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Verbal Competence

Research shows that female leaders are most influential when their colleagues understand the benefits of their leadership. Let others know that you care about their success and want to use your expertise to help them achieve their goals. When others see that they have something to gain, the most competent person (regardless of gender) becomes the most influential.

Watch this video of Noel Bairey Marz talking about heart disease. Rather than just speak about her topic dispassionately, she intimately connects the topic to the lives of people in her audience (pay particular attention to 0:17 – 0:45). She tells them that her speech will be about their health and their “personal relationship with their heart”.

Pauses are an essential pillar of effective verbal communication. When speaking at a meeting or in front of a group, don’t be afraid to pause. Rather than using filler words (such as “um” or “uh”) which weaken your message, full pauses strengthen your statements by adding impact and giving the audience time to consider what you’re saying. If you feel you’ll be too nervous to do this naturally, try adding pauses to your script or speaking notes.

Want to know more about how to pause, and why it’s necessary? Check out this interview with speaking coach Barabara Seymour Giordano. 

People perceive somebody as more competent if they speak with a strong, clear voice. This generally consists of having good vocal projection and appropriate pacing and pitch. A variety of online resources can help you improve these skills. In addition, don’t be afraid to give yourself ample time before a meeting or speaking engagement – being prepared improves your confidence and has a positive impact on your speaking voice. Naomi Klein, author and social activist, is well-known for her exceptional public speaking skills. Watch this video and notice how her strong voice portrays competence.
 Uptalk is a fancy word for ending sentences with an interrogative tone, so that statements sound like questions. According to public speaker and author Diane DiResta (‘Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message With Power, Punch and Pizzazz’), uptalk is particularly dangerous for women because it “robs them of credibility and authority”. Ending every sentence as though it’s a question can make you sound unsure of yourself.

For some examples of uptalk and some tips for eliminating it, check out the video below: 

 

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