want to explore the inner landscapes of my mind. This may sound self-centered to extroverts, but introverts understand that self-centering – becoming centered – isn’t necessarily bad, is even essential.

The previous paragraph still looks somewhat scandalous to me. I imagine other people’s reactions: “Are you saying that the world isn’t as interesting as your thoughts?”

It is impossible to explain. Yes, I see the value of stepping out of my comfort zone, of exposing myself to new and interesting things. I read with interest my eldest sister’s stories of awe in the African savannah, and the adventures my middle sister takes around the Philippines. But for myself, everyday moments already contain a universe of insights waiting to be unpacked. I don’t need to gaze on the Mona Lisa in the Louvre to feel inspired by the sublime (although I have, thanks to my mom’s love of travel; the painting was smaller than I’d imagined, but beautiful). The wood grain of a table is fascinating enough for me. I think of the complex processes needed to shape it and bring it to our kitchen, and I am amazed. I’d be perfectly happy to stay at home and explore the intricacies of Manila, or even to stay in Toronto and connect with people online, or even just to sit in silence, reflect, write, read, and maybe chat with a few people. Actually, I wouldn’t mind spending the vacation doing voluntourism instead. Building houses, that sort of stuff.

What an unpopular way of thinking! So I adapt, because my sisters chafe at being confined to the city boundaries during a vacation, and my parents insist on the value of shared experiences. (Which is true; we do have some great shared stories, such as the one involving schlepping a box of iced tea around Europe.) It seems to be the only way to convince my father to set aside his work, relax, and take a real break. Easier by far for me to pack a notebook, a pen, and the fortitude to ignore my sisters laughing at me for being such a geek. I do join in activities—I breathed water during our attempts to learn wakeboarding, and I got the hang of bodyboarding—but I don’t have to do everything or be into everything, and I certainly don’t need to be fixed.

The more I understand about myself, the easier it gets. For example, now I understand why that last car trip drove me crazy.

The introverted daughter or son in a family of extraverts, for example, may learn to be more extroverted to keep up with the rest of the family but also must find time alone, perhaps through reading in his or her room. However, car trips or other situations in which s/he can’t physically get away may remain difficult. 

Leslie Sword, The Gifted Introvert

By golly, it really is liberating to give myself permission to be myself. I’m happy that my sister’s excited about the vacation, and I’m okay with tagging along. I’m definitely going to geek out when I’m there, though, and my sister is not to drag me into activities or spike my orange juice.

What are the ingredients of a perfect vacation for me?

  • Time to meet up with family and friends. After all, that’s why I’m going halfway around the world, despite airfare and travel time.
  • Enough alone time, too. I realized that this had gotten on my nerves a few vacations ago, when I was getting stressed out over the fact that I didn’t have as much myself-time as I used to, and people expected real-time interaction all the time when I’d gotten used to being able to reflect on and get back to people about deeper questions.
  • Skill development. I want to get better at writing, sketching, sewing, taking pictures, and cooking.
  • Choice. I want to be able to spend time on the things I want to spend time on, and get out of the things I don’t want to spend time on.

I think we can make this trip work out, and maybe we’ll get the hang of the alone/shared-time dynamic too.

Sharing this here because I think other introverts struggle with this too, and I’d love to hear what you think and how you deal with vacations. My mom once asked why I blog about family things. People say it takes a village to raise a child. Y’all are my village, and I’ll take all the help I can get when it comes to figuring things out. And who knows, maybe sharing these thoughts will help someone else down the road…

So… Introverted? How do you deal with vacations?

(See my comment below for additional reflections.)