As a child, I was painfully shy. I was afraid to speak up and speak out; therefore, communicating with confidence in most social settings was a daunting task. As a result of this fear, oftentimes my presence, lacking of power, went unnoticed. That fear followed me throughout high school. I vividly remember declining the office of President of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) because I was too petrified to give a speech before the student body.
Yet, college was a “game changer” because I consciously decided to take steps toward overcoming my fear. However the most significant transformation occurred after graduation with my first job as a college recruiter. I began to see the results of powerful and persuasive communication fueled by a confident, credible and compelling presence.
Even now, the journey continues, as a speaker and member of Toastmasters International where the goal is to help eliminate the number one fear in America: public speaking, by becoming competent communicators. It is critical to your success because the inability to communicate clearly, confidently and effectively can affect your ability to create a compelling presence personally and professionally.
Therefore, the next time that you are:
- attending a business meeting over dinner
- mingling at a party
- showcasing your abilities during an interview
- selling a product
- giving a speech, seminar or workshop
remember, you are the best form of advertisement and your presence communicates the message about Y-O-U! Employers are more likely to hire and promote you when you project confidence in your communication. Whatever area of leadership you find yourself in, without a doubt, you deserve to be well perceived.
Here are some helpful “power tools” to allow you to exude the presence of a confident communicator with something powerful to say:
1. Make time for small talk. Small talk can lead to bigger opportunities. The purpose of small talk is to create an environment where trust can be built on common ground. I call this the “fact finding” stage, where you are simply gathering information, learning of common interests (hobbies and talents) building rapport to gain confidence and ease. When used correctly it can open the door to greater awareness about the individual.
For example: Which movie did you see recently? Which character could you identify with and why? Would you recommend it?
Warning: This is not the place for controversial topics.
2. Show interest. Maintain eye contact by avoiding making a panoramic view of the room searching for the next interesting person to engage in a conversation. Throughout the conversation, make well timed and meaningful comments to indicate that you are actively listening to the individual.
Warning: In turn, make sure that individual is open to a conversation. If not, graciously and politely move on to someone else more receptive.
3. Be Prepared. Before the event, take the time to do some research to find out a little more information about the guest or company. Prepare a few open-ended questions to ask and topics of great interest to generate meaningful conversation.
For example: How long have you worked for your company? What do you find most fulfilling?
4. Be genuinely interested in others. Make sure not to dominate the conversation by only talking about yourself. Focus on the individual and learn more about them. Take the time to hear their heart. This can potentially help you to assess what type of assistance or service you can provide later, once trust is built.
5. Be interesting to others. To avoid empty and meaningless chatter be aware of what is happening in the outside world. Keep up with current events by gathering information from the newspaper, local news station, magazines, latest shows, movies, music, news feeds, morning news shows or any place where you can expand your knowledge and intellectual capital in order to add richness to any conversation.
6. Know your limits. Consider your emotional and relational capacity first and set clear boundaries. This can assist you in determining the number of meaningful connections you can manage and follow up on without jeopardizing your credibility.
Going into most environments and striking up a conversation is challenging. However, remember the words of Franklin D Roosevelt: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” So, face your fear, acknowledge it, but don’t let it be a stumbling block rather allow it to build a bridge that leads to powerful connections with others.