Written by: Dara Connolly, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
According to a 2019 Lean In report, 34% of all men and 50% of all women experience being spoken over or interrupted in the workplace. Do you feel you are speaking, but no one is listening?
As a former soft speaker who often found it difficult to interject into conversations and when I did, was quickly talked over, I know how frustrating this can feel. Often, I would leave corporate meetings or social gatherings feeling invisible– my ideas or contributions were not heard at all.
Now as a confidence coach who works with individuals to speak with impact, I know the importance of being sure your words land.
Here are 5 tips to help you be more influential when you speak.
1. Say your opening sentence loudly enough with enthusiasm to be noticed.
Sometimes we get talked over simply because others did not know we were speaking. When you want to interject into a conversation, you may consider increasing the volume of your opening sentence to be sure you are heard ‒ not shouting, simply amplifying your voice. However, it is not simply the loudest one in the room who is noticed. Our brains are wired to listen to others who sound excited and have something interesting to say. Practice speaking while smiling and holding eye contact with others. This shows you have something important to say and that you cannot wait for them to hear it. If you are not heard the first time, repeat your sentence a little louder and with more enthusiasm and watch how others pay attention.
2. Speak in a lower pitch from your belly/diaphragm to give your voice more projection.
When we want to be heard it’s helpful to use an authoritative but friendly tone. We can achieve this by speaking from our core, not our throat. Imagine you are approached by a neighbor who incorrectly accuses you of throwing trash on their lawn. Think of the confident tone you would use to plead your case. You would speak in a tone that shows you're reasonably sure of yourself and what you're saying. Using a lower tone also helps you eliminate “up speak”– or the tendency to end your statement with a higher-pitched question such as ‘does that make sense’. You don't have to sound ultra-confident about everything that comes out of your mouth, but using a higher tone makes you sound timid or unsure of yourself. When you speak in a confident lower pitch, you signal to others you are trustworthy to be listened to.
3. Lean in before speaking.
In a group where everyone is talking over each other, it can be tricky to know when to jump into the conversation. In these situations, let your body language speak for you. Try leaning forward or sitting up in your chair and opening your mouth a little to let others know you want to share. You can even gesture by pointing a finger or palm up (not at someone but instead towards the ceiling) with an "Ooh, I've got something to say" face. Then when there is a natural pause in the conversation you are ready to jump in. These non-verbal cues help others realize you want to join the conversation.
4. When you're not speaking, stay engaged in the conversation.
People are less likely to listen if you seem checked out or bored from the conversation. Stay engaged while listening by giving verbal and non-verbal cues. You can occasionally nod your head, ask questions, show emotion on your face, or add a few short phrases such as “wow”, “that’s incredible”, “oh, how awful” etc. to show you empathize with what you are hearing. Then when it is your turn to speak, others are more likely to listen to you as they know you were a good listener to them.
5. Be physically visible within the group.
You may be thinking, I’m standing here with everyone else how am I not visible? We are more likely to listen to someone when we can see their eyes and mouth, and they can see us. For example, if everyone is standing around in a loose circle, be in the circle, not sitting behind them. You can take this a step further by gently mirroring the body language of others in the group. If everyone is standing in a circle talking with their arms crossed, try joining the circle doing the same gesture when you speak. We are more likely to listen to others who we feel are like us and can relate to us.
These are just a few of the many tips I can teach you on how to be more impactful and influential when speaking in front of an audience. If you’ve read my article, I’d love to hear from you. Reach out to tell me where you are getting stuck and what tip resonates most with you.
Dara Connolly, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Dara Connolly is the author of the new book Flip Your Fear and founder of PTC™– an award-winning confidence program. Dara was the ultimate juxtaposition – a Black-Belt martial artist and a lifelong timid wallflower filled with fear! She now helps individuals speak up with confidence and be more influential and impactful when speaking in front of an audience.
Dara is a TEDx speaker and nationally recognized expert in the field of confidence. She has been featured on FOX, CW, The Connect Show, The List Show, Dr. Laura, and other media outlets. Her latest book, Flip Your Fear is available on Amazon.