Nancy Ancowitz is a business communication coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introverts®. She helps clients—introverts and extroverts alike—connect to and communicate their gifts to bring them fully and authentically into the world. Nancy is a thinking partner and stalwart supporter for these clients, who range from CEOs to emerging leaders in the business and creative worlds. They entrust her with helping them prepare for their most important presentations, job interviews, and other business meetings. For more about Nancy, visit her website at www.nancyancowitz.com and her blog at www.selfpromotionforintroverts.com.
In this conversation, Nancy discusses how introverts can succeed as presenters.
Geetesh: Is it true that extroverts have an advantage over introverts as presenters?
Nancy: Not necessarily. While some extroverts have the gift of gab, many struggle with the fear of being in front of an audience, just as many introverts do. Some extroverts could benefit from learning to express themselves concisely, which is the downside of their tendency to think out loud.
Introverts—those who are energized more by solo activities than social activities—have their own advantages. As an introvert, you’re more inclined to speak only once you’ve done your research about a topic and have thought through what you want to say. So you benefit your audiences by making every word count. You can also use your research abilities to effectively target your audiences—digging around in advance for useful facts and figures that they’ll find compelling. Your ability to listen attentively to your audience’s questions is another strength you might offer as a presenter.
Geetesh: You do workshops on this topic (Presentation Skills for Introverts®). Can you share a thought or two about the typical challenges that your participants ask about and how you respond?
Nancy: One of the most common challenges that introverts struggle with is answering tough questions on the spot. What helps? You can typically anticipate the lion’s share of questions that your audience will ask. Use your abilities to research and write to craft strong answers and rehearse them out loud, preferably on video—a smartphone is a great tool for that. You’ll immediately see how you come across verbally and non-verbally and what you need to adjust.
What about the zingers that hit you from left field, despite your preparation and practice? Buy a little time to gather your thoughts by using some acceptable filler language. An example is commenting on a question you’re asked (e.g., “What an interesting question. No one has ever asked me that”). Another is restating or paraphrasing it (“If I understand you correctly, you’re asking what motivated me to cut the budget in half. Is that correct?”) You can also ask a clarifying question (“Are you asking me from the point of view of an employee or a shareholder?”).
Participants in my workshops also ask what to do if their mind goes blank while giving a presentation. The quick answer is that prevention goes a long way toward helping with that. Rehearse the first and last lines of your presentation as well as a few stories you can tell to illustrate your points. If you lose your way mid-sentence, the most important thing to do is to take a breath to relax yourself. Be gentle with yourself and don’t apologize. Instead, in a friendly way, you could ask the audience, “Where was I? I have so many things I want to cover in our limited time together.” If you make everything about serving your audience, by informing, educating, inspiring, and/or persuading them, you’ll have nothing to lose.
See Also: An Interview with Nancy Ancowitz