This year my aim is to make my clients and followers become effective spoken communicators AND more confident with their delivery. In the last year, there has been a lot of noise about building your confidence to speak up, changing mindsets to be more visible; to ‘Shine’. These are BRILLIANT and I am the first person to support these. However, it is also important to remember key spoken communication skills to ensure when you speak, you are remembered for the right reasons. Here is my 2017 Speaking manifesto.
Confidence doesn’t mean you are competent. There are some coaches who say that women don’t speak up due to lack of confidence. I do agree with this: it is important important to contribute and also be heard/seen to be contributing. However, speaking out because you are confident per se isn’t necessarily the best thing. There are ways of speaking that are impactful and others that impact on your personal brand. If you speak up when you are frustrated, resulting in a whinny voice, that will be picked up by the audience. If you speak up with mannerisms – flicking your hair and other ‘girly’ mannerisms, or in a style that makes it difficult for your audience to listen to you or understand what you are saying, you and your contribution will be undervalued. So develop your speaking skills alongside your confidence for maximum impact.
Ask, but be prepared for the answer. I am a great exponent of taking the courage to ask; for help, for leads, for support, for ideas. I regularly get requests to be interviewed for podcasts, on the radio, to make a comment, write a blog, or even contribute to a webinar, and I am delighted to support other entrepreneurs. In my music business we have regular requests to play ‘for a showcase’ but the reality in 90% of the requests is that they are wanting quality live entertainment for free. Likewise, with Executive Voice, I have had some howler ‘requests’ in the last six months where individuals have just taken the p*** wanting my expertise for a bespoke programme for free, that they will benefit from and in one case re-sell under her own name. Just as someone has a right to ask you for something, you have NO obligation to say yes, even when the other person becomes difficult. And if you are doing the asking: be prepared for the other person to say “No” because it is their right.
Listening is power not weakness. We are living in a very noisy world where everyone is sharing videos and we ARE encouraged to speak up, it is easy to forget that we also have to listen to others. How often have you been in a ‘conversation’ with someone who is clearly thinking about the next comment to say to you – almost to ‘out do’ you, rather than really listen? How often do you sit in a room with “Big Personalities” where they dominate the conversation or workshop. They don’t listen to your comments or contribution, it is all about them. Yet if they JUST SHUT UP for a moment and really listened, what better people they would be. You can learn so much; assess situations; even gain control of a conversation if you really listen. Listening is not passive, it is active and powerful.
An opinion doesn’t make you an expert. Last year Nick Gold, the MD of a Speakers’ Bureau posted an excellent article on how there are more people saying they are ‘experts’ when in fact they are sharing their opinions. Here is the article. Of course he has a vested interest in promoting experts, since his bureau is full of leading experts in a variety of fields. Last year I attended a couple of speeches where the speakers shared their opinions – I have no problem with that – but they packaged them as though they were experts. I had great fun picking their opinions apart during the Q and A session with real FACTS! If you have an opinion – and we all do, ensure you have some factual evidence to back it up.
Preparation is key to supporting your personal brand. I regularly observe individuals launching into a ‘speech’ or commenting (well rather taking over) a discussion or workshop, who haven’t pre-thought what they are going to say. Their enthusiasm and energy is great and infectious, but since they hadn’t spent even a moment thinking through what they were going to say, their contribution is devalued. Whether it is someone jumping up and taking over a workshop with a ‘visualisation’ technique that falls flat because she’s already thought of something else, to a member of a committee who spends 45 minutes to say we need to order more Mars Bars, sadly the audience are left with memories of the ramblings and unfocused speaking, NOT how awesome they are.
Communication includes spoken conversations. In this world of the internet, communication quite rightly means interactions between people, and often spoken conversations, whether they are on the telephone, Skype or even face to fact are ignored at the expense of Social Media campaigns or strategies. Of course these are ridiculously important, but don’t ignore the impact or value of a spoken conversation with someone. Not only is it more time effective than ‘tennis rally’ emails being pinged to discuss something, but there is genuine power and value in a human, personal conversation.