The No. 1 way for introverts to become better at public speaking


If you identify as an introvert, public speaking can seem like a daunting task. In fact, it's tiring and emotionally laborious to express a personality that isn't yours, says Susan Cain, the best-selling author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking."

But even introverts can become comfortable with public speaking if they continually practice, she tells CNBC Make It.

Although she is a self-proclaimed introvert, Cain speaks at numerous events. One of her most popular speeches is her 2012 TED Talks presentation, titled "The Power of Introverts." During her talk, which received over 17 million views online, the author discusses the many talents and abilities introverts possess.

Cain says that as an introvert living in an extrovert-friendly world, it can start to take an emotional toll on you. "You start to lose face in who you are," says Cain, "because your actual preference on how to be in this world is seen as illegitimate."

Still she says that there are times when introverts should step outside of their comfort zone and act out of character — notably, when they need to take on a leadership role. She uses herself as an example.

Although she now gives dozens of speeches every year, she was terrified of public speaking for a long time. She eventually became comfortable with having all eyes on her by working on it over time.

"The key for a leader is to practice in very small doses," says Cain. "Practice over and over to small and supportive groups."

How Warren Buffett overcame his fear of public speaking

Public speaking is particularly difficult for introverts because it focuses everyone's attention on the person speaking. "Self-promotion appears unseemly and it strikes [introverts] as crass," Cain says.

When she gave her first TED Talks, Cain says she was outside of her comfort level. She had just finished writing her book after a "blissful" seven years of reading, researching and keeping to herself. But after the piece was published, her job suddenly changed and she was forced to educate large crowds about introversion.

"That's a lot harder for me, because as honored as I am to be here with all of you right now, this is not my natural milieu," Cain says in her TED Talk.

"So I prepared for moments like these as best I could. I spent the last year practicing public speaking every chance I could get. And I call this my "year of speaking dangerously," she says in the same speech.

Cain suggests that introverts look at the act of public speaking from a unique point of view. Because introverted individuals link extroversion with public speaking and leadership, they often tell themselves "I have to act like a leader."

Instead, they should recognize that they already are leaders in their own introverted way. "Think: I bring strength to this leadership position," says Cain. "To come at it from that perspective is better instead of feeling like you are faking being a leader."

She adds that every so often she has to grit her teeth and step outside of her comfort zone — be it public speaking, taking on a leadership role or speaking out in a meeting. However, she manages to still honor who she is by "scheduling solitude time" in order to regroup.

Cain says that it's important for introverted people to not try and act like extroverts. She adds that stepping out of your comfort zone becomes easier when you're secure with you are.

"The real power comes from a position of pride and entitlement in who you are," she says. "When you have that you become more effective in job interviews, showing up at meetings and speaking up."