It’s one thing to create ideas within your bubble, freely thinking and rethinking, perhaps brainstorming with a team member and feeding off each other’s creativity and enthusiasm. What a rush to flesh out an idea that you just know will solve a client’s pressing problem and be a winner!

Then you realize you have to present this idea to the rest of the team, to bosses, to clients, to whoever gives thumbs up or thumbs down to your work.

Your bubble has burst.

You begin to sweat and your mouth feels like cotton balls have sucked it dry, just at the mere thought of the ordeal.

You don’t need to be an Introvert to react this way, either. Even the more outgoing or self-assured personality types can stumble when presenting to a group. But there are tried-and-true ways to become comfortable speaking in front of people. Here are three secrets to help Introverts put themselves and their work out there without being overcome by the anxiety of the moment.

Secret #1: Talk to each member of your audience

This is a bit trickier than it sounds. It doesn’t refer to your “target audience” that the product or service is designed for, but who you will be presenting to in that one meeting. These are the people you have to convince at this point.

You need to talk to the SPECIFIC audience sitting in front of you. What are their concerns? What does a project need to accomplish to get their approval? What sets their hearts on fire, and what sends up red flags for them?

We’ve all been there. You get up to speak, begin confidently enough with showing your examples, and then you look out and see the eyes clouded over, or the blank faces that tell you instantly: You’ve lost your audience.

Oh, physically they’re in their seats, but mentally they’re thinking about their next meeting, people they have to call, doodling a to-do list. And they’re not going to be enthusiastic about your idea if they aren’t paying attention.

Audiences tune out for many reasons, and you may not know why at that moment. But if you take the time in advance to prepare for your audience, you’re much more likely to hold their attention.

So, define who will be in your audience and tell them what’s in it for them, or WIIFT. 

First, think about who your audience is going to be. Maybe you present first to the rest of your team, then to higher-ups, and eventually to the client. Or maybe you have a mixed group in front of you that includes team members, managers and VPs. No sweat – you can handle it – as long as you prepare in advance for that mixed group.

Each person in your audience wants to know WIIFT. And the answer to that may be different for each of them.

So here’s how to plan for it:

  • Write down the names of the attendees, or if you aren’t sure who exactly will be there, write down their job titles or departments.
  • Next to their names or job titles, note what they will want to know about your idea, product, or service.

For example, if someone from accounting is going to be there, you know they’ll be fixated on the numbers: costs, potential revenues, and profits. If a marketing person will be attending, they’ll be thinking how they would position your idea.

VPs are looking at a bigger picture, like how your idea differs from what the company already sells, how it will beat competitors’ products, and if it’s affordable.

If you know specific people who will be there, give yourself an edge by identifying their hot buttons. Make sure your presentation answers each person’s or department’s concerns. Your notes can be short, since only you need to understand them.

So, for example, you write in your notes:

Targets: WIIFT

  • Accounting - costs/revenues/profits
  • Marketing - positioning to sales
  • D. Smith (VP Finance) - affordability
  • R. Ryder (VP Sales) - competitive advantage

Don’t leave your audience saying a big SO WHAT. Tell each of them exactly what your idea will do for them, whether it will make their jobs easier, increase sales, or fulfill a customer need.Tell them WIIFT.

Secret #2: Have your elevator pitch handy

You might think elevator pitches are just for salespeople, but actually, everyone needs several elevator pitches explaining what you do, your goals, etc. Here, you’re pitching your idea.

Elevator pitches can be described as one clear, succinct sentence, maybe two, telling people what they need to know. Some say they’re 30-second pitches; others say two minutes. It’s good to have both, because you never know how long your “elevator ride” will be.

In a presentation, you’re pitching your idea, new product, etc. Having an elevator pitch prepared for it will help you easily remember your important points.

Let’s say you’ve designed new packaging for an existing company product to revitalize its sales. Instead of just showing your designs, prepare your elevator pitch to cover the pertinent points your audience will want to know. For example:

New packaging elevator pitch:

(What it is) This packaging is bold, fresh, and inviting

(Why it will increase sales) to grab customers’ attention, divert them from competitors’ products, and position us as modern and on trend

(Why customers will care) It’s the same product they love, in scaled-down packaging, showing we care about reducing waste and keeping costs down, which research shows customers appreciate.

This is the essence of your message, succinct and easy to remember. You can even turn your elevator pitch into a graphic and include it in a leave-behind packet. Or present each point on one page of a presentation tablet, and reveal them one at a time.

Of course, if you do show it, give it a title other than “elevator pitch” because 1) No one likes to know they’re being pitched to, and 2) Creativity adds excitement.

NOTE: If you’re presenting remotely, make sure any props you show are scaled for your audience members’ screens.

Secret #3: Put together a cheat sheet

You’re talking in front of a group when suddenly, you forget what you were going to say. As panic sets in, you don’t even remember where you were in your presentation.

Maybe it really happened. Maybe it’s a recurring, dreaded nightmare scenario. Either way, having a cheat sheet will save you.

On one page of a notebook you can carry with you, and that you can legibly read from a standing position, print in large letters:

  • Three or four points, each containing one of the topics (in order) you want to cover.
  • Each point should be no more than 3 words long so you can easily zero in on it if you lose your place or your train of thought while presenting.
  • Under each point, jot just a few keywords to remind you what you want to say there.

This isn’t your presentation written out. You’ll never pinpoint where you were or collect your thoughts from something that lengthy.

Attach a paperclip to the page so you can easily get to it even if the notebook closes. A page that’s attached in the notebook works better than a loose page that can float to the floor or slide across the table.

No one expects you to transform into an ESFP performer. But preparing what you want to say, using props and visuals to keep your hands busy and your audience engaged, and having a cheat sheet handy will help you overcome any anxiety. You know you’ve got a good idea and you’re ready to show why.

One more secret: Take some time for yourself before your presentation. Shut out the busy world, breathe deeply, meditate, and recharge. Go over your notes. As you enter the room, smile. Just flexing those smile muscles sends happy endorphins to your brain, upping your enthusiasm and telling you, “Relax. You’ve got this.”

Barbara Bean-Mellinger
Barbara Bean-Mellinger writes on business topics such as jobs and careers, marketing and advertising, public relations, entrepreneurship, education and more. Her articles have been published in newspapers, magazines, and on websites. She lives in the metro Washington, D.C. area and has recently taken up travel writing to highlight lesser-known sites in and around the capital.