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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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