Public speaking is one of those skills that people want to improve but don't always prioritize until there is a tipping point. It could be an important presentation, a promotion that requires a robust communication skill set, feedback from a supervisor, or a desire to start or grow a business. But, if you are an introvert, you might ignore the issue until it becomes unavoidable and causes you extreme stress. An avoidant or a lukewarm commitment to improving communication skills makes mastery unattainable for many who "try" to become better public speakers.
People often do the bare minimum. They read a few articles that offer the same typical advice: make eye contact, speak loud and clear, don't use filler words, and practice. The people who seek a communication coach are more committed but still find it an intimidating and vulnerable experience. These feelings are not surprising as it requires the person to acknowledge the limitations of their communication skills. But, self-awareness and a commitment to improvement are needed to become a competent speaker who inspires and motivates others to take action or follow. For introverts, though, connecting with a coach is an enormous leap that stops many from even considering it, so let's slow down.
How can you do more than the bare minimum but not jump into a draining relationship with a communications coach if you are not ready to commit? Work on your communication skills at home. Yes, do it at home with the support of people you trust. These three strategies are great for everyone, but especially for introverts and reflective people who want to improve their communication skills. It requires writing, so take out your writing tool of choice (digital or physical).
Exercise 1: Choose a topic you know a lot about. It could be a work topic or a topic on a hobby or interest.
Imagine that you are an expert on this topic, and you only have 5 minutes to teach one thing (element, aspect, concept) about this topic to a person unfamiliar with the topic. Jot down a few notes on that one thing and do a short presentation. Do you for yourself, in front of a mirror, or a close friend or partner.
The goal of this exercise is to get you telling micro-stories about big concepts that you already know.
Exercise 2: Make a list of the top 10 questions related to this topic.
Write each question on a square of paper, fold it up, and place them in a container. Every day, pull out a question, and respond to this question as if you were a speaker.
The goal here is to get you to respond on the fly in an impromptu form. We do impromptu speaking daily, and it often causes extreme stress for introverts, so working on these skills at home provides a level of safety you don’t get at work or other public spaces.
Exercise 3: Find a speech you love, preferably one on video, with a good speaker. Type up the script and practice delivering the speech, and model the speaker's delivery and body language.
The goal is to learn how speaking with your mouth and body connect. It is not about mimicking the speaker but to start understanding the connection between language and the use of body language. Since you are using a script, it removes the burden of crafting a speech while working on your public speaking.
Try these out and come back for more tips and strategies when you feel ready for more.