I believe — feel free to disagree — we’re born one way or the other (introvert or extrovert) and our basic makeup doesn’t change much over the years.
The Difference between Extroverts and Introverts
Here is how I think of extroverts and introverts.
Extroverts are generally outward-facing. Their attention, interest, and energy are engaged — primarily — in and by the exterior world: the stuff that is “out there,” people, things, activities. They enjoy interacting with people, sometimes large numbers of people, and they get a charge out of doing so.
Extroverts tend to think out loud. It’s not that they think before they speak. They speak while they are thinking. What you hear isn’t necessarily their final thought on the matter at hand; it’s their thought process. Ask extroverts for their opinion, and they’re likely to open their mouths and begin speaking.
Introverts are, for the most part, inward-facing.Their attention, interest, and energy are engaged in and by their inner world: their thoughts, fantasies, and feelings. They prefer interacting with a few people at a time and especially with people they already know and trust. They recharge by seeking alone time.
Introverts tend to think before they talk. When you as their opinion, they don’t say anything. Not, at least, until they’ve had time to think it over.
Extroverts tend to think that introverts are slow or, at worst, stupid. They must not know anything, because they’re not saying anything.
Introverts tend to think that extroverts are glib and fickle. They talk all the time, and they say one thing at one time and something else at a later time.
(The world of work is organized in favor of extroverts. The way business conduct meetings, brain storming sessions, and presentations plays to the strength of extroverts, people who speak confidently and quickly in group settings. But that’s another issue.)
Why Aren’t Extroverts By Their Very Nature Better Presenters than Introverts?
For three reasons.
First, being an extrovert or an introvert does not determine the skills you develop or your actions.
With the right training, experience, and support you can learn how to give effective presentations, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert.
Extroverts may be more willing to stand up and give a speech, but that doesn’t necessarily make them better speakers. On the contrary, it may incline them not to be as well prepared.
What matters more than being an extrovert or introvert is mastering the art and skill of public speaking, gaining experience, and taking the time to prepare and practice.
Second, extroverts and introverts bring different sensibilities to the task (making a presentation). And different doesn’t mean bad; it just means different.
There’s no one style of presenting. And not every style appeals to every audience.
The trick (if it is a trick) is to put all of yourself — your values, outlook, knowledge, and (yes) sensibilities — on the line when you speak. It helps, too, if you can choose the type of audiences you address.
Third, both extroverts and introverts draw on different resources and face different challenges as presenters.
Extroverts tend to enjoy interacting with groups of people, and what is an audience but a group of people? And they tend to think on their feet, which makes it easier for them to deal with Q&A. They sometimes need to give more attention to what they’re going to say.
Introverts tend to focus more on individuals, which can help them establish rapport with the audience. (Charismatic speakers — extroverts and introverts alike — know how to speak to each person in the audience one at a time, not en masse.) And they like to know exactly what they’re going to say before being called upon to say it. So they need to prepare…even, or especially for the questions they might get asked.
Experience Shows that Both Extroverts and Introverts Can Be Effective Presenters
I know that extroverts and introverts are different. I believe we’re born one way or the other and we don’t change much throughout our lifetimes.
But I also know from experience, both as a speech coach and as an audience member, that being an introvert or an extrovert makes no difference when it comes to being a good presenter.
Some of my favorite speakers are introverts. I’ll bet that you can say the same thing.