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Introverted leaders' preferences for focussing on the inner world and interacting on a one-to-one basis do not lend themselves readily to making big presentations to large audiences.


  • making presentations and speaking at conferences can be particularly challenging for introverted leaders

  • public debates are even more challenging than presentations and questions.

What introverted leaders said about the challenges of Presentations and Public Speaking


  • “I strongly dislike making presentations to groups of people.”

  • “While I was happy to give talks or make speeches and answer questions, I'd be much less comfortable in a public debate unless I was very familiar with the subject matter.”

  • “I dislike public speaking as a rule, although I can do it effectively if I am clear on my role and the groups are not too big and impersonal.”

  • “I was uncomfortable with large groups and combative question and answer sessions at, for example, regional and national staff conferences. While senior colleagues trusted me in a management team context they did not feel I was getting over well enough the headline message to their staff. I was putting too much into the content of addresses and too little into the emotional engagement with the audience, and as I became increasingly aware of this gap it increased stress and that in turn weakened my projection to others.”

  • “The inevitable speaking to large groups has grown easier over the years but is still not something I relish.”

  • “Positive thinking tends to fly out of the window! I become uncomfortable with who I am and how I believe I am coming across - this negative reinforcement is less than helpful.”

Positive Approaches to Presentations and Public Speaking:

  • ‘knowing your stuff’: having confidence in what you are saying

  • practicing and ‘doing’: it really does seem to become easier and less stressful with practice

  • recognising that it takes time to get better at presentations

  • go ‘into role’ - seeing it as acting on a stage

  • making one-to-one contact with the audience, perhaps through eye contact or through naming members of the audience when using examples

  • focusing on emotional engagement with the audience

  • writing down what you want to say - even if you only have it as a backup

  • visualisation before the event

  • speaking clearly and more slowly than feels natural.

What introverted leaders said about how they manage Presentations and Public Speaking:

  • “I have deliberately sought to do as many presentations as possible to help overcome my fear of them.”

  • “I wanted to be able to speak in public and, at thirteen, volunteered to do the Rotary Club ‘Youth Speaks’ competition. Our team was carefully coached and came second out of four in the Junior Section. Nevertheless, I had not disgraced myself and continued to take chances to work at it. Forty-five years on, it looks entirely natural much of the time - but it's craft. Perhaps it is for everyone.”

  • “When I do talk it is always from a position of knowledge.”

  • “I’m not a particularly natural public speaker, but have found that with practice confidence grows. Emphasising my own personality helps.”

  • “I try to be more expansive and walk around. I also try to make eye contact with individuals, or if I know them, draw them in - for example “I know Joe Bloggs from St Elsewhere’s (make eye contact) tried to do just this”.”

  • “In my role of Technical Director I have to present ideas & concepts to Directors in a multi-national company. I consider it to be like acting on a stage. I have to emphasise my actions and speech in order to engage the audience.”

  • “Writing out oral contributions/questions before speaking, especially if speaking for the first time in a large group or at a conference. This can lose spontaneity but it reduces the risk of garbling something that doesn't reflect what was going on in my head when the question occurred to me.”

  • “Stopping to invite questions during a presentation worked well recently, as I was struggling to carry on without feedback, and once I got it I was absolutely fine and became very confident in my views.”

  • “I went on a theatre based performance coaching workshop, followed by some personal coaching as preparation for big events. I better understood the value of performance and gained confidence to ‘tell it as it is’ and abandon slides and other visual prompts. I developed the ability to move out from behind lecterns and move about with a radio mike. I found then I enjoyed these events and that enjoyment and confidence was communicated. A big message of the course was just to be myself, and true to myself, but to project myself on a larger scale and engage with individuals in a crowd, not deliver cold to a sea of faces.”

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