Learn how to command the room with my step by step guide. I teach you how to be proactive, muster your courage and the best way to register on your superior's radars.
Yikes! You were just called on to speak in front of your colleagues and you'd rather disappear - but that's not an option. If you're among the 71-percent of adults who identify as introverts, being called upon to speak up is akin to painful dental surgery.
But fear not, my friend, I've got some fool-proof tips to help you prepare for your moment in the spotlight.
First, it's necessary to have a mindset shift. You can speak in front of a group if you truly want to conquer that fear. You have the ability to share a compelling story, share images that elicit emotions and make them laugh and lean in with anticipation - if you want to.
There are of course other options to speaking up in meetings. They include not moving up in your company, receiving the bare minimum in raises and not being viewed as a valuable contributor.
For the years, dollars and effort that you've put into your education, training, and credentials, why not make them work for you at the same time your colleagues are hanging on your every word.
You - yes you can learn to Rock Any Room while informing, leading, inspiring and creating a legion of followers and admirers. Rock Any Room is my course where you learn how to get seen, be heard and stand out in professional situations with total, badass self-confidence and credibility.
Ok, here we go...
Step 1: Request a spot on the agenda
Would you rather be called on without warning or have time to prepare? When you're a part of a team, department or division and you always sit back while a colleague speaks on topics that you're familiar with, you diminish your stature and standing, without saying a word.
Furthermore, you'll be more in-tuned to the conversation, versus being an uninterested bystander. When you're proactive and have the foresight to plan ahead, you'll feel more comfortable and revel in the joy of having made a valuable contribution.
Toward that end, as you're building up the courage to make the request, start sitting closer or directly next to the main speakers in your weekly, monthly, quarterly meetings.
When you select a seat outside the spotlight you're just a blur. By making a conscious effort to sit on the right-hand side, the left-hand side or directly across from the people who lead or those who do the most talking, they will look to the person (you in this example) for confirmation, thus making you more visible than you were previously.
When in a group, start to notice that you have a natural tendency to focus your comments toward the people in those three positions
Step 2: Speak on what you know
It doesn't matter your field of expertise, therefore in this step, we'll use "process" as your speaking point. Processes all have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Now determine where your specific skill or contribution lies in the process and speak specifically to that point.
Aaah...! It feels great - right? Consider this, you are an expert at what you do, and you want to be known and recognized for your efforts.
When you speak about what you know the power of your words ring true with your audience, and you're better able to field questions and objections simply because you're intimately involved in this part of the process.
Step 3: Prepare for objections
Whether you classify yourself as shy and you fear social judgment, or you're introverted and prefer to get back to your workstation and not discuss your progress with your superiors and office mates, what really holds my students back from speaking up is the thought of being verbally pummeled by other participants.
To this, I say "Get over it!" It's been said that when everyone agrees on something, only one person is doing the thinking.
Part of your preparation should be thinking of tough questions and challenges to your "process".
Preparation is the key to standing tall and confidently addressing any question or concern that comes your way. It'll feel like lobbing tennis balls over the net or spiking a volleyball, time-after-time-after-time.
Step 4: Tell a story
Capture their attention the moment you start to speak by turning whatever you have to say into a story or allegory. "But", you say, "No one tells stories about software, or pharmaceuticals, hedge funds or biophysics!", and to that my friend, I say, they certainly do.
Having the ability to express the beginning, middle or end of your talking points in a story framework makes it easier for your audience to understand your point of view, rationale, and path.
Weaving stories into your presentation will also make you less nervous because you know the characters, situations, journey and outcome, so you'll be more likely to flow, and less likely to forget a key factor due to nerves.
When you use a story to connect key points and paint a visual in the heads of your listeners, you'll likely encounter fewer objections because you've already made your talking points more vivid.
Step 5: Practice saying your major points aloud
I wrote about this in a previous blog post, and it bears repeating here. When you think of the great speeches of and prior to your lifetime, the key characteristic is that the sentence or two that lives in infamy, or that oft-repeated line which dominated the 24-hour news cycle was written, practiced and stated with conviction. Sometimes they're a riff, but more often not it was written and practiced.
Failure to plan ahead is like preparing to fail, and you've come too far and worked too hard to look like a total goofball in front of the people who can make or break your career.
By setting aside time to say out loud those points you need to hit home, and weaving in a story which will help keep your place, everything you say, whether they agree or not, will land better with your audience.
6. Want more buy-in? Make eye contact with everyone
I teach lots of professionals how to speak to a group and I have to tell you that 100-percent of them think they're good at making eye contact, but most are not.
Your eyes are the intimate connection between you and your listeners. Remember that we're talking about speaking in meetings and not a keynote at a conference.
Picture this, you're standing and you start to speak and you make eye contact with the person in your most direct sightline. During the remaining time you're on your feet, you make brief eye contact with the person on their right and left, and perhaps a quick glance elsewhere around the table - and that's it.
Avoiding criticism starts with making a personal connection, and in order to make that connection it's really important that you make a conscious effort to connect not just through words, but with your eyes as well.
As you practice Step 5, refrain from looking straight ahead, and plan to look in certain places around the conference table or across, up and down the rows of seats with intentional eye contact.
Step 7: Take control with quick wins
Make it easy for people to nod in agreement, to hear you out, and support you by getting them to agree with smaller, less controversial aspects of your "process" or concept first, prior to launching into what may be considered the more controversial aspects.
When you know the pain points of your audience, it's easier to address that which you know will appease and relax them. When you help people get what they want, it's far easier to get what you want, and when you have that connection, you too can Rock Any Room.
On the other hand, when you land hard points without a well thought out preface and warm up to your hard points, you'll start to see and feel resistance in the room, and you may never regain control. Planning for quick wins is like having a brisk wind against your sails, and from there it's full speed ahead.
Do you find it easy to speak to subordinates, yet you're challenged when addressing superiors? Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.
Susan Callender is the founder and Chief Confidence Officer of Business Class, a professional presence training firm. Learn more about her here.