An Introvert’s Guide to Public Speaking

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Does public speaking make you nervous? Find out how Carrie prepares to speak at our Infomedia Lunch & Learns.

I was a shy little kid. Actually, I’m a pretty shy adult (or at least a pretty introverted adult). But I do a lot of public speaking anyway. It’s not that I don’t dread it — I always dread it. But if it’s done right, public speaking can be a great way to communicate ideas and information; that’s something I really enjoy, so I’ve learned to suck up my anxieties and fire up the PowerPoint.

One of my weapons in my war on public speaking anxiety? Preparation. Knowing what I’m going to say and setting up a checklist that I run through each time I speak hasn’t taken away my fear of public speaking, but it has made it a lot more manageable. This morning, I’m preparing to speak with Pam at our Infomedia Lunch & Learn on Analytics at Innovation Depot, and I’m currently running through my to-do list. This seems like a good time to share how I dial back the introvert and turn up the presenter/networker/public-facing Carrie. I’m hoping my list can help someone else who finds public speaking difficult … or at least inspire some of you who’ll be at Innovation Depot today to take pity on me and go easy with the tough questions. 🙂

The Night before — Fix the Glitches

The night before a presentation, I try to run through the updated PowerPoint. If it’s a day-long presentation (like a workshop), I’ll just do the intro and conclusion and run through my outline, but with a shorter presentation (like today’s), I like to practice the whole thing. During this run-through, I’m checking for timing and creating a game plan for what I’ll do if I run really long or short — I’m never sure if nerves will make me ramble and go long or talk too quickly and come up short, so I try to plan for both.

The night before, I also pack my public-speaking essentials: my chargers and adaptors, snacks (usually water, coffee and a protein bar — just in case the venue doesn’t have food or drink), a phone stand (for Periscoping), business cards (for networking), and gum or mints (so I don’t have coffee breath when I talk to people afterward).

The Morning before — Prepare and Promote

I like to run through the presentation again in the morning if I have the time. I usually email the PowerPoint to someone else who’ll be at the event in case my computer has a glitch or is incompatible with the venue’s presentation system and we can’t run the presentation through it. I also set a timer on my FitBit to let me know when I’ll have five minutes left so I can start wrapping up. The morning of the event is also when I promote it on social media — I do this both because the venues and sponsors tend to appreciate the promotion, and because the posts can help to remind people who’ve signed up for the event that it’s happening in case they got their schedules mixed up or forgot.

When I Arrive at the Venue — Get Set up

I try to get to the venue early to get set up before people start arriving. In my experience, something goes wrong with the presentation about 50% of the time, so this bonus time is when I set up my computer and make sure the PowerPoint is functioning correctly. I also try to find whoever’s introducing me to be sure we’re on the same page with information (mainly to be sure they aren’t freaked out about pronouncing my last name). I set my podium up with any notes I’ll need, and I put a bottle of water nearby in case I need it while I’m speaking.

Right before Speaking — Relax and Remember

Not everyone needs time alone before speaking, but I’m an anxious introvert, so I definitely do. I take a moment alone to breathe, go through my opening line a couple of times because I’m not good at improvising in front of a room full of people, and check myself in the mirror to make sure my hair isn’t sticking up funny and I don’t have stuff in my teeth. (This usually all happens in the bathroom, because it’s tough to find a spot to be alone and gather your thoughts in a room that’s filling up with people.) If I’m Periscoping the event (I’m @crollwagen on Periscope), I usually start the feed a couple of minutes before the presentation so I can do an introduction for whoever’s tuning in online.

Overkill? Maybe.

So, that’s my process. If you love public speaking or are very extroverted, this probably seems like overkill, but it works for me. If you’re coming to see me at today’s Lunch & Learn, stop by and say hi. And if you want to attend our next Lunch & Learn and see what all the fuss is about, registration opens soon — find out more by visiting our Infomedia Events page.

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Carrie has been copyediting and writing for fifteen years. Her skills were forged in the newsroom at The Birmingham Post-Herald and she’s a huge book nerd (she moonlights as Southern Living’s book reviewer), but a love of paper and ink hasn’t stopped her from mastering the digital world as well: She’s had a blog pretty much since they existed, and she’s run social media for companies big and small. Carrie’s always ready to take on a new communication challenge, lecture us about the proper use of semicolons, or defend the fact that her Instagram account is filled with selfies.


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