Do you feel people at work aren’t always paying attention when you speak? Or that your word seems to carry less weight, even if you’re right?
Due to evolutionary factors, humans respect and regard others that portray strength, confidence, and poise.
Here are five simple ways to improve your image and command more attention in meetings:
1. Unqualified speech – “I feel like, maybe, we should try X instead of Y, is that ok with you guys?”
Examine the sentence above. How watered-down does it feel? It is very natural to be cautious about expressing an opinion, especially if it’s controversial, or if you just thought about it, or perhaps there’s a high price for saying something wrong. Try this sentence “Based on its merits I believe X is a more cost-effective idea than Y.” In this version, we show a lot less doubt, and temper our sureness with the evidence-based argument (“based on its merits”) giving a specific reason, i.e. cost, as the basis for our viewpoint. This balances our concern of being wrong with the need for being more direct with our speech.
2. Active Voice > Passive Voice – Try this “The project is going pretty well”, versus “Our team is executing the project very well”. By giving credit to the actor (the team) and not starting the sentence with the subject (the project), we make the sentence more dynamic and also give our team members some kudos. This second example shows active voice and adds to the power of our speech and the team’s reputation. Passive voice, the alternative, is better used when we do NOT want to point out the people involved, usually when something has gone wrong, trying to protect someone from blame (but also not holding them accountable, which is a different problem).
3. Little to no fillers in your speech – Um, uh, like, so, maybe. Words like this are called ‘fillers’ since they are literally taking up space to fill out the awkward silence while we think of a response or what we should say next. Of course, everyone knows we should have less of these, but the question is, how? One simple technique is firstly, be comfortable with that awkward silence. Your comfort takes away the awkwardness. Secondly, go slow. When we speak too quickly, we outrun the speed at which our brain thinks of the next word, so we need to slow down our speaking rate and let the brain catch up a bit. Finally, BREATHE. Speaking is a physical activity as much as it is a mental one and breathing deeply and regularly gives less cause for you to need to take a breath between lines.
4. Use shorter sentences, punchier keywords – this is a no-brainer. Punchy phrases and keeping it to the point, this helps the audience’s brains focus on the main ideas and have time to digest them. Putting more words per sentence is like putting more clutter on a table, the audience can’t find what it’s looking for. As for the keywords, emphasize the things we should remember, maybe even come up with slogans like “short lines, clear minds” (see what I did there?)
5. Self-confidence – This feels like common sense, right? If you don’t believe in yourself, how can the audience? Like point number 3 on fillers, the trick is, how? So, here’s some techniques – first off, wear smart clothing. It seems superficial, but try giving a speech in a t-shirt, and then try wearing a suit or pantsuit. Makes a world of a difference. Secondly, practice your stance and gestures in front of a mirror. Looking good is great, moving great is even better. Chest out, back straight, shoulders broad as possible, and feet apart as much as shoulders are. Finally, give the audience a smile (no teeth!) and put them at ease.
In closing – remember what brought you to this point. All the hard work and hours you’ve put in, the accolades you have earned. You deserve to be here, no question about it. The audience genuinely wants to hear something good from you today, so give them great ideas and insights, share some thoughts, and show how much you believe in your own ideas.
If you believe in them, there’s a good chance they will too.