Research has shown that when it comes to speaking up at work, women tend to speak less in mixed-gender settings, are interrupted more than men, and are perceived to have spoken more even when they speak less. The world is full of brilliant women whose finest ideas are never heard – so we spoke to communication consultant Pippa Bateman, who has coached everyone from Monica Lewinsky to corporate CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs, for her tips to ensure you’re not one of them.
1. Why Should They Care?
Whenever we speak up, it’s our job to convince the audience that they should care about what we have to say. So, start by asking yourself: what is the opportunity for your audience if they take action based on what you have to say? And what’s the risk if they don’t? By assessing the risks and opportunities, you’re more likely to grab your audience’s attention and shape how they hear the rest of what you have to say.
2. Use A ‘Message House’ Structure
If you’re someone who struggles to clearly and concisely articulate your opinion then a message house will come in handy. Start with the ‘roof’ of your message house: your main point. You should be able to express it in one sentence. Next, the ‘walls’ – three supporting points that signpost the rest of what you have to say. The ‘foundations’ are the facts, stats, or proof points used to illustrate each of those points.
3. Weave In A Story
Audiences love a story, and there are three golden rules to telling a good one. First, make sure your choice of story clearly supports the main point you’re making. Next, include lots of human detail so that your audience can easily paint pictures with their minds. Finally, practice your chosen story out loud. Storytelling isn’t easy to do off the cuff.
4. Balance Strength And Warmth
Macchiavelli once said that in leadership, it’s safer to be feared than loved. In fact, when it comes to persuading others to action, we need to project both strength and warmth. There’s plenty of verbal and nonverbal cues we can use to get the balance right, from a level brow and focused gaze, to a genuine smile.
5. Reframe Nervousness As Excitement
We all know how hard it is to keep calm when we’re feeling the pressure. Research by Harvard Business School has found that anxiety and excitement are both arousal emotions with similar symptoms, so try telling yourself: “I am excited by this opportunity to speak up.” It’s much easier to channel our nerves into excitement than to transform them into calmness.
6. Plan Your Pauses
Pauses can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication armoury because they create space for both you and your listeners to think about what you’ve said. But most of us find silence awkward and try to fill the space. Don’t – fillers words undermine our authority because they signal uncertainty. Scrap the fillers and plan two or three pauses instead.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice
There’s no sure-fire way to cure the nerves that come with speaking in front of a crowd, but rehearsals can be a real tonic. Steve Jobs is a classic example of someone who put an enormous amount of practice into making his presentations look effortless.
8. Harness The Power Of Posture
This won’t be the first time you’ve heard about Power Posing. There’s a large volume of studies confirming Amy Cuddy’s research that adopting expansive postures helps people to feel more powerful. So, for an easy confidence boost, harness the power of confident posture.
9. Breathe Deep
When we’re nervous, a fight-or-flight response causes our breathing rate to increase, exacerbating our symptoms. Spend the moments before you speak practicing ‘box breathing’: inhale for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, slowly exhale to the count of four, then hold the exhale for four.
10. Be Energetic
Above and beyond everything else, when you have something important to say, ensure that you communicate it with effort and energy. Re-connect with why your message matters, both to you and to your audience, and use that focus to imbue your message with a sense of urgency and importance.
To learn more about how to find your confidence at work, contact Pippa at PippaBateman.com