office meeting speak up

We’ve all been there – sitting in a meeting where you just don’t agree with what’s being said. You have two choices. You can speak up and express your opinion or stay quiet and go along with #groupthink. Maybe it’s the fear of judgment from your own peer group or management that’s holding you back.  As a result, it’s quite likely that you’re not bringing your full potential into the workplace. But what’s the worst that could happen? If you can back up your point of view when you speak up, well then surely you deserve to be heard?

Gender Bias

The research suggests otherwise. In a recent piece for the New York Times, influential commentators Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant exposed an unconscious gender bias within organisations. They found that women speaking up were perceived as less loyal and likeable than men. This was reflected in flatlining performance evaluations for vocal women but significantly higher performance evaluations for men that contributed their ideas.

Amplification

Whilst we’re sure there are many men out there simmering in frustration at the lack of attention their ideas get, there seems to be a greater problem for women. The power around the table is not always balanced. So there’s a technique gaining attention that women have adopted to make sure their voices are heard. It’s called amplification and it depends on a system of mutual collaboration. Every time someone in a meeting contributes an idea, her colleagues around the table repeat the idea, and credit her with coming up with it. Obama’s female aides used amplification to redress the gender balance around the table in the Oval Office.

Socialisation

Former Boston Heart Diagnostics CEO Susan Hertzberg decided on a different approach – she decided to socialise her ideas with key attendees before the meeting took place. It helped her to rebalance power in her favour and make sure that she didn’t end up in unproductive battles with colleagues.

On-the-spot planning

And just sometimes, you need an approach to formulating your thoughts quickly on an issue so that you can react to an opportunity. At Bespoke Communications, we use the SABA structure to help you to build a compelling presentation or speech. We find that it’s just as effective in a tricky meeting situation as at a public event. Learning a transferable skill can give a confidence boost for more situations than just one. Get in touch if you’d like to hear more.

Nerves, Relaxation

What’s holding you back from stepping out and making that speech or presentation? For many people, it’s fear of fear itself! Nerves when presenting are common and – believe it or not – necessary for a good performance! But if your nerves are getting in the way, here are some coping strategies that we’ve used to help us manage that negative inner voice and overcome presentation nerves.

nerves Amy Cuddy Powerposes

Amy Cuddy Powerposes

Visualisation

Imagine what success looks like to you. Create a mental picture to enhance motivation and confidence. Envision what it feels like to have the audience in the palm of your hand, the go out there and deliver your speech with confidence.

Affirmations

These are positive statements to overcome your negative inner voice. We always think that the Huffington Post talks a lot of sense, so here are 35 Affirmations to change your life.

Exercise

If you’re a runner, go out for a run that morning. Or a brisk walk. Exercise gets the serotonin going, and will put you in a more positive frame of mind. There are those that advocate taking yourself off to the bathroom before your presentation, and doing some star-jumps. Try that and see if it helps?

Reframing

Reframe your nerves as excitement. Adrenaline gets your nerves going, but it also gets you excited. Swap your negative emotions around felling nervous for positive emotions relating to excitement. And don’t just listen to us, Harvard Business School have studied this technique and found that it works!

Plan ahead

It may sound like common sense, but this is feedback that we see after a great many workshops and courses that we run.  The popular quote ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’, often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, holds true in a public speaking situation like no other.  Develop your structure, build out your content and try it out on different audeinces before your live event.  You’ll be glad you took the time, honest!

Mindfulness

Being present and thinking about the here and now can really help you to avoid catastrophising.  There are lots of free apps you can try to help you to meditate at home. We love Headspace, and founder Andy’s calming voice. He’s helped us through many a stressful situation!

Smile!

And here’s the small piece of advice that might just change everything – Smile! As Amy Cuddy advocates, fake it till you make it. Smile and you’re forced to think more positively about any experience.

public opinion

As we’ve all seen, public understanding of an issue develops over time, often slowly, and in several stages. Compelling messaging will help you to connect with key audiences to shape public opinion on the cause that you work for and believe in.

public

But what does your audience know about your cause in the first place? We’ve adapted the Seven Stages of Public Opinion model (1) to give you some ideas for your next public campaign.

Dawning awareness

Are you raising an issue that no-one has heard of? Something that has not yet reached the public consciousness? To make your issue resonate with journalists and their audiences, it’s key that your message at this stage is simple, core and compact(2). Avoid the curse of knowledge and take the time to disseminate information to build public awareness.

Sense of urgency

This is when people realise that there is an issue and they start to develop an opinion on it. Making your message concrete can really help. In the business world, consider the case of Irish company, Sugru, developers of mouldable glue that turns into rubber. Apart from a small community of designers or makers, who cares, or even understands why they would want mouldable glue? Realising they were destined to remain a niche product if they failed to take action, Sugru made this video. Here they position their product for everyone – it’s a helping hand to fix annoying everyday problems that we all experience.

Discovering choices

This is when public opinion has started to develop. People listen to other points of view and now start to evaluate the choices that they can make around your issue. Think about case studies and stories to help you connect with your audiences. By the time people reach this stage, they’re clarifying their thinking, talking to their friends and starting to understand more fully what supporting you means to them. If they give up time or resource, what do they get in return? In our workshops, we’ll give you structures to help you to develop a persuasive argument.

Accepting an idea

People are more ready to commit to an idea in their minds than in the actions they take. You could ask people to do something public, such as ‘Like a Facebook page’, ‘Share a post’ helps them to commit to a point of view. Once people have made a choice or adopted a position, they’ll want to behave consistently with that position (3). The Rainforest Alliance followed up the viral buzz from their Follow the Frog video with action-led social campaigns with partners to help consumers commit to buying Fairtrade.

Making a responsible judgment

This is where you move people to the stage where they will take an action – Vote! Buy! Do something differently! Public opinion has been developed. Believe in what you do, and make sure your message resonates with the audiences you need to reach.

1) Yankelovich, D. (1992) How public opinion really works. New York: Fortune. Available from: http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1992/10/05/76926/index.htm

2) Heath, D. & Heath, C. (2007) Made to stick New York: Random House

3) Fazio, R. H, Blascovich, J. & O’Driscoll, D.M. (1992) On the Functional Value of Attitudes: The Influence of Accessible Attitudes on the Ease and Quality of Decision Making. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 388-401