In the Q&A after my keynote the other day, a woman (ironically after refusing to use the roving microphone) asked, “You know that part where you talk about Professor Lupin and facing your fears? What if your biggest fear is that your voice won’t be heard… how do you make that feel ridiculous?”
We chatted for a moment about really considering what “the worst thing that could happen” was in this scenario. And what would happen if she didn’t speak up at all, which would ensure her fear had come true. And then she said. “But what if they use the same idea when someone else says it?”
I then I understood that her question was less about fear and more of a “How do I?” question (see also David Dye’s “Leaders Are You Answering the Wrong Question?”).
Eager eyes awaited my response. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one facing that challenge.
5 Ways to Ensure Your Voice is Heard: The VOICE approach
First, when someone offers you a mic, take it. If someone else has to repeat what you say, you’ve already lost some impact. Sometimes the mic is metaphorical (like pulling your chair up to the table if you’re sitting on the sidelines). Here are a few other additional tips.
Visualize what you are going to say and how you’re going to say it. Include it all–the eye contact, the sitting up tall with an open stance, strong projection and confident tone. Visualize their receptive response. It’s much easier to feel confident when you’ve practiced.
Organize your thoughts in advance. Make an outline if needed. Consider the key points that will support your point of view. Know your opening sentence, so you won’t be tempted to start with a pre-apology (e.g. “This may be a bad idea, but…”)
If possible do your homework in advance and be aware of other’s opinions on the topic. If you can, do some stakeholdering in advance, so you know there will be some nodding heads when you being to share your ideas. If you’re responding spontaneously, then ask for feedback. (e.g. “How do you think this idea could impact our project?”)
Listen carefully to the opinions and ideas of others. Thank them and respond appropriately, building on and integrating their ideas if possible. If you know the objections, it can be helpful if you’re the one who brings them up first. “Now you may be thinking ______ (insert objection here) and then address it.
Stay energetic in your delivery. It’s hard to ignore someone is genuinely passionate about their point of view.
Most important, be sure you believe what you have to say. If you’re unsure, your audience will be equally skeptical.