How to speak up and be heard

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In the whirlwind dynamic of building a business, juggling all the elements and managing the multitude of daily tasks, it’s no wonder that fundamental communication skills can sometimes go missing in action.

As a small business owner, it is essential to be able to create and tell a story about your business and about yourself that is aligned to vision and values.

Mastering the art of communication
As the speech coach for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards I often see winners suddenly find themselves identified as an industry “go-to” person.  The ability to think on their feet and articulate critical messages quickly, becomes a non-negotiable skill.

For all business owners and leaders, managing the plethora of multiple information platforms means cultivating a keen ‘editorial eye’. Whether it is a live presentation or digital communication, every business needs to examine the key moments of exchange, define presentation objectives, explore nuance and design alternative stories to suit the various information channels.

The advice I give to the Telstra Business Women’s Awards national finalists can be applied to all business leaders. My key tips are as follows:

Keep the message simple
At the Telstra Business Women’s Awards national workshop, we stimulate thinking about practical presentation skills with the express purpose of empowering business leaders to be more self-aware and potent communicators. We run with the maxim: To increase our capability we must first understand how we are currently functioning. Self awareness and self efficacy are the cornerstones of this. One of the crucial tenets is the habit of embedding a rehearsal process around important messaging and creating specific text and stories that are aligned to both the individual’s personal brand and the company brand.

Always be prepared
The most common misconception is the fear of sounding stilted or insincere if a speech or presentation is prepared and rehearsed. The ethos of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards is about celebrating success and the same can be said for all business owners. It is incumbent on all speakers to present in the language of achievement and celebration, to share positive stories, to employ words that are affirming and uplifting and that capture the essence of the business story – and to do this well, there must be prepar Every business owner should know their stories of service, values, innovation, strength, courage, evolution, history and success.

Be a great storyteller
Like any theatrical performance, any business presentation, even a regular communication piece, will have a beginning, middle and an end. This is a basic structure but the success of this format sits with its proven simplicity. Developing a language of achievement and framing such success in ways that are immediately accessible to any audience, will allow for greater appreciation of your story. Know your theme.  What comes to mind when someone hears your name?

Be honest and brave
Be brave in your pursuits – it’s all about heart, courage and conviction. Rigorously pursue your objectives. The best choices often come from gut instinct and your own life experiences. This is where all the rich texture is, so amaze yourself with what is possible. Reflect, review and celebrate success no matter how big or small.

Breathe
It might sound simplistic but the best way to work through nervous energy is by taking deep breaths. To convey any information with impact you need to be the most powerful conduit for your message. Nervous energy will derail effectiveness. It might sound laborious and perfunctory to spend a lot of time talking about breathing but the privilege of breathing is never lost on me!

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
It is amazing how much time, effort, energy and money is expended on developing the content of a business pitch or presentation while the best mechanisms for delivery are ignored or at best relegated to one of a few final last-minute things to do. Presentations should never be reduced to an obligation.

Show humility no matter your success
This is still an endearing quality to most audiences. Good communication equals good manners and good manners never go out of style!

A few ‘Golden Rules’:

If that’s too much to remember, stick to these golden rules:

  1. All presentation is ‘performance’ – not in any artificial sense, but rather acknowledging the sense of occasion and lifting your skills to meet the moment
  2. Preparation and rehearsal is critical and should be a non-negotiable part of the speaker’s process
  3. Know the answer to “Why you, why your company?”
  4. Passionately pursue your objectives by crafting memorable stories
  5. Create impact.  Create meaning.

The 2017 Telstra Business Women’s Awards National Dinner will be held on Tuesday, 21 November 2017.

To nominate yourself or someone you know for the 2018 Telstra Business Women’s Awards, visit: www.telstrabusinesswomensawards.com/nominate


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Barbara Warren
Barbara Warren has been a Presentation Skills Expert and a speech coach to the Telstra Business Women’s Awards national finalists for the past 8 years. Her role is to coach all the extraordinary State and Territory finalists and explore the creative skills required to articulate their stories and achieve impact and connectivity. Barbara’s practical approach is drawn from her own experience as a small business owner, over twenty years’ experience in the corporate world, and twenty-five years as a performing arts practitioner.

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