If you identify as an introvert, you may have written yourself off from ever becoming a great public speaker. Since, you assume, the best presenters are extroverts, electrifying crowds with their energy.
The reality, argues world champion public speaker Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, is that introverts often become better public speakers than extroverts of similar experience levels.
“When you look at introverts, they tend to be a bit more empathetic,” he told Business Insider. “When you look at extroverts, they tend to project. But some extroverts project too much, and they block out the audience. It becomes all about them. Introverts are able to structure content in a way that draws energy off the audience.
Hettiarachchi is a Sri Lankan entrepreneur and touring speaker who survived seven rounds of a competition that lasted six months and included 33,000 competitors from around the world to become the 2014 Toastmasters International world champion of public speaking.
Public speaking requires a balance of energy flowing between the speaker and audience, and that means that a great speech isn’t something meticulously rehearsed that exists in a vacuum, regardless of how the audience is reacting to the presentation. This requires empathy, a trait that introverts tend to be predisposed to.
Even excellent extrovert speakers like Tony Robbins practice reading the audience, and both Robbins and Hettiarachchi (a self-identified introvert) research their audience and often have conversations with several audience members before their presentations.
The problem that arises with introverts is that they tend to not like being the center of attention, and they interpret their audience’s energy as judgment. Introverts excel as public speakers when, through practice, they identify with the audience and “connect with them on a deeper level” than extroverts who often project themselves onto their audience, Hettiarachchi said.
“When introverts are able to master confidence when they get on stage, they can come across as more authentic than extroverts,” he said.