Public Speaking and Introversion

public speaking

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Studies have shown that more people fear public speaking than fear death. I can relate to that!

When I started my business in 2002, I was invited to speak about Personality Type and Time Management at a local bookstore, and it was just too good an opportunity to turn down. I was so terrified, however, that I was actually relieved when no one showed up (scheduling it at the same time as an NHL playoff game was probably not the best idea!), even though it meant I didn’t get the chance to promote my services.

Since then, I’ve spoken in front of many groups, both large and small, at a variety of different events. Although I’m still pretty nervous before speaking, once I get up there, I actually enjoy it! In fact, many people express surprise when I identify myself as an introvert. I’m actually pretty surprised myself. The only thing I can figure is that as an introvert, I’m not comfortable approaching others, but if they come to me as a subject expert, that’s a whole different story.

Apparently, I’m not alone in this. In a recent article, Jonathan Fields revealed:

One of my more recent discoveries is that I love to speak. After I’m done wanting to throw up in the minutes before I go on, I feel very alive on stage. Something happens and I get lost in the moment. Not always, but often.

He goes on to explain that it’s what happens after speaking that differentiates us from extraverts. Find out more by reading Flipping the Extrovert Switch, especially the comments.

But before you do, please tell us about your own experience with public speaking. Do you like it? Do it because you have to? Avoid it at all costs?

The Introvert Retreat blog where this was originally published is no longer online, but if you’d like to network with other introverts, join us in The Original Introvert Retreat Group!

Casual Photo of Janet Barclay

Janet Barclay

I eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, cooking, watching movies, drinking tea, and spending time with my family.

Join the Conversation!


  1. Mitch Mitchell on July 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    What’s funny is that I’ve never had a problem getting up in front of people and giving speeches or anything else. I’m bad in more social situations where I’m more apt to shut down and watch unless I know the majority of the people there. Still, I do know a lot of people who cringe at just the thought of possibly standing in front of someone to speak.

    • Janet Barclay on July 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      Wow, you are really lucky, Mitch! I’ve heard that even many extraverts have a deep fear of public speaking.

      Like you, I’m much more comfortable when it’s a business setting rather than a social gathering.

  2. Drew on July 8, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    It’s a big part of my daily job – I work in the planetarium at the science museum here, so I regularly get in front of as many as 160 people at introduce shows, or speak about the night sky for an hour or so.

    As long as I’m talking about a subject I know well, it’s no big deal. It doesn’t hurt that most of the time I’m standing in the back of the room with the lights off 🙂 While I have a general outline to my star talk, I frequently go on tangents or ad-lib, while taking questions from the audience.

    But put me in a noisy restaurant at a table with 6 strangers and I pretty much shut down. You’ll hardly hear a peep from me.

    • Janet on July 9, 2011 at 7:03 am

      Sounds like there’s a pattern here… give an introvert a platform to talk about something they’re is passionate about, and they’re good to go! I think being in control of the situation (whether it’s scripted or not) might have something to do with it.

      • Vicki on August 6, 2012 at 10:52 pm

        Yep! When we’re “in our comfort zone” we’re happy to talk, to sare, to be “up”. I’ve seen this described elsewhere.

  3. Vicki on August 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    My experience with “public speaking” is restricted to teaching. I’ve been teaching classes on various technical subjects, on and off, since Grad School.

    Pros: I love it! I love teaching, I love helping people and answering questions. I completely agree with your summary: “the only thing I can figure is that as an introvert, I’m not comfortable approaching others, but if they come to me as a subject expert, that’s a whole different story.”

    Cons: I am totally wiped out after a two-hour class. I’m “up” and “on stage” for that two hours, buzzy for about 20 minutes after and then I crash. Don’t schedule any meetings for that afternoon!

    • Janet Barclay on August 7, 2012 at 6:31 am

      So true – it’s very draining!

      The other con for me is the anticipation – I am generally stressed out for several weeks before a big speaking engagement, often ask myself why I agreed to it, but nearly always enjoy it and come home buzzing.

  4. Robert Lasher on August 7, 2012 at 6:48 am

    I think most people start out naturally shy, somewhat introverted, at first. I have met a few little kids who were naturally outgoing at a young age, but only s handful come to mind. On my own Myers/Briggs evaluation, I scored 1 point into the extrovert category. I think this means I am actually an introvert who has learned some of the benefits of getting outside my comfort zone. I do it to make a living; I do it to help others; and after years and years of practice, yes, I now do it because I enjoy it. I think it’s sort of like skiing. The first time on the slopes, I had natural fear. I sort of hung back a bit. And fearing falling, guess what happened. I fell. But when I got confident about myself, I decided to just “go for it.” And I learned to ski. There are some introverts who actually never come out of their comfort zones. I know a few, and believe their lives are poorer for it.

    • Janet Barclay on August 7, 2012 at 7:22 am

      I’m not sure I agree with you. I think many kids are quite outspoken until they learn to “hold their tongue.”

      But I do agree that introverts who choose not to come out of their comfort zones often miss out on some exciting experiences – just as extraverts who choose not to read or pursue other typically introverted activities also miss out.

      Thank you for stopping by!

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