On Minecraft, Introverts and Public Speaking

Periodic Table of Minecraft by  @libby_ol
Periodic Table of Minecraft

I’ve been increasingly exposed to Minecraft over the past few months via Mr11 and one of his gaming mates.

A good portion of your time in Minecraft worlds is spent doing all those things (aside from, er, destroying stuff) that people like Jane McGonigal talk about: strategy, planning and creative thinking.

Some of this is done with other players via on-screen text, some via audio comms like Skype or Razer. Some of it is alone: You Vs. The World.

Some of it is spent designing mods or even whole worlds, and that requires time alone. Time to think, or (in the temporary absence of our in-house coding whiz) time to dredge up one’s rusty (circa, um, 1993) knowledge of DOS commands to assist in mining endeavours.

An introvert’s game?

Visual onslaught
Visual onslaught

I’ve come to the conclusion that Minecraft was designed to cater to introverts. Partly because of the hacking and modification possibilities (often a solitary pursuit), but also because of the presence of calming, amorphous, almost new-age music that accompanies you as you process great pixellated slabs of primary colours and the chunkification of anything that gets in your way.

You see, speaking from experience, hard core music on top of a constantly moving visual assault could give any self-respecting introvert sensory overload in about 20 minutes. That’s not enough time to get *anywhere* in a game.

Being well established in Camp Introvert myself (a Myers-Briggs INFJ), I’m very happy spending time alone, mining the world of ideas. I’m very happy spending the time alone to craft these ideas—through fiction, blogging or editorial work, and even preparing presentations.

Public speaking

There are usually big challenges for introverts in choosing to give a presentation or become a public speaker. It’s not like social media because, while you can often engage with social media on your own timetable, public speaking is Here And Now. You need to perform, and you only get one shot at delivery. It’s also something few people do … and even fewer do well. Challenge much? Yep.

So why do it?

For many (like me) it starts with an opportunity. But, for introverts, it often comes at great cost to energy reserves, and whether you continue down the speaking path in a professional capacity is bound to become a serious question at some point.

Over the past week I’ve been reading Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts by writer and authorpreneur Joanna Penn.

Here’s my review. 

Cover image Joanna Penn
Image Courtesy: Joanna Penn

Where Susan Cain blew the introverts’ mine open with her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Joanna Penn has mined and reaped the public speaking quarry, and come back triumphant … bearing spoils to share with us all.

Penn’s book is a treasure chest of personal experience—as a creative, as an author, as an introvert, and as someone who took the steps to make public speaking a rewarding and lucrative part of her skill-set.

I’ve heard Penn speak in person, and I’ve also heard her speak about being an introvert—which initially came as a surprise to me after seeing her high-octane performance and infectious energy. So let’s just say I didn’t require any arm-twisting in order to pick up her book.

Penn has divided the book into four main parts, starting with practicalities and mindset for speaking, then moving to a broader look at the speaking business, and interviews with professional speakers.

Joanna Penn
Joanna Penn in action at WriteCon Zurich, 2012

A large portion of Penn’s professional, pre-author days were spent working in marketing, so she brings a very sturdy business helmet with her into the creative mine. She covers financials, attitudes to money and marketing, and takes a comprehensive look at social media and multimedia possibilities for platform-building.

She provides concrete examples of software and platforms that have worked for her and others who have built a business from public speaking, and in the Appendices you’ll find more treasure: examples of a pre-speaking booking sheet, a sales page example, a speaking checklist and critical core questions to ‘help you to reflect on the content of the book’.

Show, don’t tell

Foam diamond sword in action
Foam diamond sword in action

Penn is a prime example of ‘show, don’t tell’ in action: as a businesswoman, she does all those things she advises aspiring speakers (and authors and other creatives in general) do. For example, in her ebook she hyperlinks to additional, cross-media material on her site (and on others’ sites); she collaborates to foster relationships with other public speaking industry professionals; she has social media whipped; she gives honest insight into her own experiences.

Whatever stage of the public speaking caper you’re up to, I’d say you could learn something from this gem.

For parents who speak 

Introverted parents or primary care-givers who speak in public should especially take note of Part 1.8: Pre-speaking rituals.

Making a smooth exit
Making a smooth exit

Speaking as a mother, I find it’s all too easy to get swept up in reactive carer mode and, in doing so, forget to leave enough time to transition to proactive, ‘professional’ mode.

Of the women I know who juggle kids with professional ‘performance’—from soprano to executive coach to journalist—the ones who do it most successfully leave a *lot* of time to transition and prepare for their ‘performance’ both psychologically and in their presentation (grooming, maintaining their personal brand).

Here are my personal strategies for parents:

  • Practicalities: Pack bags and print-outs and USBs and whatever you need hours beforehand so you’re completely ready to make an exit when the time comes. Be sure you’ve left a margin of error in case you have to deal with a kid’s meltdown or a screw-up in logistics, especially if you have babysitters.
  • Grooming: Try to get any showering or makeup done well before leaving the house. Hours if need be. You can wear your onesie or old shirt after you’ve done your hair and makeup if you’re worried about spilling pasta sauce all over your work clothes. But, that way, the only thing you need to do when you’re leaving the house is get dressed. Also (as Penn notes), good makeup and appropriate clothes are a good investment.
  • Psychological: As any parent or care-giver will know, kids and teens can take up a vast amount of emotional band-width, so it’s important to leave enough time to be able to put any of these stresses behind you. (Joanna Penn and her interviewees all have advice on, and examples of, helpful mantras and preparatory practices. Well worth delving into.)

Right. I’m heading down the mines. I have some serious thinking to do. While I cook dinner.

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