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An Introvert Speaks Up

Quiet Revolutionary Kevin Crowley‘s story

So this was it, the moment I had been simultaneously fearing and looking forward to in equal measure ever since I accepted the invite to speak at a conference. The fear I had was because I had no idea how I would perform, but I was excited to know that in less than an hour it all would be over and I would never have to do this again.

I had arrived in London 2 hours before I was due to speak, exactly according to my plan. London is a busy city at the best of times, but I managed to find a quiet area at the train station, where I could listen to my talk through my headphones. I had planned to arrive at the start of the lunch break, not to get a free lunch but so I could see the conference set up while the room was empty and gather my thoughts, away from any hustle and bustle.

I had prepared meticulously for over a month, for this one 20-minute slot. For me as an introvert, preparation is everything, and I left no stone unturned to ensure all would go well. But as my time approached, I felt like I’d forgotten everything I’d practiced.

As I sat nervously in the reserved for speakers row, I watched the speaker before me regale the audience confidently and with authority, and I wondered why on earth I had signed up to this. The usual flurry of thoughts filled my head: What if they put the wrong slides up? What if my microphone doesn’t work? Should I stand behind the podium or walk around? What if everyone walks out?

Everything was going according to my carefully constructed plan, but I still questioned why I ever chose to do this. Here I was—the “shy kid” in the school class, the “quiet one” who didn’t like to speak—and I was about to have hundreds of pairs of eyes focused solely on me as I would stand completely and utterly outside of my comfort zone in full view of everyone.

I don’t remember too much about the 20 minutes that followed, but I do remember the overwhelming sense of relief as the audience gave me a very warm round of applause. As I walked off the stage with a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, I was greeted by a smiling lady, keen to discuss the content of my talk in more detail. As I finished speaking to her, a gentleman caught my attention while two others were keen to give me their business cards for further conversation.

I didn’t need to talk at a conference, and I didn’t really want to either, but I wanted to prove to myself that as an introvert, I could do something more typically aligned with extroversion—I guess to prove that my introversion was a strength to build on, rather than something to hold me back. And as I sat on the train home, enjoying music rather than listening to my talk for the first time in a month, reflecting (as introverts do) on the day, I afforded myself a smile reflecting the fact that, for once, rather than being the one listening to others, I was the one being listened to.

As for never having to do this again, I just signed up for another conference next year…

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  • marionspeaks

    A tip for presenting that I’ve found useful is to spend my energy focused on the audience and coming from a place of service versus focusing on myself and being self-conscious. No one wants to hear a lousy presentation — they’re all on your side :o). It all begins with mindset. Personality type is an explanation, not an excuse.

  • Alexandra Aníbal

    Thank you for sharing! I relate completely to your experience. I’ve been doing this for a few years – forcing my self to speak in conferences – and, in spite of being always stressful, it has a very positive impact in my selfesteem and cofidence.

  • Isabelle Star

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! And congratulations for your success! Preparation is a key element for me, too! However, my greatest asset is to assume a disguise (even if to others it looks like regular clothes!). I can become an actor on stage with a “costume” and have greater confidence in what I am performing.

  • Rossana Grilli

    Thanks for sharing! I totally relate. I had to do many talks during my PhD and postdocs, and I hated it. I couldn’t reharse, because that made me even more anxious and incapable to function properly and think straight, and sleep! I just put effort into the presentation, and learn my facts well, then I would improvise. This way I would be hit by terror only from the night before. I became good in improvising, and now I meet people every day, as I am a sales engineer. Who would have thought!

  • Marlana Sherman

    I can definitely relate to this. It happens every time I speak. I am a health coach and an essential oil educator so I am doing more public speaking than I have done in the past. I like to educate people about wellness so I will be speaking more in the future. I remember the first time I did a speech and my voice didn’t shake I was so proud of myself.

  • It’s sad we often let labels define us. Labels would be better left to grocery store aisles. And even then, you could find chocolate where you might not expect it. Before I learned I was more introverted, I was speaking in front a a sales team regularly.

  • terrinakamura

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Laura Protzman

    Thank you for sharing this! I have only made a few presentations in my life. Your story inspires me to do more.