I’ve never really given it much thought, but it turns out I’m an introvert. I never thought that I was an extrovert (despite making a career from talking / writing about myself!) but I’ve never quite considered myself and introvert either. However, apparently I am.
And I’ve just been interviewed for a really interesting little book called Public speaking for Authors, Creatives and other Introverts.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
Joanna: How do you cope with standing up in front of a lot of people?
Alastair: I manage it for pragmatic reasons. I began speaking in order to start earning money, and so it was a bit like a job at ﬁrst. The center of attention bit just comes from doing the talk; it’s not something that I set out to want. But on the other hand, when you do a talk and it goes really well, and people think you’re amazing, it’s quite an exciting feeling.
I quite like the anonymity of being on stage and giving the talk. Although everyone’s looking at you, you’re sort of on your own, you’re very much removed, so I feel like it’s quite an anonymous place, in a way.
Joanna: I totally agree with you. I actually think it’s better to be the speaker than in the crowd!
Alastair: One thing I ﬁnd weird is when they have the Q&A afterwards. If I go to a talk, I never dare ask a question; I would never, ever ask a question at a talk, which is quite weird, given that I’m quite happy to go up and stand there and do the whole talk, but I wouldn’t ask a question from the audience. I used to dread those kinds of event where they’re looking for someone from the audience to come up on stage, to pick somebody. That would be like my idea of hell, which is weird, because I then go up quite happily and talk on the stage for an hour!
Joanna: Well, I’m totally the same, which is why I do think you’re an introvert!
Joanna: Which is why we’re talking! I guess the deeper question there is how do you prepare mentally and psychologically to tackle going up in front of people?
Alastair: It’s a bit of a cliché but hugely helpful, but just realize that you are the expert in whatever it is you’re talking about. I ﬁnd that gives me quite a lot of conﬁdence, especially when I’m talking to groups of people who are quite scary: important, powerful, alpha personality type people. Just having the conﬁdence that I know more about what I’m talking about than they do is always a reassurance.
Joanna: When you arrive at a venue, what do you do practically about the technical stuff, mics and things like that?
Alastair: I’ve gradually over time simpliﬁed my presentation, whenever possible, not to include video or audio, just because it’s more hassle, more things to go wrong, and also if you’ve got a place where the sound and the video doesn’t look very good, then that reﬂects badly on you, rather than the venue who’s providing the crappy video. So I try and keep it as simple as possible.
Joanna: Let’s talk about authenticity, then: would you say that bringing your authentic self is generally the point?
Alastair: Yes, absolutely. I think if you are authentically who you are on stage, and if you know your stuff, if you’re good at whatever it is you’re going to be talking about, and you’re authentic and humble and modest within that, then I think the audience is going to like you and appreciate that, and then I think a lot of the worries people have will fade away if you tick those boxes.
Joanna: Do you have any tips for a speaker page on a website? What are the key aspects of that?
Alastair: I think the key aspects for a speaking page is to have a couple of really juicy references saying you’re amazing from whatever audience group you think would be great to say that about you. I think if you’ve got a good showreel, that’s a really useful thing to have: not a really cheesy, horrible one. I don’t have a showreel, it’s on my to-do list, but I do have a couple of videos of me doing other talks. And then just a very brief explanation of what I do, and a big button saying “Contact me here”. I think that’s about it, really.
The interview was much, much longer than this and very detailed. So if you’re interested in reading about speaking in public then get hold of the book here.