What makes bosses, bosses? Why don’t they stutter when speaking in meetings, or start their sentences with ‘erm, well it’s like, I hope it’s not a stupid question but…’? Why do they never look nervous or get a red, blotchy neck? Why do people listen, and not speak over them? Why do people follow their lead? …Well ok, they have a job title that helps, I’ll give you that. But they also have confidence, authority, and owning their place at a meeting. Here are a few tips to help you find a little of what they have.
1. Think in advance meeting
Prepare what you’d like to contribute, and the language to use. Know your stuff. Have a structure and stick to it.
2. Practise out loud
Actually talk out loud, to the camera on your laptop. Saying it in your head is not the same, it’s got to be out loud. Try out a few variations of what you’d like to say. Record yourself on your phone a few times to check yourself. Think of some questions that might come up and practise the answers.
3. Sit up
If you want to be a big deal, you need to sit like one. Don’t slouch, be ready. Imagine a string pulling you up from the top of your head, elongating your spine. Look confident, even if you don’t feel it.
4. Go for the gap
Sometimes it’s hard to get a word in, so when there’s a breathing space jump in with ‘I’d like to add….’ then go for it. Have a strong start and finish.
5. Project your voice during the meeting
When you ‘go for it’ – make it a notch louder than usual, with plenty of energy behind it (you’ll get energy having enthusiasm about what you want to say, embracing the butterflies in your stomach to give it that extra oomph).
6. Speak without ‘spacefillers’
We’re talking about the erms/like/to be honest/kind of/sort of etc (as above), they are empty words and dilute your message, and lower your status. If you’re tempted, don’t…just pause instead. (This might need practice J)
7. Don’t rush to speak
As Dale Carnegie says ‘If you want to be a good conversationalist, be a good listener. To be interesting, be interested.’ Listen to what other people have to say first, then form your opinion. However, don’t wait too long or the meeting will end and you’ll miss your chance.
8. Say something
You’ve been asked to the meeting because your opinion is valued, even if it’s ‘I agree with so and so’… then reiterate with your own spin (briefly).
9. Look into the lens
When speaking on Zoom/Webex you need to look into the camera, rather than the laptop screen. Then your audience feels you’re looking and talking to them just as you would face to face. Imagine you’re talking to a close colleague, who’s sitting just behind the lens. Tell it to them with passion, smiling if appropriate, keep your gaze in the lens until you’ve finished
10. Keep a steady pace
Nerves can make you gabble. So put the brakes on, slow down a bit, and pause at the end of your sentences. Own it, have confidence in what you’re saying, trust yourself to speak clearly with intention and integrity.
Practise at least one of the above, at every meeting. Soon it will all come naturally, and you won’t even have to think about it.
For more information on acting like a leader, take a look at our complete Guide to Leadership Skills.