Public speaking can be daunting for even the most confident women. We asked Pippa Bateman for her top tips for speaking with clarity and conviction.
10 Top Tips for Talking about Your Brand
This week, Frances McDormand issued a clear rallying cry during her acceptance speech at the 90th Academy Awards. She began by inviting every single female nominee in the Kodak Theatre to stand up. “Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed” McDormand told her peers, who were gathered to see her receive the Oscar for Best Actress. “Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days… and we’ll tell you all about them.”
We live in a world where only 8% of filmmakers are women, where female founders received only 2% of venture capital investment in 2017, and where the proportion of women starting a business in the UK has dropped below 5%. So, when high-profile figures like McDormand speak up about investing in women, there’s no doubt it helps leave the door open for other brilliant females to pitch their ideas.
But once that golden opportunity presents itself and the meeting’s in the diary, then what? How can you prepare and deliver a message that will do your brand justice?
There’s no doubt that, as a founder, there’s a unique pressure on you to clearly and powerfully articulate what your brand means to society, to consumers, and – crucially – to you personally.
The tips below have been designed to help you plan, prepare and get your message out there:
1. What’s your overarching sense of purpose?
As consumers, we expect the brands we align ourselves with to share our values, to stand for something, to have a purpose. It’s especially important for businesses to meet this baseline in the digital environment, where the competition for our attention is so fierce. So, practice articulating how your brand supports your own overarching goal or purpose: what difference do you want to make? And why do you believe that’s important? Then make an effort to weave this message through how you introduce your business.
2. Interrogate why your brand matters
Once you’ve distilled some key messages about what your brand means to you, the next step is to interrogate why you think it matters to consumers. Why should they care about your product or proposition? How is it relevant to them? What’s the opportunity for them if they align themselves with your brand? And what’s the risk if they don’t? By stating the risks and opportunities upfront, you’re more likely to grab your audience’s attention and shape how they perceive your offering.
3. Use a message house
If you’re someone who struggles to clearly and concisely articulate your brand proposition, then you will find a message house helpful. Start with the ‘roof’ of your message house: this is the headline that describes what you offer and why that matters. You should be able to express this in one sentence. Next come the ‘walls’, usually three supporting points that organise and signpost your key USPs. The ‘foundations’ are the facts, stories, statistics, or proof points that you use to illustrate each of those USPs.
4. Give yourself a ramp
We have a tendency to take our listeners’ attention for granted. So, make sure you grab their attention using what Meyers & Nix (2011) call “a ramp.” This is your opening gambit that sets the stakes high enough to ensure that whatever you say next has the listener’s interest. This powerful opening strategy should bring to life the reasons why consumers should care about your offering. This can be achieved in a number of ways, from posing a powerful or provocative question to your audience, or using a high-impact statistic, to sharing a personal story.
5. Reframe nervousness as excitement
We all know how impossible it is to calm down when we’re feeling the pressure. So, try telling yourself “I am excited by this opportunity to pitch my brand.” Research by Harvard Business School has found that anxiety and excitement are both arousal emotions with similar symptoms. This means it’s much easier to channel our nerves into excitement than to transform them into calmness.
6. Plan the pauses
Pauses are one of the most powerful tools in your communication armoury because they create space for both you and your listeners to think about what you’ve said. But most of us find silence awkward and use verbal fillers like ummm, errr, kind of or sort of to fill the space. These fillers rapidly undermine our authority because they signal uncertainty. So, scrap the fillers and plan in two or three pauses instead.
7. Practice, practice, practice
There’s no silver bullet for curing the nerves that come with pitching yourself and your brand to an important audience. But rehearsals can be a real tonic. Steve Jobs is a classic example of someone who put an enormous amount of effort and practice into making his iPhone Keynotes look easy.
8. Harness the power of posture
This won’t be the first time you’ve read about Power Posing. There’s now a large volume of studies confirming Amy Cuddy’s research that adopting expansive postures helps people to feel more powerful. So, for an easy confidence boost, harness the power of confident posture.
9. Breathe deep
When we’re nervous, the ‘fight or flight’ response causes our breathing rate to increase, which exacerbates our symptoms. So, spend the moments before you speak practicing Box Breathing: inhale for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, slowly exhale to the count of four, then hold the exhale for four.
10. Be effortful and energetic
Above and beyond everything else, when the moment comes for you to talk about your brand, ensure that you communicate with effort and energy. Re-connect with why you believe your brand matters, both to you and to your audience, and use that focus to imbue your message with a sense of urgency and importance.
To learn more about how to find your confidence at work, contact Pippa at www.pippabateman.com.