A gentleman sitting in the second row raises his hand. I nod and extend my hand toward him, inviting him to speak. “I have two questions,” he says. “I’m listening to you describe all that you do as an introvert to transition from calmly moving around your kitchen, as you say, to being energized and ‘on’ to present to us today. Do you enjoy the process of that transition? Also, if you are an introvert and you are ordinarily pretty subdued in your everyday life, why do you choose a career presenting to groups and working as a public speaker?”
By the time this man asks his questions, the audience of job seekers and I have been together for almost an hour. I am giving a presentation called “The Introvert Steps Out” to a room in which 98% of the people self-identity as introverts. Nearly all in the room are people who refill their energy reserves by spending time on their own, and they experience a depletion in their energy after interacting with other people. This happens even when the interactions are positive and rewarding. Within the group, some also identify as shy while others are comfortable speaking to large groups. The participants are attending my presentation to learn essential survival strategies that work for all introverts–regardless of how shy or outgoing they are.
From the beginning of my talk, I have been challenging what some people in the room believe about themselves and about introverts in general. Most people in the room have seen dynamic presenters create a high level of energy in a room with jokes, stories, or songs. Not everyone, though, has witnessed a person do this and disclose all the revealing details that confirm the presenter is, in fact, a real, live introvert–just like them.
I can hear the genuine curiosity in the man’s voice when he asks his questions. Up to this point, I have told them “how” I do what I do, but he wants to know “why.” No one has asked me this question in a public venue before, and I find myself grateful for the way this man has opened the door for another important revelation.
To answer the first question, I tell the group that I do love the process of preparing to present. I share how empowering it is to know that, regardless of how much or little sleep I have had the night before or how many unexpected events come flying toward me in the hours leading up to a presentation, I can transform myself from quietly bumbling around my kitchen into being a dynamic and energized speaker. The fact that I can generate myself in this way anywhere and at anytime is a rush. It is my version of Clark Kent stepping into his phone booth.
As to why I stand up and speak? Although my bio says I have been doing this work for seventeen years, those years only reflect how long people have been paying me to do what I love. Even when I was a little kid, I was figuring out ways to support others in finding their voice and expressing themselves. It is what I was born to do. I am both humbled and inspired by knowing that I can stand in a front of a room and say something, even one thing, that brings other people closer to using their voice for what they were born to do. I end my answer to him with another question. “Knowing all this,” I say, “how could I choose anything else?”