I’m too shy, too introverted, too loud, too boisterous, too extroverted, too technical, too judgmental, or too energetic to be a decent public speaker. The list can go on and on as to why people lack the confidence to speak publicly. Many other reasons seem to revolve around being too quiet and withdrawn; however, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a message to send. Conversely, attention-grabbing extroverts have told me that they fear being in front of a group of people because of the risk of blurting out something ill-advised or untimely.
No two public speakers are exactly alike. Public speaking needs all types of personalities in order to relate to the many diverse audience’s expectations. However, this is not just about the business of public speaking; it’s about the personal side. You can use your own personality and interests as strong tools. If you are a “sports junky,” find ways to include that in your presentations. It is important, however, to make sure you are being thoughtful and inclusive when talking about your own personal topics, such as sports and adventures that make you happy and comfortable. When using sports metaphors, for example, you should ensure that audiences will understand your references. I would avoid a baseball metaphor like “it was a home run” if I was speaking in the United Kingdom, for example, since the popularity of the sport is not necessarily widespread there. As long as you are certain you and your audiences are on the same page, you can recount personal experiences playing or even watching events. You can describe how you felt when pushed to the limits or lessons you learned after a loss.
I like to share a story about when the 2004 Boston Red Sox were losing the American League Championship to the New York Yankees three games to zero in the seven-game series. I was invited by a friend who was a Yankees fan to go to game four at Fenway Park in Boston. No Major League Baseball (MLB) team had ever come back to win a series after losing the first three games. The Red Sox made a dramatic comeback in the ninth inning to tie the game. They won it in spectacular fashion with a home run to win the game in the bottom of the twelfth inning. The Red Sox eventually became the first MLB team to ever win a series like this. The story and its messages have so many different twists and turns that can be tailored to many different audiences’ tastes and expectations. I typically share that my Yankees friend conveniently needed to leave with the game tied at the top of the twelfth inning. In one of the arguably greatest baseball games ever played, I simply say that I heard the cheering outside the stadium since I was walking to the car. I never saw it. The message, which I temper with humor in the story, is: never walk away from potentially historic moments.
You can try infusing your personality and interests into a presentation to play to your strengths if you can ensure that there are messages and points that relate back to the audience. This allows you to control the content that is meaningful to you and allows your own personality to shine because it has significance to you. You can also test and share your personality with others. Maybe you start with a more intimate audience sitting around a conference table. I often felt when I was first beginning that one of my strengths was one-on-one conversational teaching, and the smaller audience gave me the base to build my confidence and public-speaking skills. I began to expand my messaging to a few people around a table before taking it to a class of fifteen to twenty people. The process expanded as my strengths grew with my confidence. Your personality is who you are, but it should never be used as an excuse to avoid the opportunity to make you stronger. You can use your personality to your advantage, while also pushing further to transform over time into the person you want to be. No two speakers are exactly alike, and that is a good thing. Regardless of the personality, you have shaped for yourself, you can grow into a successful public speaker.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Down the Chute: A Toboggan Tale (children’s book)
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood