This is a guest post by Caroline Goyder
The world of work is often a chaotic place. Whether you’re trying to own the room or own a video conferencing call, how do you make sure others don’t talk over, interrupt or, worse, ignore what you have to say? The secret is to first hone your own listening skills, and then to hone your delivery — to make sure that what you say lands in a way that says “take me seriously” rather than “interrupt me.”
We teach others how to treat us by the way we show up vocally and physically at work. Speaking confidently in a high-stakes meeting or on screen in the digital age requires that you’re prepared and that your content is polished — but also that your delivery is relaxed. The art to this paradox is to find a way to be as you are, while at your best. This means unlocking the confidence already within you.
Here are top tips to help you hold your own at work, whether you’re working remotely or face to face.
1. Good speakers are always good listeners first.
If you want to speak with power, learn to listen. Listening and speaking aren’t separate parts — they’re one flowing exchange. When you listen fully, you’re able to tailor what you say accordingly. By paying full attention, undistracted by devices or inner thoughts, you infuse your words with the rich nutrients that listening provides. You build on what’s already been said, and you avoid repeating ideas already stated by others — the quickest way to reduce your credibility.
Similarly, when others feel fully heard, they’re more likely to reciprocate and give your words their full focus. It makes for rich and satisfying conversations, and you become someone others actively seek out. The more fascinated you are, the more fascinating you become.
2. Be clear with your purpose.
When you enter a meeting, be certain about what you have to offer. How can you help? When you know your purpose, you exude much more power and authority. You own the room (or the zoom). Research shows that women are often more highly critical of the value of their contribution in interviews. This uncertainty shows up in normal meetings, too. Women undercut themselves vocally by making their statements sound like questions, or tailing off in volume. By anticipating that your contribution may not be of value, that people won’t listen or that we’ll be judged, women can create the very thing they fear.
Sounding uncertain makes you more likely to be interrupted. This creates a vicious cycle — you feel nervous, sound uncertain, are interrupted, and on around. To break the cycle, ask yourself the question, “How can I help?” Focus on what you can contribute rather than what others may be thinking. It’s a practical tactic for finding confidence because it focuses you outward and switches off any insecurity. You find that you’re able to speak up with authority because you know why it matters that you’re heard.
3. Take five.
Before an important conversation, meeting or presentation, take at least five minutes to calm and relax your nerves. When you meet others — either remotely or face to face — you must initially master your nervous system that’s determining whether the others are friend or foe. When you’ve taken time to stop and calm your breathing and your busy mind, you become more present. Your centered self can ease the heightened tension of any initial encounter.
In the few moments before you enter a room or join a video conference, refrain from checking email, adding to your to-do list or other busy-ness. Instead, stop and allow your mind to clear. This provides the foundation for great meetings because it allows you to be truly present.
4. Get to the point.
When you do speak, give your audience the gift of concision. Don’t talk just to fill space. This quality of brevity in speech is fed by your focus on listening. Speak in short sentences, separated by clear full stops. In your pauses, notice how your words are landing. Make a point of speaking one thought at a time, tailoring it to what your audience needs.
When you pause, close your mouth. It’s the best way to eliminate prattling on or saying more than is needed. This keeps your comments concise and allows others to process what you’ve said. Stopping once you’ve made your point is a foolproof way to cut out the fillers that undercut your power and credibility when you speak.
5. Let others break the silence.
Be comfortable with the silence that follows after you’ve said your piece. Give others the chance to speak. Remember, it’s not your responsibility to keep speaking. When you finish making your point, honor the moment when others digest it. Take a relaxed breath and wait for someone else to fill the silence.
Whenever there’s a pause after you’ve spoken, relax into it. Breathe and enjoy the silence. It massively ups your authority in the room.
About the Guest Post Author:
Caroline Goyder has an international reputation as an expert speaker and trainer with senior management within organizations as well as private individuals. She worked for many years at London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama as a voice coach before launching her own company. She is regularly sought out by the media, and her extremely successful Ted Talk has had over 7.5 million viewers.
Her new book is Find Your Voice: The Secret to Talking with Confidence in Any Situation (Penguin Random House UK, Jan. 30, 2020), along with previous books Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority and The Star Qualities: How to Sparkle with Confidence in All Aspects of Your Life. Visit www.carolinegoyder.com, or find her across social media: @Carolinegoyder.