Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you’re not well-suited to be a thought leader in your industry. As a matter of fact, there are a good amount of introverts among the most influential movers and shakers of today. If you’re genuinely passionate and knowledgeable about your realm of expertise, you can be a great thought leader with a little bit of practice and preparation for your role.
Here are five tips that can help you rise to the top of thought leadership, even if you’re an introvert at heart.
1. Don’t Panic
I repeat, don’t panic. Don’t run, don’t hide, and try not to hyperventilate. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone. Reach out to your audience, share your knowledge, thoughts, and ideas. Take a deep breath and just give it a go.
Think of it as an adventure rather than God’s way of smiting you!
Get excited about the career opportunity you’ve just been given and keep your thoughts positive. Remember that you won’t be in a thought leadership position in the first place if you do not have the expertise to do it. Believe in yourself.
2. Ease Yourself Into It
If you’ve never been a thought leader before or are nervous about becoming the public face of your company, ease yourself into it by researching other successful thought leaders. Whether they are in your industry or not, something can still be learned. Research how they carry themselves, speak, facilitate communication, and learn from them.
3. Start Where You’re Comfortable
Public speaking isn’t the only way be the go-to expert. There are plenty of other mediums that can be utilized to distribute your message including blogging, opinion pieces, webinars, screencast how-tos, podcasts, and more.
If you’re apprehensive about facing a crowd or self-conscious about going live whether audio or video, take to written content and start small. Once you’re ready to try engaging, you can even start with social media to test the waters.
Twitter is a great tool to start the conversation between you and your audience. There are many great tools to start with that can help you immerse yourself into your role as a thought leaders. It takes a few drops of water to fill a glass so start small to make significant strides.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
What’s an introvert’s worst nightmare? Talking in front of a big room of people you don’t know. Just like muscle memory, public speaking can become a memorized trait if you practice. There’s no fear that cannot be overcome and no skill that cannot be mastered without practice.
To get really comfortable, you can start practicing with a mirror. Once you are a little bit more comfortable, you can gather a group of trusted friends or co-workers to sit in as your audience and help you practice. Don’t be afraid to use helpful tools such as queue cards or slides to help you but don’t hide behind them. Give programs like toastmasters a try if you really want to improve on this arena.
5. Fake It Until You Make It
If public speaking still freaks you out, fake it until you make it. It’s an old adage we’ve all heard one too many times but it still holds true. Personally, I channel my inner Sasha Fierce to get through the awkward parts of thought leadership but whomever you decide to become “on stage,” eventually public speaking will become more and more natural. I promise.
Connecting and engaging with an audience is one of the many undertakings of being a thought leader. If that prospect scares you, don’t panic.
At the end of the day all you really need to be is yourself. If you’re confident with the knowledge you are sharing and you’re genuinely looking to provide value to your peers, you’re already a natural at thought leadership.
Dip your foot in the water and acclimatize yourself. If you make a few missteps along the way, think of them as stepping stones to learning. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained so be brave and conquer your fears!