I am often asked whether I believe introverts can be good public speakers. My answer is a resounding yes!
I don't believe that there is a clear relationship between personality type and public speaking confidence or ability.
We often assume that extroverted people will be more confident speakers. But I have come across extroverted people who are nervous and introverted speakers who are compelling.
Here are some reasons why I think that introverts can be excellent public speakers:
I have previously written about Susan Cain, who wrote: “Quiet – The power of the introvert in a world that won’t stop talking.” She is an introverted person herself and once had a crippling fear of public speaking. She is now a fantastic speaker who has one of the most popular TED talks of all time. She has also written about how many well-known figures such as Barack Obama and Malcolm Gladwell are both introverts and great orators.
Of course, many great public speakers like Tony Robbins are extroverts.
Good public speakers who are extroverted are likely to have a different style to those who are introverted, but neither is inherently superior.
There are benefits and challenges for each personality type. Here are some of them.
I recognise that being an introvert or an extrovert is only one aspect of someone’s personality. For example, I have said that introverts are more likely to prepare, but I know some introverts who are great procrastinators! I also know extroverts who are excellent conversationalists but hate being on stage.
I am an introvert by nature. My style is direct and empathetic. The directness comes naturally to me at an introvert. Empathy is something I feel strongly, but have to work hard to project. I can come across as a bit serious or intense. I counter this by reminding myself to ‘lighten up’!
If you are an introvert, you may project gravitas or calmness. If you are an extrovert, perhaps people are drawn to your energy. Don’t let your personality type dictate your attitude to public speaking. Instead, focus on developing a style of speaking that plays to your strengths.
Article written by Catherine Syme
Updated and revised September 2020.
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