I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I consider myself an introvert. I’m not sure when I gave myself this label, but I distinctly remember coming home with report cards that hinted at it – “Abby’s a good student but she’s so quiet”,”Needs to talk more in class”, “Does she have a voice??? Make her talk!!!!” (the last one I made up but you get the idea). There are certain professions where being introverted isn’t a necessarily a drawback (I think), but academia does not seem to be one of them. You would think that a group of people who spend significant amounts of time working solo or in small groups would be naturally be introverted. Maybe they’ve found a way to come to terms with this. Maybe there is a secret that I have been cruelly kept from finding out. What I’ve experienced in my first year as a doctoral student is that I’m surrounded by people who seem to have little fear of making presentations or participating in group discussions. But I have a huge amount of fear. My fear is loud, aggressive, headache inducing, and tends to keep me from sleeping. One of my main problems when speaking in public is that my mind blanks. I have thoughts. I’m a relatively intelligent person. But when I’m forced to speak all my higher level thinking disappears to somewhere far, far away. So what do you do when public speaking seems to be a requirement?
I don’t know.
What I have accepted is that I am an introvert. I’m quiet and shy. This will never change and I don’t want it too. I no longer see it as a flaw that must be corrected. I think this is an important and necessary step. But I know that I need to be a better public speaker. I’m going to have to do a significant amount of it to get my PhD. Defending my prospectus and my dissertation, along with conference presentations, demand a lot of public speaking and quick thinking. At the moment I’m setting small goals for myself. Saying something (anything really) during class discussion and carefully planning out possibilities for short presentations, and trying to figure out tricks/tools that will help me relax when I speak publicly. The end goal is to defend my prospectus and dissertation with turning beet read, rambling, and possibly fleeing. It’s the small things.
Some introvert links that I liked. Everyone loves a guide.:
A Guide to Public Speaking for Introverts and Shy People
The Introvert’s No-Fear Guide to Public Speaking
* a sort of confessional
“I have thoughts.” Let this be your guide to speaking. It is more helpful than you think. You are armed with knowledge, and you know it. Let this give you confidence about your speaking abilities.