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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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  178. Andrew Safronov says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Kevin.
    I am sure you can afford being yourself as an introvert.
    Great experience, it was interesting to read.
    Best regards,
    Andrew

  179. marionspeaks says:

    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.

  180. Alexandra Aníbal says:

    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.

  181. Isabelle Star says:

    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.

  182. Rossana Grilli says:

    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!

  183. Marlana Sherman says:

    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.

  184. 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.

  185. terrinakamura says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  186. Laura Protzman says:

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

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