Spark A Strong Conversation and Keep It Moving in the Right Direction

The ability to orchestrate and participate in engaging and meaningful conversation is a critical advancement skill but can be a weakness for introverts and extroverts alike. Conversation is about giving and getting the spotlight and creating mutually beneficial exchanges, not simply unloading your elevator pitch. As we rely more on truncated texts and emails to share our thoughts and conduct business remotely, those who are adept at conversing live virtually and in person will be well positioned to build their influence and network.
 Conversing successfully with all types of people in varied situations has a lot to do with how you see yourself, and how clear you are about your personal values and vision. “One of the most important mental shifts women, and especially emerging leaders, must make to improve their ability to communicate and influence others is to stop seeing themselves as lucky,” says Raquel Eatmon, founder of the Woman of Power Conference.
“Your success is the result of hard work, talent and courage, not luck,” the author and former TV news anchor shares. “It’s wonderful to feel grateful for the opportunities you have, but you must also own your success to be an authentic and powerful communicator.”  
Eatmon will lead the session, Take the Floor: How to Deliver an Authentic Message and Move People to Take Action, at the 2021 WFF Leadership Conference. The Conference will be held live virtually and in person March 21-24 in Dallas.
Own your competence
Taking ownership of your success means understanding that your competence and dedication drive your career advancement. When you internalize and value your talents and contributions, it helps to stir positive emotions that enable you to convey greater confidence, clearer intentions and enthusiasm that others notice.  
Knowing that you know how to act in social situations (including the workplace) can actually increase positive feelings and become an important part of your identity, according to research on work-related social skills from the University of Wisconsin. 
Start the conversation
For some people, it is easy enough to respond to questions or report to a supervisor on the status of a project. The tricky part is engaging in casual conversation or small talk. Consider having a few questions at your disposal that are a little out of the ordinary to engage another’s interest. You might ask about their favorite vacation spots, hobbies or a book they love. If you listen closely to their responses, numerous follow-up questions are likely to pop up that will keep the conversation going.
Eatmon also suggests using those sometimes-awkward spaces before a meeting (when just one or two are gathered and waiting) to seek input or support for a specific agenda item. You might also ask what others are most looking forward to sharing with the group that day.
She is not a fan, however, of memorizing an elevator pitch for these moments or an unexpected encounter with a senior leader. “Instead of trying to memorize specific lines, think about three things you are proficient at and passionate about related to your work,” she advises.  “You will feel prepared without sounding rehearsed or getting confused if you forget memorized lines.”
How you say it
Content is critical but how you speak dramatically impacts how your message is received. Allowing your voice to trail off at the end of a sentence or to rise as if you are asking a question can signal uncertainty and a lack of confidence. Filler words, such as um, uh and like can also damage credibility. Before you start talking, briefly think through what you plan to say so you can keep it succinct and finish strong. Rambling on, repeating yourself and allowing your voice to fade as you conclude will degrade the impact of your message.
Deliver an authentic message
Eatmon suggests homing in on what she calls the “Three Vs” to deliver an effective and authentic message with the power to influence others. “When you think about your values, vision and voice before you speak, you will be much clearer about what you want to say and why,” she says.
“Starting from those anchors will help you deliver a clear, strong message with well-chosen words that reflect your values. Your commitment and enthusiasm will also shine through and increase your influence,” she adds.
“Push yourself to speak at every meeting you attend as an active participant,” Eatmon urges. “Even if it makes you nervous, knowing that you are committed to speaking will help you sharpen those skills. When you do speak, remember that luck did not put you in that room or in that seat. You are a strong contributor, a critical member of the team and, frankly, a gift.”
REGISTER for the 2021 Leadership Conference to learn more with Eatmon and a powerful slate of subject matter experts and industry leaders.

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