Speaking up at work can be a daunting prospect. Especially when you are in the early stages of building your career. But, as most accomplished professional women will explain – your ability to communicate – to be understood, engage and build trust – is essential in helping you achieve your goals.
Here are 10 tips that will help you become a better communicator. Note – there is nothing here that would not equally apply to men.
- Don’t give away your power
Make sure that you don’t apologise for taking up space. With your words, your body language and your tone be aware that when you speak you expect people to listen. Don’t apologise for the time it takes, don’t slump to appear small and try to silence that whisper of self-doubt before it takes over your brain.
- Find some examples
It can be useful to look to other women who you admire to form a vision of what good looks like. You could consider senior women in your field and or people in the public eye. Once you have a short list try to pinpoint what they do well when communicating.
- Know yourself & be yourself
Have you ever noticed that some people appear to be naturally confident communicators? This is most likely a result of them defining and refining their personal style. To find your voice you will need to first get a sense of how you come across – ask for feedback. Then you will need to create a vision for how you would like to be perceived. When you are speaking it is still you – but amped up a bit.
- Craft an elevator pitch
It is amazing how words escape us at the most inopportune time. It happens to the best of us! You can avoid the regret that comes from missing an opportunity to make your mark by working out what you might say ahead of time. You only need 3 or 4 sentences that state who you are and what you do. Think about how you will stand out in someone’s memory, a day a week or a month later.
- Plan to vary your pitch
It’s great to prepare but you also need to plan for the unexpected. Well, as much as you can. When the person you are meeting and the context changes, your words and demeanour should change too. How would you vary your elevator pitch if you were speaking to a customer, the CEO, a journalist, a new co-worker or an industry contact?
- Speak with conviction
When you have the opportunity to speak – either delivering a presentation or just adding to a meeting – practice the art of clear communication. Highlight your key point, use examples for emphasis and try not to repeat yourself. Become aware of how you come across and try to get better every time – lookout for unnecessary filler words, distracting slides and meandering messages.
- Be upfront
This applies to written and verbal communication. Put your point – your ‘ask’ – upfront. Try not to bury it reams of niceties and don’t overwork the preamble. Make your point upfront, and then use the body of your presentation or email to support that point. Don’t make your audience work too hard to understand you.
- Manage your time
A very wise client recently told me that communication is time management. You must assess how much time you have to make your point, have a conversation or introduce yourself and decide what is possible within those parameters. You will trip yourself up if you try to do too much.
- Show you care
It is OK to let people know you are human. That means you can appropriately share personal anecdotes and explain why something matters to you and even how you feel about it. People connect with people, not disembodied corporate automatons.
- Start now
In your very next meeting, you can begin to put this into practice and commence your journey towards communication confidence. This is one area of your career that will only improve with practice so enjoy yourself.