Question: I'm inherently introverted and hate doing sales, pitches, speaking opportunities, etc, but as a founder and I can't avoid it. What tips do you have for overcoming these fears?
Question by: Grace
Tell a Story
"Introverts are often the most effective public speakers because they make it a priority to connect with an audience rather than engage in self-promotion. Use stories to connect with your audience—show them why you are passionate about your company and how you have positively impacted others. Stories are your best way to persuade, entertain, and perhaps most importantly, diffuse nervousness."
Speak from the Right Place
"Public speaking becomes far easier when you're telling the world about a product you have a deep connection to. Identify the core mission behind your product—the one you really connect with, as though it's a cause you're fighting for. And then speak from that place. The words will flow and you'll find you can talk for hours, without even needing to prepare."
Manage Your Energy
"As a fellow introvert, I find that managing my energy and focus is the best way to bring the best of yourself to these meetings. If you give yourself a little bit of quiet time—even just five minutes—beforehand to collect your thoughts and really understand the root of what you want to communicate, the rest will come more naturally. "
Hire against Your Weaknesses
"There's no getting around sales, pitches and speaking opportunities because they're essential for all businesses—but no one says you have to do it alone! If these skills are your weaknesses, find a co-founder or salesperson who has these activities as a strong suit. Many successful ventures launch with one founder being the internal leader and others focusing on promotion and sales."
The 15-Minute Rule
"I used to dislike going to networking events too so I started telling myself that if I went, all I had to do was stay fifteen minutes; if I didn't like it, I could leave. Sometimes I do leave after just fifteen minutes, but most of the time I end up finding someone I like talking to or start having a great time and staying. "
Prove to Yourself You Can Do It
"Every time you make a pitch and survive, you prove to yourself that you can do it! When there's something that scares me, I take baby steps and look at the evidence. We all know that this is an irrational fear; your life isn't actually endangered by stepping onto the stage. Start small, do it once, then use your baby steps as fuel for the next time. "
Change Your Perspective
"If you go around thinking that you "hate" doing people-related activities, you will make yourself and others uncomfortable. The place to start is by thinking something true yet positive: "I can't wait to share my ideas with people. What I have to offer is of great benefit to the world. I so look forward to what this conversation could bring." With this attitude, action is easier."
Just Keep Doing It!
"The only way to feel more comfortable in these types of settings is to keep doing them, over and over and over again. You might be awkward or fumble a bit at first, but with practice, you'll learn to have confidence and poise. To feel comfortable speaking, you might actually learn to enjoy it. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to put yourself out there in order to get there."
Practice Over and Over Again
"No matter how many times you pitch or speak in public, you may not enjoy it—but you can get used to the process. Take every opportunity you can get and practice. Where you can, pick up low risk opportunities: pitch to your friends for practice, join Toastmasters, talk to students, etc. If you know that a mistake won't cripple your business, it's easier to settle into the pattern of talking."
Do What Works for You
"I personally love doing in-person speaking events, but if you’re uncomfortable presenting in front of a large audience, consider offering a webinar or online event instead. It’s all about finding out what works best for you—if you feel uncomfortable, it will likely be obvious."
"It's so easy to want to bury your head in the sand when it comes to how much you "suck" doing sales, pitches, speaking, etc. But one of the best ways to improve is to face your current skill level head on by watching a recording of yourself (you can record sales calls and have someone record your speeches) and being honest about what you can fix."
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.