6 ways speakers can appeal to introverts

Not every audience member will ask questions or volunteer during your presentation. Here’s how to connect with your quieter listeners.

It will surprise most people who know me to hear that, according to official measures, I am only slightly extroverted.

While I am a bit extroverted and being around people energizes me, I need alone time too. I can pull from my extroverted side when I have to speak on little sleep or am otherwise off my game, but only for so long.

Knowing this has helped me figure out how to be a better speaker, as well as how to better connect with the introverts in my audience.

Extroverts will find me before a talk, raise their hands (sometimes too much), volunteer to do demonstrations, and answer questions. Introverts need a bit more—and sometimes less—from you.

Here’s how to connect with introverts in your audience:

1. Give fair warning.

Introverts benefit from extra time to prepare. Where an extrovert would jump in and participate, the introvert skids to a halt without time to anticipate. Let introverts know what to expect early on.

One of my most prized comments on a feedback form said, “Thank you for taking us outside our boxes—and for warning us early on that you were going to do that.”

2. Provide openings.

Just because people are introverted doesn’t mean they don’t want to participate. It’s up to you as the speaker to make sure you don’t just call on the more obvious extroverted volunteers. Take questions from all sections of the room, and be aware of and acknowledge quieter audience members.

If you’re speaking and notice someone who hasn’t participated, make sure you ask what he thinks or whether he has a question.

3. Provide closings.

Provide yourself some closings and stop talking long enough to let introverts get a word in edgewise. Being the all-encompassing speaker can make introverts feel shut out and unable to contribute.

Introverts are great listeners, which might seem like a signal to keep talking. Don’t. If you bring an audience member up to demonstrate something, end the experience with a thank you, round of applause for the volunteer, and the closure she needs to escape back to her seat.

4. Play to your strengths.

Extroverts connect well with people, so make sure you connect with quiet audience members. Make eye contact, move around the room, and use other tactics to quietly let introverts know you see them. If you can voice their issues and concerns, do it. That’s one of the strongest ways to give introverts a hand.

5. Play to their strengths.

If you want audience involvement, think through some alternatives that don’t require people to get up in front of the room. What can they do in their minds, at their seats, or with the person next to them?

To make yourself available to audience members, hang around after your talk so those who wouldn’t ask you a question in front of the group can approach you one-on-one.

6. Offer alternatives.

I often do workshops where some participants wind up on video. Because I use cameras anyone can use, I ask introverts if they would like to operate the cameras if they don’t want to be in the video. Don’t be surprised if some introverts stretch themselves to be on camera, but offer options so they don’t have to if they don’t want to.

Introverts, are there other ways speakers can appeal to introverts in the audience?

Denise Graveline is the president of don’t get caught, a communications consultancy. She also writes The Eloquent Woman blog, where a version of this article originally ran.

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