Last week I had the opportunity to speak to a dynamic group of women from The United Way of Greater Hartford Women’s Leadership Council. We spent the morning discussing the unique communication challenges that women leaders face. Despite the fact that women make up more than 50% of the US population, our voices aren’t always heard. Why not?
Early in my career, a mentor said, “If you don’t speak up in a meeting, no one will know you’re there.”
Those words stuck with me. How can we be sure our voices are heard? One way is to increase our confidence and conviction. When you’re confident in your content, you’re more likely to demonstrate gravitas. In addition to knowing your content, think about your delivery. What does your voice say about your confidence? Reflect on your communication style in meetings or presentations:
- Volume: Do you project your voice and speak loudly enough for others to hear you? Volume shows confidence. Practice projecting your voice so that you can be certain that everyone in the room can hear you.
- Tone: Listen to the way you complete your sentences. Do you have a tendency to finish your statements with a rising tone? The up tone indicates a question, which can undermine your credibility. Be declarative when you finish your sentences. If you have difficulty hearing this in your own speech, record yourself and listen to it. It will take practice, but work to bring your tone down when you finish a sentence.
- Word choice: We can reduce our authority by choosing words such as just, a little, basically, to describe our work. Take pride in your accomplishments, and avoid weak qualifying language that will undermine your credibility.
Whether you’re speaking in a professional context or a philanthropic one, we can all benefit from reflecting on the power of our words. If you want to make an impression and be heard, be sure your voice demonstrates authority. Speak up, project confidence, and present with passion. Your credibility will rise along the way.