This past week, I gave a two-hour workshop to a large group. I think it went very well and was well received by the participants. I had a great time!
I did a lot of preparation leading up to the workshop and that was the key to my success. As an introvert, I need to think about the subject ahead of time. I do best when I start preparing in advance so I have some time to let the topic simmer in my mind beforehand. This allows me to make tweaks and fine-tune my message before the presentation. By taking the time to think about it, I can organize my material, and focus on the right information, such as “What does this audience need to hear?” “How best can I organize this?” “What activities in this presentation will be effective?” I have a great strength in putting presentations together, given some time with my introverted mind.
I know some extroverted friends and colleagues who don’t need to spend as much time in preparation, as they have more skill in extemporaneous speaking. Some are are very gifted in storytelling. Or they may be great at building an instant connection with the audience. Whatever the gift they have that I don’t, I try not to compare, because I certainly wouldn’t give up my gifts in exchange for theirs. The question is not can introverts be good public speakers, but instead should be, “How or what does an introvert need to do to be a good public speaker?” This applies to other areas as well. I get tired of the question can introverts be great leaders, great marketers or great ____. There is no question, introverts or extroverts can be great at anything they put their minds to. It’s just that the what and the how are going to look different for each person, given his or her individual strengths.
In “Strengths Based Leadership” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, leadership styles are divided into four different types: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. I fall into the Strategic Thinking category. Strategic Thinking is described as: “Those who are able to keep people focused on ‘what they could be’ are constantly pulling a team and its member into the future. They continually absorb and analyze information and help the team make better decisions.”
Analyzing situations and thinking how to improve is a natural gift for me and one that I use often as a leader. Does this me that I don’t execute, influence, or build relationships? Absolutely not. I must do all of these things, but the point is that I will go about them in a different way. For example, when I need to influence or sell an idea, I am going to prepare and analyze the best way to do it. I may not have the same charisma that an “influencer” may have, but I can bring my passion and paint a clear picture of a brighter future. I can also use another strategy and partner up with someone else who has natural talents in persuasion.
So we need to stop asking if introverts can be great public speakers or great leaders or questioning in a way that places limitations on ability based on personality style. Instead, a better question would be what does an introvert need to do for success and what are the best ways for an introvert to to approach a particular situation. Don’t compare yourself to a person that has different gifts than you, but rather embrace those gifts that are uniquely yours.