Founders pitch their ideas all the time. I wager, a founder pitches his startup an average of twice a day, everyday, for the first six months of his startup’s life. You’ll pitch to potential employees, to cofounders, to family and friends, to your spouse, to your landlord (especially when your rent is due and you can’t meet up) and to investors.
And even though that last one gets major coverage, for an introvert, meeting new people is as terrifying as it gets, talk less of engaging them with your ideas. There’s the fear of rejection, the fear of being laughed at or ridiculed, the fear of being locked up and put in jail for incessantly crazy ideas (maybe I’m the only one who experiences that last part).
So, here are a few pointers to get you primed for your next pitch or presentation
The defining feature of introverts is the strength of their inner life. They have a natural inclination to live in their thoughts, to daydream and fantasize about anything. Which is why they enjoy extended periods of solitude.
You should use this to your advantage. Planning out the entire meeting in your head, your opening statements, examples you’ll reference, possible questions, and so on will not only increase your confidence, but also gets you pumped for the meeting.
In a way, everyone can do this, (anyone who’s gone for job interviews knows the drill) but introverts take it a step further because of the richness of their inner world. After all, they’ve been doing it their whole lives.
Practise talking to strangers
I know what your mum said. But it’s time to forget all that.
You need to pitch as many “strangers” as possible. It could be to convince them to have diet coke instead of regular coke at the restaurant. It could be to persuade them to change hairstyles. The subject of the pitch is irrelevant. What’s important though is that you get desensitised to the “butterflies in your tummy” feeling which throws everyone for a loop whenever it’s time to talk to strangers.
The more you do it, the less uncomfortable it feels.
Sometimes, when you’re pitching to a group, some people will walk out. Some will pause you to pick calls. Some might even doze off. If there’s anything that can kick the winds out of your sails, it’s this one.
As an introvert, your inclination is to get discouraged and think you’ve failed. You’re wrong though. As long as you have ONE person still listening to you, you’re still in the game. Usually, this person is a fellow introvert, who’s actually rooting for you to get through your presentation (there’s an ethereal bond between introverts). And if you’re able to win this person over, guess what? You just got yourself an evangelist for your idea on the inside who’ll defend your idea passionately to his/her peers.
Develop a little egomania
This one is a bit of a hack so use with brain. Whenever you have to express your ideas, it’s good to channel your inner James Bond villain (I always use Goldfinger). Imagine yourself as the evil overlord of an evil corporation. But nobody knows this yet since but you’re still in the early stages of your plan to take over the world. Unknown to your audience, this is just one of several stages as you slowly work your way into their minds, their cheque books and their lives.
What this does is it boosts your self image to insanely high levels, which in turn, does your confidence all sorts of good.
Some quick and dirty tricks
Before you begin, wiggle your toes and roll your shoulders, just like the athletes do before a game. This loosens you up.
Have a picture of someone you love nearby. It calms you (if there’s no one, sorry but you’re screwed).
While pitching, take frequent pauses and smile, regardless of how it’s going or how you feel.
One last thing
Even if you memorise all these steps, you’ll still hit a few snags the first few times. You’ll still make mistakes. You’ll still feel nervous and inadequate. You’ll still say the wrong things and forget to say the right things.
Despite all these, don’t stop practising. Your evil mega corporation depends on it.