By Samantha Nuechterlein
Repetition, speaking with hedge-words or softeners, and unnecessary apologizing are common mistakes we, as working professionals, make every day.
Before Thanksgiving, NCSL’s Young and New Professionals Program and the Women’s Legislative Network teamed up to host a webinar aimed at teaching legislators and legislative staff to command their daily conversations.
Catherine Johns, a leadership speaking coach, gave us a few tips on how to speak with power, presence and poise during all our interactions.
1. Eliminate softeners or hedge-words
As Johns shared a few examples I could feel people all over the country, including myself, cringing, as these are common conversation fillers. “I’m not an expert, but …,” “kind of,” “could be,” “this little project,” are all subtly chipping away at the impact and authority that your language holds. Give yourself a leg up and share your confidence—after all you are an expert and they called you.
2. Eliminate “I’m sorry”
Unless you have done something wrong and whole heartedly should be apologizing, stop apologizing. Not only does our habit of over apologizing diminish what we are saying in the moment, it diminishes the meaning of an apology when its needed.
3. Speak conversationally
Spoken English and written English are two very different things, remember to keep them separate. When speaking to an individual or a group of people, speak to them don’t recite to them. Your audience may not always understand your jargon or acronyms, be concise but don’t build a barrier between you and your audience by using jargon they don’t understand.
4. Repetition is not your friend
Johns put it best: “Say it once, say it well, and zip it!”
5. Ground your voice
Literally … place your feet on the ground. If you’re sitting at your computer and speaking on the phone, make sure those two feet are flat on the ground. It will elevate your posture and give you a platform from which to annunciate.
Stage actors and stand-up comedians alike understand the power of a good pause. Take a breath, it allows for your audience to absorb what you are saying. Hey, maybe even substitute a pause for one of those “ummmmms” no one wants to hear.
As you gear up for 2018, bookmark this page for a quick self-prepared pep-talk before any town hall, committee testimonial, or phone conversation with your boss.
For a more extensive listing of the do's-and-don'ts of speaking with authority, check out Catherine Johns’ 39 Keys.
Samantha Nuechterlein is the lead staff for the NCSL Young and New Professionals Program.