As women, we often feel like we have to work extra hard in meetings to be taken seriously – from over-preparing to trying not to look nervous in front of senior stakeholders, it can be a delicate operation to come across as confident without being misinterpreted as arrogant or pushy.
As a women’s career expert and executive coach, this is a struggle I hear about from women all the time. While they know meetings and interactions with senior leaders offer great visibility and development opportunities, they are not sure how to navigate them.
It can be exhausting constantly making efforts at seeming more confident – but there are solutions to make it all a heck of a lot easier! Here I’m sharing my practical strategies to help build your credibility in your next meeting. Let’s dive in.
Even if you’re feeling a bit nervous, try your best not to rush through what you have to say. If you take your time with your speaking pace, hand gestures, and body movements during your next important meeting, you’ll instantly cultivate a more professional presence – and you’ll feel a whole lot calmer!
Talking too quickly can give the impression that you are unsure of yourself and lack confidence – neither of which is what you want if you’re trying to impress senior leaders. Instead, try taking some short pauses in between words or phrases so they don’t trip over each other. Give yourself all the time you need to say your piece and you’ll be less likely to make any unnecessary errors that could compromise your speaking integrity. Your colleagues will appreciate it too, as they’ll be able to more easily digest what’s being said and will therefore be more likely to remember your contributions.
Senior leaders like to see conviction, so the way you present yourself needs to show them that you mean business. You want to come across as assertive and enthusiastic when communicating – letting them know loud and clear why the solutions you are proposing are right for the organisation. Using eye contact with affirmative language and letting your energy shine through in order to show that you truly believe what you’re saying is key to coming across as capable and confident. Senior leaders like to see employees who back themselves!
Spend a day really listening to yourself – do you find yourself apologising for no good reason? We all know that “sorry” is sometimes necessary, but so many of us pepper our conversations with superfluous apologies when it simply isn’t required. Many of the women I work with find themselves turning to autopilot and apologising for having something to say, taking up space, and even for asking questions – none of which merit any sort of apology. Nine times out of ten, chances are if we’re about to utter “sorry” at work, the sentiment isn’t warranted at all. Instead, opt for assertiveness, minus the guilt!
Do you often preface your ideas with disclaimers like “This may be way off, but…” or “I’m no expert, but…?” We all do it from time to time in an attempt to soften any potential criticisms that might come our way. Instead of setting ourselves up for failure before we even get started, try a new approach. Next time you want to share something unformed and still developing, simply introduce it as: “Here’s what I’m thinking” or “These are my thoughts on this.” Simple yet powerful changes in how you phrase your approach can make a world of difference to how confident you come across.
Another phrase that lets women down – despite their good intentions – is the question, “Does that make sense?” Instead of using uncertain language to check-in with a listener in an attempt to gauge their understanding, try focusing your questions on them: “Do you have any questions?” “How do you feel about that?” “What are your thoughts?” By shifting focus onto the person or audience you’re talking to instead of questioning yourself in this manner, we can come across more confident and knowledgeable while demonstrating greater influence over an issue.
When it comes to communicating confidently, your body language is just as important as the words that leave your mouth. When sitting in front of your stakeholders, be sure to sit tall with your eyes forward, keeping your shoulders back yet relaxed – and don’t be afraid to take up space! Those who demonstrate nonverbal confidence are seen as more reliable and believable, giving their words impactful meaning, so feel free to use controlled hand gestures when appropriate.
Not only does the right body language and posture help project an essence of confidence, but proper posture also helps with breathing which makes for an easier presentation experience when speaking out loud with gravitas. I encourage you to practice so perfecting those good-posture habits becomes second nature.
Remember, sounding confident is a state of mind as much as it is anything else. It takes practice to silence your self-doubt and project an air of authority, but it’s worth the effort – especially when you see the results in the form of clinched deals and clients who respect you for being decisive. “Fake it till you make it” definitely applies here. So go out there, stand tall, speak slowly and with conviction… and watch as people take you seriously in your next meeting.
Keen to dive a little deeper? Download my FREE GUIDE: How To Communicate Confidently With Senior Stakeholders. It is full of practical tips that you can apply immediately – and I guarantee you will take away the tools you need to show up to meetings with gravitas and confidence.