This week’s guest blog is by Sophie Clark from Denison Clark
Communicating with confidence and impact
consistently in meetings, on conference calls and during presentations can be a
challenge when returning to work. As a
workplace communication expert I help people to build their confidence, polish
their skills and avoid some the common pitfalls when speaking. I have put
together 8 tips and tricks to remind you how to communicate with greater impact
when returning to work.
me time to think
Speaking too fast is a credibility
disaster. Pause. All the time. Break up what you’re saying. If you speak how I
am writing now, if you pause often, it’s the cheapest trick in the book to look
calm and authoritative. Yes, it really is that simple. Watch Condoleezza Rice
to see it done well and steer clear of Tony Blair’s pausing style.
There are people who say 93% of your
message is body language and voice. This has been taken out of context for
years. Getting your content right is critical and so stop naval gazing and first
think about your audience. Lead with why your audience should listen to you?
What should they know? How will it impact them? What do you want them to do?
don’t put on a ‘show’
We are often told to “fake it till you
make it”, but this advice is better targeted when taking on a new role, not with
your communication style. News flash – you are most likable when you are your
warm, authentic, natural and professional self. I spend my life removing the masks
from my female clients, so don’t wear a mask thinking it will help you appear
more confident when you speak. Pretending to be someone you’re not is not only
exhausting but it makes it harder for others to trust you.
This term was coined from Harvard
professor, Amy Cuddy. If you don’t know who she is, take 20 mins and watch her
35 million times viewed TED talk. Taking time to make yourself ‘big’ before you
speak has been scientifically proven to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone)
and increase testosterone (the confidence hormone). This uses your body’s
natural hormones rather than play acting being someone else. If you haven’t
watched this talk I cannot recommend it highly enough. Find a spare board room
or empty bathroom and ‘wonder woman’ your way back in.
your hands up
Put your hands (and forearms) on the
table in meetings if you want more presence. If your comfort zone is to place
them in your lap, then please, change your comfort zone! This matters
particularly for women. 70% of my female clients show this behaviour and it can
make them look small and under confident. Only about 5% of my male clients do
this and the perception difference is huge.
how you introduce yourself
Humans judge each other. Naturally, sub
consciously, all the time. You will likely have an opinion of The Queen, Barack
Obama and Sheryl Sandberg even though you may not have met them. I’ve met
returning colleagues who have said “Hi, I’m Alex. I’m back after maternity
leave and am working 3 days a week now”. What I take away is the external
side of Alex’s life and their working hours. What I am missing is what is Alex
is doing in her role and what impact that is having to the firm. E.g. “Hi,
I’m Alex. I’m back after maternity leave and I’m working mainly on X project X for
Y client.” There’s nothing wrong with talking about your time out or
your children, but be careful if that’s what you lead with
or the only thing I know about you.
up and be counted
Perhaps your comfort zone is to sit,
watch and participate later, particularly as you catch up and build confidence
back. Whilst no one likes the over talker in a meeting, be aware that
repeatedly saying nothing can be career damaging. A sage piece of advice I was
once given was by a senior female investment banker who said “don’t speak
unless you have something worth saying, but don’t let people judge your silence
as a distinct lack of interest or ability”.
finally.. stop the negative chatter in
Internal communication matters just as
much. Mentally, many of us have “obnoxious roommates in your heads” as Ariana
Huffington calls them. Voices who say – you’re not good enough/ you’re brain’s
been a little mushy since the baby/ technology has moved on so quickly/ people
are going to know I’ve lost my edge/ I can’t give it the time it deserves…. I
even had clients who refer to themselves as “has-beens’”. You have the power to
stop these thoughts, especially if they are not helping you. If this is
happening, it’s time to get some control back and park them.
Good luck. Power pose. Pause. Think
about your audience and please be your authentic, polished true self.
Sophie is a communication expert at Denison Clark. She coaches
small groups and individuals to speak with more confidence, clarity and impact across
their work conversations and presentations.