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Career Advice: How Successful People Speak With Authority

Career Advice: How Successful People Speak With Authority

Mon 17 Sep 2018

Your voice, and how you use it, can be surprisingly crucial to success at work. From job interviews to presentations, sales calls to negotiations; here’s how you can coach yourself to speak with authority. 

The digital revolution may have us all ‘chatting’ by text, but how you speak (using your actual voice!) still impacts hugely on how people perceive you in the workplace.

Whatever your job, there are times when you need to speak with authority. We’re not just talking about public speaking, but phone calls, meetings, interviews – you name it, any scenario where you’re trying to get your point across to at least one other person. 

Speaking with authority is important if you want people to pay attention and remember what you’re saying: useful whether you’re trying to get buy in for a project, sell a product to a client or ask for a promotion. But sometimes it’s easier said than done, especially if you’re inexperienced and/ or shy. Here are some key tips to get it right. 

7 Tips for Speaking with Authority

1. Slow. Down.

Those who exude authority and confidence don’t rush what they are saying. People take the time to listen to them, as what they are saying is worth listening too. Speaking too fast and without pause can make you look nervous and hurried, like you’re trying to rush through so someone else can jump in. Instead, relax, take your time, and make a conscious effort to speak s-l-o-w-l-y. 

2. Ditch the ‘filler’ words

Although you might think that words like ‘um’, ‘err’, ‘you-know’ and ‘like’ are filling awkward pauses, they can actually undermine your authority (the same goes for the criminal over-use of phrases such as ‘basically’ and ‘obviously’). Sometimes it’s easy to fall into bad habits, so check yourself next time you are speaking in front of others. If there’s a natural pause – embrace it, it’s more impactful. You don’t want your message to be diluted as people become more focused on irritating patterns of speech than what you are saying.  

3. And… Breathe! 

If you get nervous when you speak, it’s amazing what you can achieve by focusing on your breathing. Take a deep inhale, followed by a long exhale, and repeat 5 times, concentrating on your breath the whole time. You’ll be amazed at how must more relaxed you feel afterwards. This will free up your vocal chords and ensure your voice is lower and calmer – and as a result, more authoritative. 

4. Just Be Present and Listen

Sometimes when you have to speak in a meeting or publicly, it’s easy to be so focused on what you are about to say, that you forget to pay attention to what other speakers or colleagues are saying. By listening intently to the discussion, you may be able to make an intelligent comment, or start your speech by developing a point someone else has made – both of which will command respect.

5. Simplicity is Golden. 

Contrary to popular opinion, if your speech is a party of industry buzzwords, thesaurus abuse and pompous waffle, you’re not going to win anyone over. You don’t need to overcomplicate things. The most authoritative speakers simplify their language and distil their arguments into clear, segmented points so that anyone can understand. And if you don’t have anything useful to add, it’s better to say nothing at all. 

6. (Repeat after me) “I own the room”

Speech coach Christine Janke argues that speaking from a place of strength and authority is a mental game. She should know, given she’s advised Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama on speaking with authority. “Once you are in the room, recognize that you belong there,” she says, noting that women in particular often approach meetings and presentations as if they’re being tested. When you feel confident and comfortable, it’s infectious. So reassure yourself: you know your topic and you deserve to be listened to.  

7. Exude Confident Body Language 

There’s a well-known adage trawled out in public speaking classes that how people perceive you is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and only 7% the words you are saying. Whilst the exact numbers are open for debate, there is no denying the importance of physical presence. Holding yourself tall and open rather than hunched and withdrawn can give you instant confidence and authority. Try using hand gestures; they show passion and help make speakers less nervous and awkward. 

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