Public Speaking for Introverts and Extroverts

February 26, 2024

Love it or hate it, public speaking is a need-to-have skill in the legal profession. Presenting at client events, CLE seminars, and industry conferences is key to effective business development and marketing.

It’s a skill that comes easier to some — we’re looking at you, extroverts! — than others. (Don’t worry, introverts, we’re not looking at you!) But anyone can develop and master public speaking.

First, a pro tip if you genuinely dislike public speaking: Untangle your social anxiety from presentation skills. This may require a mindset shift: For introverts, the goal is to manage their energy so that they can incorporate public speaking engagements into a productive schedule. For extroverts, the goal is to focus and harness their energy is a way that feeds professional and business development.

Introverts and extroverts alike can improve their skills with practice. Use these steps as a guide:

  1. To start, find the right match for your skill level. Join a club like Toastmasters or try an open-mic event at The Moth. Or opt for a low-stakes event, such as a career day at a school or even keeping a video diary. Just make sure the opportunity is worth your effort.
  2. Build your communications strategy. Identify your message and tailor it to your media and audience.
  3. Plan your presentation by determining what you want your audience to take away. What do you want people to better understand at the end of your presentation? What do you want them to remember? What’s their action item?
  4. Focus your content on sharing your genuine expertise and unique perspective. In other words, be authentic. Play to your strengths.
  5. Tell a story. Don’t worry about memorizing your presentation. Focus, instead, on mastering the key points you want to cover.
  6. Know the technology, whether you’re presenting in person or virtually. Will you be presenting on Zoom, WebEx, or Teams? Will you work off a teleprompter? Do a trial run to get comfortable with the technology — and to check timing and see how long your presentation lasts.
  7. Finally, know the format. If you’re being interviewed, anticipate questions and plan responses. If you’re part of a panel, practice handoffs to other panelists.

On the big day, set yourself up for success:

  • It may sound silly, but a brief mindfulness practice can help quiet your nerves. Try a few minutes of breathing or stretching, or even repeating a simple mantra.
  • Wear comfortable, confidence-building clothes.
  • Check your posture in a mirror or webcam.
  • Prepare your voice by having water or tea on hand. Make sure your presentation isn’t your first conversation of the day.
  • Have PDF backups for slides in case of technology glitches.
  • Smile! It comes through in your voice — and you can fake it until you make it.

Public speaking strengthens your professional growth and helps you better support your firm — positioning the firm as a thought leader and building brand visibility. After you give a presentation, take time to reflect, get feedback, and reward yourself!