Wednesday, 31 October 2018

How to speak so that people will listen

Have you noticed how some people can command the room when they speak, while others find it hard to grab – and keep – people's attention? We take a look at why this might be – and how to stop it happening to us!

Only talk when you have something to say

Have you noticed that children will ‘switch off’ from adults when they talk for too long? The same is true of our co-workers and colleagues. Often the people who are the most talkative are the ones that are listened to the least – it is hard for people to distinguish between the chitter-chatter and the words that add value to a work situation so they just switch off. If you are more mindful over your words at work, people will be more willing to listen to what you have to say.

Listen very carefully

We have two ears and only one mouth and there are many that believe we should listen twice as much as we talk. We don’t just mean not talking here though, it’s about actively listening to what our co-workers have got to say and using their ideas and insight to make us better at our own job. Listening is about processing what others have to say and only responding or adding to the conversation where you can definitely add value. People have to trust that you listen to them before they will actively listen to what you have to say.

Choose your time and place wisely

Speaking to people is not just about the words that you use, it’s about when and where you choose to impart your knowledge too. So, 4pm on a Friday in a crowded lobby is not going to command the same level of attention as 10am on a Monday in the training room, when everyone is motivated and ready to tackle the week ahead. When you have something important to share with others, make sure you are not competing for their attention.

Summarise and follow up

If you don’t feel confident in speaking and are often unsure that your audience will have taken in what you wanted to get across, always end your conversation or presentation by summarising your most important points, even if this means you’re repeating yourself. It’s also fine to follow up with people after the event too. Putting the important points in writing should not be seen as a reflection on your speaking ability, more a helpful reminder of your most salient points.

Public speaking or indeed addressing colleagues in a formal business setting is something that few of us relish. The good news is that these skills can be learn't – and until you have mastered the art of speaking with confidence, there are a few tricks you can employ that will enable you to ‘fake it until you make it’!

Here are our practical tips for how to speak with more presence so that people will sit up and listen:


As much as you can anyway. Do a few gentle stretches, touch your toes, walk up and down the stairs a few time. The more relaxed your body is, the more relaxed your voice will be when you’re speaking. Take a deep breath and let your body settle. Speak from your belly and direct your voice from your chest. When your voice is lower it sounds strong and convincing – people trust what you are telling them.

Slow down

When we are talking to groups of people or delivering presentations it’s important to take our time. When we’re nervous, the tendency is to rush through the event to make it end quicker – unfortunately this just means that we don’t articulate properly and this can make it more difficult for people to hear and understand what we are saying. Rather than rush through, slow down. Think of it this way – the more people who understand what you have told them, the less questions you will have at the end!

If you’ve got ten minutes free, why not watch this inspiring TED talk about the art of powerful speaking

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