5 Ways Introverted Leaders Can Feel More Confident Presenting at Work
It’s five minutes before the meeting. Your palms are sweaty, your mouth is dry, and every ounce of your body is filled with anxiety.
If you can relate to any of these awful sensations, you just may dread presenting at work as much as I do.
Presenting seems like an unnecessary way to torture introverts, while extroverts seem to actually thrive on it. They ooze with confidence, own the room, and barely even reference their slides, let alone need to use notes.
No matter how many times I present, I still need to write out (and practice) everything I’m going to say, overprepare for any questions I might get, and take a good hour to completely recover after the presentation.
This has always seemed overly dramatic to me, and I assumed I was the only one who felt this way—until I started talking to other introverts in my company, and I discovered that we all go through the same thing, in varying degrees of intensity.
This proved that presenting truly is problematic for introverted leaders, especially if it’s a large part of your role. Here are five ways to reduce anxiety and boost your confidence before a presentation, in person or over Zoom.
Shift Your Focus to Serving Your Audience
Most introverts avoid being in the spotlight, which is part of why presenting can be so painful. Shifting your focus to serving your audience and delivering value to them can effectively reduce your anxiety, because again, what you focus on you feel.
If you’re presenting on a particular topic, it’s likely because you’re the expert in this area. Focus on equipping your audience with the information they need to do their jobs better or make more informed decisions.
Write It All Down
This strategy works best for online meetings, but it’s been the most effective for me, by far.
I have to present during a recurring content update meeting each month. My part is to talk about the top-performing blogs for the month, along with any larger assets that have been completed.
This is my world—I know the content well so I had been winging it, and even though I only have to speak for about five minutes, it was giving me anxiety.
So, I finally wrote out what I wanted to say and read it in a conversational way, to disguise the fact that I was reading. I had no anxiety beforehand because I had my script and there was no recovery afterward.
Now, this step does take some extra effort, especially for longer presentations, but it’s worth it. It eliminates the need to think on our feet, decreases the chance of tripping over our words, and ensures an articulate delivery.
If you have to present in person, writing out and practicing what you want to say can still help, even though you can’t read it word for word.
Ask for Feedback
One of my introverted colleagues leads our web team, and we often talk about how much we dislike and dread presenting. He was recently promoted and is now presenting a lot more often than he used to, and when he asked his new boss for feedback, he told him to slow down a bit.
His anxiety was causing him to talk faster, and concentrating on speaking more slowly helped him shift his focus away from his nerves.
What we focus on we feel, and it’s easy to get swept up by our feelings of anxiety, which will only cause them to compound. But when we identify an area of improvement and chose to shift our focus to mastering that area, it gives us an achievable goal to work toward.
Additionally, when we’re not confident about a certain area at work, we tend to make up stories in our heads about what others are thinking of us—especially our bosses. Asking for feedback can help us know what’s actually true, and in the best-case scenarios, provide some positive things we’re doing along with the areas for improvement.
Introverts do have a tendency to only hear the criticism, so go into any feedback conversation with the intention of internalizing any compliments you receive, too.
Write Down & Reference Your Introverted Strengths
Although presenting may be draining for introverts, we all have strengths in this area. Introverts tend to overprepare and put a lot of thought into what we want to say, which can significantly improve the quality and thoroughness of a presentation.
We also tend to be quite perceptive and intuitive, which helps us know our audience and keep the message they need to hear in mind as we develop and deliver the presentation.
Write down the strengths that you have in this area, and reference them before you present. This could give you the boost you need to deliver your message with a little more confidence.
Don’t Drink Coffee Beforehand
Did you know that coffee can cause anxiety, especially if we have it before a situation that could make us feel anxious anyway? I discovered this several months ago after I noticed a pattern of feeling jittery during meetings that took place within three hours after I’d had coffee.
It’s a horrible feeling—my brain speeds up (not in a good way) and I feel like I’m mentally bouncing off the walls, which is not normal for me.
I’ve started looking over my calendar at the start of each workday to identify any meetings that could cause anxiety, and definitely any in which I have to present. If I need something to wake me up a little bit beforehand, I’ll have some black or white tea, and wait until after those meetings to treat myself to a cup of coffee if I still need it.
Give Yourself Grace
Presenting does get easier with practice, and while these strategies can help reduce anxiety, you may always deal with some. If being the center of attention goes against your wiring, give yourself some grace in this area.
There will always be those who love the spotlight, and if you’re not one of those people, that’s okay. I know I will never be, and it’s far more fulfilling (for me) to play a support role and empower my colleagues from behind the scenes.
When you do have to craft and deliver a presentation, overprepare, make sure your message will deliver value, write it all down if you’re presenting virtually, reference your introverted strengths, and then choose to focus on serving your audience or improving a specific area—instead of your anxiety.
Read this blog next for four strategies you can start using today to overcome the biggest confidence killers for introverts.