How To Use Your Voice (And Avoid Upspeak) For Greater Confidence And Credibility 

Your voice is powerful. Every time we open our mouths we have the opportunity to influence.

Here are several ways to sound confident, credible, and have better workplace engagement.

it starts with self-awareness.

The question for all of us to ask is this:  “Are we coming across the way we intend to?” Do you know your blind spots, in how you sound and the way you use your voice at work? Are you coming across in a way that projects connection, as well as credibility?

We’ve got to do both if we want more engagement. Voice is a massive part of how people decide if you’re worth listening to.

An important action step is to record yourself and play it back so you’re aware of your vocal tone, cadence, and projection. As soon as you hear “record,” you might be cringing. Yet, that’s where the value lies.

We have to be willing to see and hear ourselves the way others experience us. We need that objective reality. That starting point is gold because then we can know how to move forward.

Voice mechanics can make or break credibility.

Let’s imagine you’re introducing yourself at work, sharing an idea on a Zoom call, or making a presentation. If we speak softly and with hesitation, we may miss out on an opportunity to make an influential impact. Clearly, we need to be heard to get our message across.

Using our voice is a skill that can be learned. Here are a few tips:

  • If you want to make a point, speak up. Project your voice so people can hear you. This is especially important on virtual calls as there are less visual cues. Ask questions if you’re unclear. Too often we fail to ask for what we need and then it comes back to bite us later. If we want to engage our co-workers or our boss, we need to speak up.
  • Speak with punctuation and conviction. Use a declarative tone. This may seem obvious, but another problem for many people is “upspeak” – a slang term for when we end a statement with a comma or a question mark, making us sound tentative and unsure.
    • For example, this often happens when people are introducing themselves – the introduction becomes a run-on sentence. Most people don’t even use a period when stating their name in an introduction. Record yourself and see how you do.
    • In my years of interviewing candidates, the ones who spoke with confidence and conviction – essentially the better communicators, even when the other candidate had more experience or expertise, are the ones who got the job. Same with promotions and being selected for other work projects and opportunities.
  • Use vocal variety. Change up your volume, pitch and pace. No one wants to listen to a monotone voice. This is a surefire way to lose people. Especially when working remotely. Be the one to stand out on your next virtual meeting by showing some energy in your voice. In order to be engaging and keep people’s attention, you need it. You need to show interest in what you’re saying, otherwise people will tune out. Put emphasis on certain words. Allow silence occasionally through a well-timed pause.

3 strategies to speak with confidence and engage others in meetings.

speak first.

You know those few seconds of awkward silence in the beginning of a meeting, especially on Zoom? Everyone is waiting for someone to go first. Let that be you!

Here are three reasons to speak first:

  1. It shows your leadership. You demonstrate confidence to jump in right away. When you share your great thoughts, people start listening. Especially when it is relevant and makes an impact.
  2. You get your thoughts out of the way so you don’t have to worry about others speaking before you and sharing what you wanted to say, such that then when it’s your turn, you have nothing unique to add.
  3. It reduces anxiety. If you go first, you won’t be worried about what you wanted to say during the meeting, allowing you to be present and hear what others are contributing.

when you want to share your opinion, say, “here’s my vote”, or, “here’s what I think.”

Years ago, I reported to the president of the company where I worked and one day she surprised me by saying, “Karen, you always come to meetings and ask us what we think. I want to know what you think.” It took me aback, but I realised she was right. I rarely offered my opinion because I was afraid my boss wouldn’t approve or think it was any good. This method of interjecting with “here’s my vote” felt good because it was both diplomatic and direct, and the sentence prompt alone helped me have a strategy in my toolbox when I needed it. After doing it many times now and seeing my clients use this same strategy, I know it works!

how to stop rambling and get to the point.

Our tendency to ramble is one of the biggest obstacles to presenting well. It’s hard to stay on point when we have so much to say, or we’re nervous. Sometimes we come across as unfocused without realising it. Or, we realise it and have a hard time knowing how to get out of it.

How do you fix it? Here are two ways:

  1. If you notice yourself doing it and your words are already out there, pause, gather your thoughts and say out loud, “My point is this…” and state your point.
  2. If you realise you’re lost, pause, stay silent, gather your thoughts and move on with your point. No one will notice the difference, most likely. Pausing gives the audience a chance to absorb what you said and gives their brains a break.

asking questions is key for engagement.

If you want people engaged, they need to know that you care, and one of the ways we show care is by asking questions. Then be present enough to pause and listen.

Like Maya Anjalou says, “People will not remember what you did or said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

Here are a few examples of open-ended questions:

  1. Could you expand on that?
  2. How does that land for you?
  3. What I’m hearing you say is…Did I get that right?
  4. What are you taking away?
  5. What motivates you at work? Tell me about your “why.”
  6. Tell me more.
  7. Anything else?

We can discover so much about our team member’s work styles and preferences by asking questions. At our core, all humans want to be known, belong, and feel important. Giving them space to do that will automatically increase engagement and motivation.

Perhaps you’re working on a project and you’re unsure about the timeline or a particular task. This is a time to ask clarifying questions to understand. Many projects get sidetracked due to a lack of communication or due to miscommunication, especially in a remote workforce. As Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

Many communication issues can be avoided by asking questions, but we tend to make assumptions and jump to conclusions.

Be the one to ask.

Use your voice to speak up and use these strategies to come across with more confidence and credibility.

Those who communicate with confidence get the jobs, the promotions, and the more desirable work – and let that be you!

Try this – pick one of the suggested action items from this article and take that first step! My suggestion – record yourself at your next meeting and listen or watch it back. It will be revealing!

Author: Karen Laos – Founder & CEO, Karen Laos Consulting LLC.

Photo credit: Moose Photos

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