An Introvert’s Fear Of Public Speaking


From The Quiet Entrepreneur Introvert Coach mailbox:

“Even though I am an introvert, I know on some level that doing talks will be a part of my future. Do you ever do public speaking? How do you cope? I used to be in a band, and though at first I found it difficult (I was so nervous I wanted the ground to swallow me), I got comfortable with it and still have no problem singing in public (as long as I know the lyrics 😉 ). But when I tried to speak in public one time (a ‘tester’ session with several other beginners) I felt nervous and almost started hyperventilating! Any tips? 🙂 I guess it’s about becoming comfortable with being visible…”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 74% of the population has a fear of public speaking – and believe me, they are not all introverts. In fact, some introverts feel quite comfortable on stage (I’m one of them). So – assuming public speaking is something you WANT to do, to promote your business as an introvert, rather than being something you’ve been told you SHOULD do – here are some tips on public speaking for introverts.

  1. You say you have no problem singing in public, as long as you know the lyrics – but it wasn’t always so. How did you overcome your nervousness about singing? Re-trace your steps from nervousness to confidence in singing, and then repeat the process for public speaking.

  3. The key to confidence on stage (especially for introverts) is preparation and practice. Topher Morrison, who trains professional speakers, writes a full script for every talk he does – and he says that, to be a world-class speaker, you need to practise 20 hours for every 5 minutes you’re on stage! (Download the free PDF “The Professional Speaking Secrets of Topher Morrison” here)

  5. I like to prepare a Powerpoint presentation, with bullet points to prompt me, so that I don’t forget what I wanted to say – or if there isn’t a computer available at the venue, I write bullet points on cards that I can refer to as a reminder. You could also use an NLP “anchoring” technique – using a physical or visual trigger to remind you how each section of your talk begins. Once you remember the first sentence, the rest will flow naturally.

  7. Use video to help you practise. I find that to-camera videos of short talks are good practice for memorising a script, and they can also be put on your website to attract invitations to do speaking gigs. Filming yourself standing up and delivering your talk will make you aware of any little idiosyncrasies that might be distracting to your audience – such as fidgeting or saying “umm”. That’s how I discovered I had a tendency to flap my arms like chicken wings to emphasise what I was saying!! 😉

  9. Anticipate a good outcome for your talk – visualise it being a huge success and having a massively positive impact on your audience. Picture people coming in to the room, looking miserable or downhearted; their positive reactions as they engage with your presentation; and the happy look on their faces as they leave at the end of the talk, inspired and empowered. (This visualisation is also an anchor, to boost your confidence on the day.)

  11. To further build your confidence, stand tall and visualise yourself as a confident, inspiring and empowering speaker; notice how you are standing confident and in control; see the positive effect you’re having on your audience, hear their affirming comments and feel the energy in the room. When you start to feel “in the zone”, step forward into an imaginary “circle of excellence”, just in front of you – and really pump up the volume on how you’re feeling. Once that feeling has reached its peak and is starting to wane, step back out of the circle of excellence.
    Do this exercise while you’re practising your talk – and on the day of your talk, use it as an anchor by imagining a circle of excellence on the stage. Stand one step away from where you want to be when you’re delivering your talk – then step into your circle of excellence just as you start your talk, to re-engage with those heightened positive feelings of confidence.

  13. If you feel worried about looking your audience in the eye – practise using your peripheral vision instead. First, focus on a spot on the wall at the back of the room, just above eye level (I tend to focus on the EXIT sign!). Then gradually de-focus your eyes, so that your periferal vision is activated and you become aware of every movement in a 180° radius in front and to the side of you, without focusing on anything in particular.
    Just before you start your live talk, repeat this process, so that you are looking in the general direction of the audience, and can engage with them without staring at anyone in particular (which is downright offputting, anyway, if you happen to be the person who’s being stared at!).

By using some or all of these techniques, you can feel relaxed and confident, and you can deliver an inspirational and transformational talk. Have fun! 🙂

If you have a specific challenge around promoting your business as an introvert, and you would like help with it, Ask The Quiet Entrepreneur’s Visibility Coach.

About the author Julia Barnickle - The Quiet EntrepreneurJulia Barnickle is a film maker, photographer, artist and writer, and the founder of The Quiet Entrepreneur community for introverts in business. She offers visibility coaching to raise your online profile, and helps you create videos to promote and deliver your services.

Follow Julia on Instagram | Youtube | Twitter | or on her website.

9 comments… add one
  • Love the article Julia! Some very helpful tips here. I’ll definitely be trying the video – which is also something I want to do – to see how I present and hold myself. The key I think is in the preparation, absolutely, and I am a big fan of visualisations! Thank you 🙂
    Esther Lemmens recently posted..Digitalie logo design – the creative processMy Profile

    • Julia Barnickle

      Thank you – I’m glad you found it helpful, Esther. 🙂

  • Great article Julia! As an Introvert and at times a shy person, I had often found myself exhausted even before I begun my talks or group work. Now, for me its all in the preparation both practical and emotional. I used to drink caffeine to be more alert and do processes to help get into a high performance state. These made me feel worse. Thankfully I discovered the opposite works for me; I’m the most confident when I’m calm. So now in addition to giving myself enough time to research and prepare my presentations/talks, a cup of camomile tea and the right Ludovico Einaudi track half an hour before works wonders 🙂

    • Julia Barnickle

      Thanks Catherine! That’s such a good point – about not over-stimulating yourself before doing a talk. I think that’s the advice extroverts would give us – but introvert speakers often have a quiet charisma that really only shines when we’re feeling calm.

  • I love this post, Julia!

    Interestingly, although I’m deeply introverted, I’ve NEVER had a problem standing up on a stage and talking to people. I think it’s because I get to prepare what I’m going to say in advance, practice it, and I have a specific structure and purpose for the talk (I’m very task-focussed, rather than relationship focussed)

    Of course, having to interact with complete strangers one-to-one AFTER the fact can freak me out sometimes. I have found that creating and then practicing some general “stock responses” / “stock conversation starters” can help me with the after-talk interactions.


    Tanja @ Conscious Introvert Success recently posted..“Awesome Introverts Amongst Us” Interview: Karin RobbinsMy Profile

    • Julia Barnickle

      Thanks Tanja! Like you, I’ve always felt very comfortable standing up on stage and either talking or singing – but I can get very tongue-tied if anyone wants to talk to me afterwards – although, funnily enough, I’m relationship focused more than task focused! Thanks for the suggestion of “stock responses / conversation starters” – very helpful. 🙂

  • Love this! I am an introvert, and I used to be really, really shy…until I started Toastmasters in 2011. It completely changed my life, and now I love speaking. It’s so nice to have that fear out of the way, and to discover a new thing I’m good at.

    For those who get nervous (and who are open to homeopathic solutions), I always recommend Bach Rescue Remedy 15 minutes or so before going on stage to speak.
    Holly Worton recently posted..[SHP 28] How to Brand Your Business From the Heart, with Cathy BallardMy Profile

    • Julia Barnickle

      Thanks Holly – that’s great advice, and healthier than a stiff G&T! 😉 I’m glad you’ve discovered you love speaking now.

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