How to be heard: Tips and ideas to ensure your opinions are heard at your next board or committee meeting

As featured in The Country Web, No: 59 Edition

Step up, stand out and be heard!

Step up, stand out and be heard!

When you walk into a room, or turn up at a meeting, the first thing people will notice about you is your physical presence and then … you speak.

 The sound of your voice is a combination of genetics and life influence and many of us use only a small amount of the vocal quality available to us. Do people often ask you to repeat what you say? Do you have a soft voice? Are you aware if you are not always clear? It’s really up to you to make it easy for people to hear you. It takes  awareness, some thought, and a bit of work.

When you arrive at a meeting do you choose your seat immediately or end up with one of the last remaining seats? If you want to be heard you need to be seated where you can be involved in the discussion. The conversation will always swirl around the most influential and powerful people in the room (and the pushy ones). When you get caught at the opposite end of the table to where the discussion is happening, it can be a real challenge to interject. Always aim to sit on the side and towards the middle of the table so you are close to the main discussion. Get in the room and put your bag on your chosen seat as quickly as you can. ‘You have things to say and you want to be heard. Step up, stand out and be heard.’

Your voice works on air. Take a good deep breath in, before you speak, and then as you speak, allow the air to flow out with give your voice more volume and a warmer, more resonant tonal quality. To get the feeling of airflow try singing and then try speaking with similar airflow. Use your words clearly and fully. Clear articulation makes it much easier for all of us to understand each other. No need to rush. Emphasise the important words of the sentence to make your message clear. Breathe at the end of sentences and at the end of phrases to give you a natural pause and allow your listeners time to take in what you are saying.

To help make your presence felt in the room, arrive early at the meeting and greet people as they arrive (after you claim your seat). Speak early in the meeting, even if you just agree or support someone else’s ideas. This ensures your presence is noticed at the table. Interjecting into a free-flowing discussion is not always easy. When a woman wants to break into a conversation, particularly with a group of men with deep resonant voices she usually raises her voice in volume and in pitch. This is fine, initially, however if the voice stays like this it can sound pushed and harsh. (This is a problem for women because their voices naturally resonate higher than men’s voices). So what to do? Raise your voice momentarily to get attention and then let it settle again at a lower pitch. This works best if you move or gesture at the same time as you speak. That way the others at the table will see and hear you at the same time.

If you want people to take on board what you have to say your ideas must be structured logically and delivered concisely. This takes preparation. Think through the agenda and make precise notes on the points you will address. In fact, be prepared to speak on any item on the agenda … you never know when you will be asked, and then practise what you might say, on your feet and out loud. Warm up. Your voice is a muscle; it works best when warm. Do some humming. Play around with tongue twisters, sing. You have things to say and you want to be heard.

Step up, stand out and be heard.

For more information about presentation skills you can visit Mariette’s website at:

About nswrwn

NSW Rural Women’s Network is a government program working in innovative ways to promote leadership and action on rural women’s issues. The RWN team is dedicated to connecting and exchanging information with women and stakeholders in rural, regional and remote communities.
This entry was posted in boards and committees, business, education and training, inspirational, leadership, rural women, small business, women, women's networks. Bookmark the permalink.

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