Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Speaking Tips for Nervous Introverts
I've never cared for roller coasters. Oh, I get it. The thrill going around the turns and plunging down deep canyons provides such a rush and a sense of pride once you stumble out of the seat and compare notes with your fellow adventurists. But for me, the clickity-clack as the car slowly pulls itself up that first climb is grueling. And perhaps even worse is the often 30-minute wait in line to get to the front, during which I spend my time deep in my mind.
As an introvert, so many thoughts run through my mind...is this safe, I have no control, why am I doing this, it's so high up, where's the early exit, I can't quit, I can do this, it's no big deal, and then cycling back through. Ultimately, I'm battling between fear and being called "chicken." Meanwhile, the extroverts are giddy with anticipation of the whole ride and the wait and initial climb only help to build their excitement.
I decided long ago the thrill at the end is not worth the aggravation and anxiety before ever reaching the top of the first climb. I haven't been on a roller coaster in years and I'm quite fine with that.
I torture myself with the same internal debate regarding public speaking. While I've made many presentations to small and medium sized groups during my 30-year career at Shell, now that I'm retired I am no longer "forced" to undergo such experiences unless of my own free will. So like that roller coaster ride, I've plunged deep into my brain to evaluate my decision whether to do such presentations.
I'm trying to embrace my introversion yet also dip my toe into new areas to stretch and challenge in 2020. Yet if such attempts rekindle the immense anxiety and physical scars of bright red rashes across my face, sciatica down my leg, and weight gain around my belly, my body is only revealing what my brain already knows...such things aren't worth it.
I've recognized we must know our strengths and that none of us can proclaim to be great at everything. It is okay to admit what is not our forte so we can focus our time and internal energies on those where we do have tremendous talents and can indeed make a difference. Yet, my commitment to stretch in 2020 whispers in my ear.
Anticipating the "speaking" challenge in marketing my upcoming book, I read books and blogs and listened to dozens of podcasts this fall to gather some tips.
About a month ago, a coach and mentor of mine provided me the opportunity to speak at one of his workshops this past weekend. I accepted with anticipation and trepidation. I decided I must try so I immediately leaned on my research and my own strengths of writing and preparation. I wrote out a speech weeks in advance and practiced voraciously in front of the mirror.
So now that a date was set, I reviewed my many tips and posted a list of Positive Self Talk (PST) mantras on my bathroom mirror.
During the past two weeks, my determination led to fear as the date approached and then, strangely, to some newfound comfort this past week as I became comfortable to recite my speech on walks without the aid of papers or notecards. Still nervous, I convinced myself I was ready and would be fine.
Then suddenly, on Thursday my friend called to cancel as he had to postpone the workshop. But instead of relief, my first emotion was disappointment (relief came moments later). I had stood in the long roller coaster line, and my car was clicking up the steep incline. I was ready for the thrill and pride that follows - the payoff - when my car stopped and I was told I would need to reschedule the ride. My wife suggested I follow through with a video of my speech so here it goes (with a cameo at the end by my daughter):
I felt great about the video (there was little editing 😉). However, I am still left to ponder the dichotomy of the situation. I finally got to the point of knowing my stuff and nearly convincing myself I would be fine. Yet, I also ponder whether the payoff was worth the anxious investment, not to mention my time and energy. Am I really using my strengths? Am I dipping my toe too far into the deep end?