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Speak Up, Speak Well

Visability Is Power—Critical to Accelerating Women’s Careers

As a good (and, one day, great) speaker, you’ll be seen as a great leader. You’ll soon be asked to contribute, to serve on panels, to speak about important issues to employees, the board and other audiences. This is where you will make your name so that the people who count will begin to appreciate your strategic mind and view you as uniquely qualified for top roles.

Overall, here are some tips on how to achieve all of this, not just survive today’s economic downturn but how to make a name for yourself, accelerate your career and get on the fast track:

  • Raise your visibility: Visibility is power– no matter what your role. When people know you and talk about you in a positive way, word gets around that you are a woman to watch! You can have the world’s most brilliant ideas but if you don’t make it a point to raise your profile then nobody will ever know.

  • Create a “Make-a-Name-Strategy”: The most effective way to make a name quickly is to give presentations to senior management, stakeholders and boards. Determine where the up-and-coming people in your industry are, where they’re meeting, what they’re doing, and how you can join them.

  • Make time for speaking and appearances: Put events and practice time on your calendar and prepare like mad. Don’t view the speaking role as an “after hours” activity but rather as part of your job and essential to your future. If you don’t set aside time to prepare and practice, you may as well not do it because you won’t shine. Get serious about it.

  • Put up your hand: Take leadership positions, join committees, give speeches, do brown bag lunches, join professional organizations, get on the boards of non-profits. You’ll also want to consider writing articles and books and doing media interviews. All of this gives you the aura of a leader and expert in your industry, and also helps you meet the people you need to know.

  • Speak up, speak well: Delivering a great presentation is about substance and style. You need to master the podium, appearing confident and well prepared and at ease and in control. Speaking is not a natural-born skill, you learn by doing. So start early and spend a lot of time perfecting this at-first awkward, hard-to-master activity. One main reason that Caroline Kennedy lost public support so quickly in her quest for the US Senate in 2008 was a silly little vocal habit – saying “you know” too much. In contrast, Sarah Palin almost became Vice President and Hillary Clinton almost became President in large part because both could speak smoothly and connect with voters. To become a polished, confident speaker, speak in public so often that you end up enjoying standing at the front of a room and connecting with an audience.

  • Find mentors and consult with them often: You need savvy male and female mentors, people who support you, believe in you and are able and willing to help you navigate the challenges of corporate life. They will teach you the inside story of your company, help you recognize key players, teach you how to communicate with them, and help you get the visibility you need. Also, they’ll help get you out speaking a lot, and in front of the right people.

  • Walk around the office and get to know everyone: It’s still true, unfortunately, that women tend to go into their offices, put their heads down and just work and work all day. We emerge only to grab lunch from the frig or to depart at the end of the day. Break this natural hermit-like tendency by moving around, getting to know people, developing relationships… and joining in.

  • Dress for the job you want: Nothing undermines a woman faster than wearing the wrong clothing. Often, in fact, the fashion industry is not your friend. Yet you can be very fashionable without succumbing to some of the mistakes that make men want to date you but not promote you. Find a wardrobe consultant or shop where in-store consultants understand the importance of “professional dress.” Purchase high quality, high impact pieces that fit into your business, your industry and your lifestyle. Maintain your clothes, hairstyle and makeup in a way that ensures your non-verbal communication says “leader.”

  • Take professional development seriously: Women are still incredibly reluctant to spend the time and money in professional coaching and training. Yet I have yet to come across a male executive who doesn’t believe it’s worth it to invest his budget and time in executive coaching. Get with it, get help, go to seminars, find a coach… accelerate your career! Executive coaching today is regarded as a sign you’re on the fast-track, so you need the help of an outside professional who’s on your side with no agenda.

The central message here is to take your career development seriously by seeking out opportunities that can move you forward and keep up your momentum. By expanding your visibility, articulating the “vision thing” and speaking clearly and powerfully before the right people, you’ll move to the top. The choice is yours today, a choice that’s new and, if you do it right, here to stay.

Copyright  © 2009 Suzanne Bates, author of Motivate Like a CEO: Communicate your Strategic Vision and Inspire People to Act!

Author Bio

Suzanne Bates is the author of two business best-sellers, Motivate like a CEO, Communicate Your Strategic Vision and Inspire People to Act! and Speak Like a CEO, Secrets for Commanding Attention and Getting Results (both published by McGraw Hill). She is President and CEO of Bates Communications: www.bates-communications.com and she is author of www.thepowerspeakerblog.com Suzanne’s books and products include How to Make a Name in Business, and The Power of Adversity, Communicating with Clients and Customers in Challenging Times.


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