Have you ever not spoken up because you second guessed yourself; held back waiting for the perfect moment but the meeting then ended; or the people in the room had an intimidating affect on anyone speaking up?

As a leader you may want to think about how your team may feel during the diverse range of meetings they attend and if they are holding back for some reason. 

As part of a leadership team, do you hold back for some reason?

One key part of sparking your self-leadership is about finding your voice and speaking up. 

According to Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that promotes communication, public speaking and leadership, “your voice and your face are your “public relations” agents”. They reveal who you are, your character and personality. These are the keys to your message, to getting your idea across, your pitch or proposal approved.

In the busy world of work, whether it is face to face or online, there is relentless pressure to get more done in seemingly less available time. Add to this the sentiments we tend to heard: stick to the facts, keep it short, don’t show your emotions, and what we end up with is something akin to a cold complicated excel spreadsheet – my apologies if you love spreadsheets.

If you want to engage others, inspire and motivate for increased productivity, get an idea over the line then you need more than just the facts. Aristotle, known as the original master of persuasion, divides the creating compelling, powerful arguments into three ingredients: ethos, logos and pathos.

Ethos –

‘It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatises on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasion; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.’ — Rhetoric, Aristotle

Ethos is all about the credibility of the person wanting to persuade others.

Logos –

‘… persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.’ — Rhetoric, Aristotle

Logos is all about the logic of the argument, making sure it makes sense.

Pathos –

‘… persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile.’ — Rhetoric, Aristotle

Pathos hones in on emotion, using words that will trigger a response, that will grab attention or make a connection with the audience (aka, the decision makers to your idea, pitch or proposal).

Speaking up doesn’t need epic novel length speeches, some of the worlds’ most moving and powerful speeches are only minutes long …

Powerful History

“Four score and seven years ago…”

The Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln – less than 3 minute slong.

Here Jeff Daniel’s recits it.

Movie Speech

“We will not go queitly into the night.”

Bill Pullman’s character as the President of the USA in the movie Independence Day – less than 2 minutes. Watch it here.


Commencement Address

“Stay hungry, stay foolish”

Steve Jobs’ 2005 Standord University Commencement Adress – 15 minutes long.

Check it out here.

Change Announcement

“You have spoken, and we have done our best to hear you, our decisions have not come lightly…”

… okay, not world famous but it moved me at the time. These words were part of a short pseech from of of my old boss in the late 1990’s.

Tips to Speak Up and Get Your Message Heard

1. What do you want?

What are you actually asking for, be clear about your goal. 


2. Who’s your audience?

Consider their pain points in relation to what you want. What is what you’re asking for going to resolve for them? Or what’s in for them to say yes to you, to hear your view, to hear your perspective?

How do they like to hear input?


3. Plan and rehearse so that you don’t waffle on.

Mark Twain made famous (and Anglicised) Balise Pascal’s quote into, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” If you are not clear on your message then you will waffle on. A quick process you can use when time is short is:

  • Subject – What will to tell them
  • Purpose – Why do they need to know
  • Outcome – What do you want them to do
  • Relevance – Why is this important

This helps you to be informative without the overwhelm. When you combine this with knowing your audience you will balance out the right messages to match who’ll be in the room and who you need or want to influence.

Being clear about what you want is connected to logos; why you want it and how it impacts your audience is connected to pathos; and then crafting your message to suit your audience can contribute to your ethos.


4. Harness your nerves

Speaking up, especially when there are more senior leaders in the room, can trigger nerves. Harness the energy from those nerves and shift them into enthusiasm and passion for your point or proposal. Remember that, despite the rank everyone in that room is human and most people see public speaking as terrifying.


5. Options, Recommendations and Objections

Consider what objections might be put to you and what options you could have on hand if your input is challenged. Don’t let the excitement of your idea, and the potential you can see, blind you into not being grounded and ready for others who might not agree with you, at least initially. By doing this work before the meeting, it also helps you manage your nerves. Having these elements prepared also adds to your ethos.

Even with nerves on board, these tips will help you sound confident, be influential, and persuasive.

I’d love to know your thoughts…