How to be heard in the room

Transitioning from passive listener to respected voice is key to any upward movement on the job. As a new or junior employee, you likely attended meetings led by a boss, while other senior staffers offered feedback, participated in discussion and pitched ideas. As you grow in your position, you will also want to a part of the conversation, and learning to do so effectively will be important in the way you are perceived by leadership. You want to be prepared with deep expertise in your field, and be able to talk about it with confidence and clarity. Here are some tips to prepare you as you take the step to being heard in the room:

  1. Think about your headline.

    In other words, be succinct in what you want to say. When you’re first speaking up, that is when you want to be crisp and confident. It is not the time for ambiguity or going down rabbit holes with your expertise. If you’re the expert, you should be able to explain your idea so a non-expert can understand what you’re saying. So next time you’re delivering a report or a plan, start with the most important point first, as that is when you will have everyone’s attention. Then follow it with details, offering insight into how it will be executed, and end with a an easy-to-remember tagline, so everyone keeps what you said top of mind.

  2. Run a mental rehearsal.

    If you practice what you want to say—and an array of potential responses—you will be as prepared as possible for anything that can happen.

  3. Maintain a strong voice

    You don’t want to be meek or mumble incoherently, but rather speak with authority. If you believe in your idea, you have a good chance of convincing others to believe as well.

  4. If this is out of your comfort zone, create a plan

    Public speaking—including in front of a small group of peers—can be anxiety-inducing. When you begin, make sure to practice what you want to say, perhaps for a friend or trusted coworker, to get feedback. It’s normal to be nervous the first time you speak in front of an intimidating group or have to cold-call customers. Don’t ignore the feeling, identify it. Is it terrifying, thrilling, nauseating? Working through your valid feelings—not ignoring them—can allow you to overcome them. Remember, everyone stumbles. It’s not the end of the world. The key is to be resilient, continue to improve and keep speaking up.

  5. Focus on small wins first

    Begin with aiming at reasonable goals. Taking manageable strides toward lasting success is a smart approach, versus attempting to make a big splash on your first try. Get your feet wet, test the water, and slowly submerge yourself. That way you keep an eye on your long-range plans, your future.

  6. Stay positive.

    Everyone stubs their toe once in a while. The key is to learn from your mistakes, stay focused, upbeat and try again. Maintaining a positive attitude, especially when things don’t go your way, helps you with the mental fortitude it will take to overcome obstacles along the way so you can reach your full potential.

Judy Smith advises Presidents, celebrities, Fortune 500 companies, and was even the real-life inspiration for Scandal’s Olivia Pope. In other words, when it comes to solving problems large and small, she’s the best. She can help you face—and overcome—the toughest challenges in your professional and personal life, so you can unleash your full potential.

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