9 Ways to Make an Impact when you Speak
Your Executive Voice – Are You Making an Impact?
By: Treva Graves, M.A. CCC – SLP, Image Coach & Personal Brand Strategist
Do you feel nervous before speaking in front of others? Do you avoid speaking out at meetings? Do you get frustrated because people ignore you when you speak? Do you believe you aren’t presenting yourself in the best possible way? And finally, do you feel this is impacting your success and career?
It is frustrating when you don’t believe you are being heard or valued when your opinion is ignored or dismissed. It is irritating when other less talented or experienced DO speak out and get credit for ideas and work. Failing to take up opportunities to represent your company because you get too nervous to be in the spotlight can ruin your chances being taken seriously or getting that job promotion.
Looking back, I didn’t always speak up when I should have for fear of people not agreeing with what I had to say. I realize now that I did not recognize that I hadn’t acquired the skills, knowledge and mindset to manage myself and my nerves – because believe me, I used to get very nervous before I spoke in meetings. I now know the skills and confidence required to be able to speak in various situations with clarity and authenticity, and for people to listen to me so that I make an impact when I speak. This is a combination of knowing HOW to speak effectively and with impact, as well as how to develop confidence and positive thoughts when speaking.
When I train individuals and teams, I use these experiences as well as specific knowledge of the voice, body language and presence I have acquired; as well as the experience of problem solving particular challenges to support my clients.
I focus on the delivery: the voice, body language and developing charisma for speakers, whether they are doing public speaking, presentations, meetings, webinars, conference calls or are in sales. These skills are SO important – in fact they are JUST as important as the content, to ensure you make an impact when you speak. In addition to this, I work with clients on their mindset and managing their nervousness before speaking.
I am passionate about supporting individuals and teams to reach their potential; to make an impact and to be valued when they speak.
I offer a variety of workshops, presentations and individual coaching for people who desire to be great communicators and speakers. Whether you are speaking face-to-face with clients; delivering presentations; appearing in the media or speaking on the phone, there are skills and ‘tricks of the trade’ you can acquire through good training.
Here are a few tips to increase your Executive Voice and your presence to make an impact when you speak at your next meeting or in your day to day work.
1. Embrace Your Unique Value.
Nail your mind-set. Do not go into meetings doubting your own value. Prepare in advance; develop your own unique perspective based on your individual, hard-won experiences. Then walk in knowing you are an asset. Without you, this company would suffer a great loss. Know that!
2. Be Self-Aware.
Nail your body language. A killer pitch can be destroyed by lousy non-verbal communication. Don’t slouch. Don’t wave your arms about like you are drowning at sea. Stand upright and poised. Breathe deep, slow and regular. Look people in the eye and genuinely engage. And be calm and purposeful with your hand gestures. All of this builds trust. You look like you can handle anything. And you can.
3. Think Before You Speak.
Most people waffle on without a thought for whether they make sense or are saying anything truly useful. Consider your ultimate objectives and choose your words carefully to meet your needs. Don’t hurry to deliver the message. Take your time, be deliberate, and say much less than you think you need to.
Take deep breaths, both before and during your presentation. This will relax you, increase your poise and calm your mind. Also sigh before you enter any high-pressure scenario. A deep, gut-felt sigh gives you permission to let go of any pent-up tensions that you may have built up. When you sigh away tension, you release both physical and emotional distress, even if just for a moment. And, as you let go, your mind clears, your body relaxes and you become more relatable.
5. Use the Power of Silence.
Silence is an incredibly powerful tool and should never be underestimated. However, most of us feel awkward in a silence and are thus compelled to fill it. When you dare to pause, it puts you more in charge because suddenly you’re not the one making so much effort to drive a conversation forward. By taking a more detached role, you give the impression of authority.
A well-chosen pause also allows the listener to digest your message. At the same time, you give yourself the opportunity to assess your listeners’ behavior. When you do that, you can tailor your words and actions accordingly and you became a class negotiator.
Remember, “Pause for the cause and you’ll get the applause.” This was something my own coach, James Robbins, taught me years ago! It really works!
6. Meaningfully Engage with your Audience.
Powerful communication is far more than one-sided delivery. You need to relate and engage with others. You need to make the audience feel like they matter to you. And you do this by asking questions, gathering feedback, listening to what your audience says, reading their verbal and non-verbal cues and discerning what response to choose in light of these complex factors. When you do that, you become a rare leader.
7. Assert Boundaries.
Know where to draw the line. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to assert boundaries and refuse to people-please. Not everyone will like you but you will be OK with that. To a degree, you have to stop caring about what others think, as no one gets anywhere in life wasting time on other people’s negative or destructive criticism. However, stay open to constructive feedback: just shut out all the rest.
8. Employ Wit.
Never forget your sense of humor. I’ve often heard women say they are afraid to be playful at senior level in case they won’t be taken seriously. Yet this can backfire, as people who take themselves too seriously are ironically taken less seriously by their peers. A study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.
Your sense of humor is a reflection of your wit and intelligence. If you feel you don’t have wit, it’s a skill that can be learned just like any other. Humor is also important to diffuse tension, as well-placed humor will be appreciated and respected.
9. Dress the Part.
Wear what makes you feel good, but keep it tasteful and professional. People are constantly judging you by your appearance whether you realize it or not. Make a good impression! Wear your outfit with the utmost pride and confidence. It’s important, so own it!
The winning thread that runs through each of these tools is YOU.
Your originality sits at the core of your ability to communicate authentically and powerfully. So, continually nurture and refine yourself, your voice and your inner strength. Eventually, you will feel more confident, more comfortable and more relatable as a leader.