I’ve always been shy and introverted, and it’s a gigantic pain in the arse. I’ve got better over the years, but the number of brain cycles I’ve wasted worrying about stupid things doesn’t bear thinking about.
One thing I’ve always been good at, weirdly, is giving presentations. That’s why I wrote “Presentation Skills for Introverts” – which is free on Amazon today and tomorrow – to help my introverted brethren get up there and spread their ideas.
In the course of writing the book though, I realised that it’s possible to hack other social situations so you get to play to your strengths by leveraging the benefits that make presentations so powerful.
Why presenting is an introvert’s secret weapon
You get your point across without having to start conversations. Not all introverts have trouble initiating conversations, but many do – me included. If you present to 100 people, you’re having 100 conversations simultaneously, without any awkwardness or small talk.
You get to plan exactly what you want to say. Find it hard to get your point across during social situations, or always end up scrambling for the right words? When you’re presenting, you get unlimited time to sit on your own and plan out exactly what you want to say.
People will seek you out afterwards. The “not starting conversations” benefit carries over to after the talk, where people who liked what you had to say will seek you out and start talking to you. You can end up having great conversations with people you’d never have dared to approach.
You get the maximum social bang for your per-hour buck. Introverts, by definition, are drained by social interactions. There’s no more efficient way of making connections than giving a presentation: get your point across, put your contact details up on screen at the end, have a few conversations with people who seek you out, then head home.
You don’t have to worry about being interrupted. Many introverts either “give way” too easily in conversations, or don’t get to make their points because they won’t cut across people. Not a problem with presentations.
Your presentation can carry beyond the room. Presentations are often filmed to put online, and you can upload your slides to sites like Slideshare too. What’s more, audience members will often write on their personal blogs about what they learnt from your talk. All these things carry your message way beyond the room, and allow you to keep spreading your message and making connections in a form you might be more comfortable with.
Same principles, different social situations
So the genius of presenting for introverts is that you get to skip the small talk, make your point quickly and with impact, then get the hell out of there. Meanwhile, other people are spreading your message (if it’s good) beyond the room on your behalf.
The same principles can be applied to other social interactions too. So:
- Don’t masochistically make yourself go to networking events for hours on end. Give yourself a time limit – have brief, high-energy conversations, and aim to find a reason to follow up and continue the conversation over email.
- The time limit works for other events too. Even if it’s just an evening in the bar, you’ll have a better time and make more of an impact if you condense all your social energy into an hour then go home.
- Work on your storytelling. As an introvert, you probably spend a lot of time reading and thinking, and have developed some fascinating ideas. They just don’t lend themselves to stories as easily as an extrovert’s “This one time I was totally wasted, and…” anecdotes, so put the work in. Tell a good story and people will re-tell it after you’ve gone home, spreading your message for you.
- Research the people you’ll be meeting in advance, so you can plan out exactly what you want to say based on what they’re interested in . If you can identify shared interests ahead of time, you can get straight to the meaty conversations and skip the small talk. Don’t worry that it might look creepy – people will be flattered that you’ve taken the time, and equally glad to skip the chat about the weather.
Being sociable on your own terms might seem selfish, but I don’t think it is: it’s just finding a way to put your best self forward, and giving other people more value as a result.
What techniques have you developed to overcome your introversion? Or if you’re an extrovert, does this all sound crazy to you? Let me know in small talk comments!