There are few skills that are more impactful on your career than the ability to communicate powerfully and persuasively in high-pressure situations. This imperative is especially challenging for women (and particularly women of color) as we simultaneously must master the communications game while also negotiating the broader reality of stereotypical perceptions.
If you watched the first Presidential Debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, you not only witnessed a high-stakes exchange between two presidential candidates, but you also received a primer on how to communicate with power as a woman and still come out on top.
Use these four tips to take your communications game to new levels of success:
1. Be Prepared
If there was one thing that was painfully obvious during the debate, it was the fact that Clinton had done her homework, and Trump had not. There is no substitution for preparation. This is especially true when your goals involve breaking barriers. In order to be the first or one of few, you simply canâ€™t afford to leave any questions in anyoneâ€™s mind about your competence, your knowledge, or your subject mastery. The stakes are just too high to merely rely on your ability to wing it. Investing time today in proper preparation will undoubtedly pay off tomorrow and for years to come.
2. Focus on Facts
Rightly or wrongly, women are perceived as being emotional creatures. Thatâ€™s why in professional settings itâ€™s especially important to make fact-based arguments punctuated by metrics whenever possible. Remember, itâ€™s not as important to communicate how you feel, as it is to communicate what you know and why that matters.
3. Fix Your Face
No doubt what you say is exceedingly important, but research suggests HOW you say it is even more important. Being in control of your facial expressions and body language are critical factors in how (or even if) your message is received. In other words, visual dynamics matter. Are you looking people in the eye? Are you standing up straight? Are you maintaining a straight face even when confronted by uncomfortable opinions or information? Each of these factors are integral to not only delivering a message, but having that message really resonate with your intended audience.
4. Exude Confidence
On thingâ€™s for sure, if you donâ€™t believe in you, no one else will either. Confidence in yourself and in your message are absolutely essential for being perceived as credible, competent, and worthy of being heard. Knowing your subject matter, wearing your best power suit, and understanding to your core that you have something of importance to say and that you are uniquely qualified to say it, will give you a sense of certainty that is both palpable and transferable. Belief in yourself, matched with persuasive factual information and a powerful delivery, more often than not, results in getting others to believe in your message or at least respect your point of view.
Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever is a Career Reinvention Strategist, Diversity Consultant, and International Speaker, Sheâ€™s also the author of How Exceptional Black Women Lead and the Founder of the Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women, a global personal and professional development firm that helps women maximize career success while creating a holistic life they love. To learn more, visit: www.avisjonesdeweever.com.