Feel the Authority, Be the Authority

Speaking with an authoritative voice can be a real challenge, no matter who you are. Sometimes it can feel like walking a tightrope. If you go too far one way and end up sounding meek, you lose your credibility. Leaning too far the other direction can leave you sounding angry or irrational. It’s necessary to find that perfect balance of calm, yet firm speech to assert your authority and get people to listen.

The question that plagues speakers is how to achieve that balance. Which physical and vocal cues will help to demonstrate your authority to a person or group of people? There are a few different things you can do – some physical and some vocal - to demonstrate authority. Let’s start with your voice!

Vocal Authority

1.      First, harness the power of a strong pause. Learning where to put a pause in a sentence will make people listen and take note. If your sentence is short, try adding a strong pause halfway through your sentence. An example would be, “Let’s go to the meeting (pause) right now.” For longer sentences, try two pauses in similar places in order to get your point across. Pausing will also eliminate those word fillers.

2.      Emphasize the last words before the pause. This is where the tightrope walk comes in. You never want to sound angry when you’re emphasizing a word, so avoid just making the word louder. Instead, make an effort to place vocal emphasis on the word by raising the pitch, holding it out longer, and making it louder. Remember to stay calm, cool, and collected and drop your pitch at the end of your sentence.

3.      Use clear pronunciation and keep your tone even. When I say even, I don't mean monotone. We need vocal variety! Make sure you’re keeping your demeanor level, but still placing emphasis on important words and points. Speak clearly and naturally.

Physical Authority

1.      Own the room. Whenever you’re speaking to a group of people, make sure that you walk into a room like it’s yours. Meekly entering a room, making self-deprecating jokes, or acting nervous is a way to immediately demean your authority. Be a strong presence in the room by keeping your head up, making eye contact, and sitting toward the front of the room if you’re in a meeting. 
Check out our video on harnessing the nervousness.

2.      Power pose! Stand in a way that makes you feel powerful and authoritative. Make sure you try it out at home before you get up in front of a group of people, but it’s much easier to give off an aura of authority when you feel physically strong.
Check out our video on posture.

3.      Avoid pacing while talking.  Your audience will see it as a distraction, much like you'd be distracted by someone sitting next to you shaking his/her leg.  Moving naturally, on the other hand, brings energy to what you are saying. Just move in a way that is natural to you, the way you would if you were talking to a friend.

What other ideas can you suggest? Please comment below. 

Are You Sure? What's Up with Uptalk?

Uptalk has received a lot of attention when discussing female speech patterns.  This phenomenon originated in the 1970’s and 80’s in Southern California and was called Valley Girl talk. However, this conversational style is not limited to females.

What is uptalk or upspeak? It is the rising inflection at the end of declarative statements making them sound like questions.

Uptalk is appearing in the workplace on a regular basis, particularly with Millennials.  The prevalence of uptalk in their speech, both male and female, made me take pause. Why are they doing this?

What can you do about it? First, identify it. Record yourself. When you introduce yourself, are you making a statement or a question?

My name is Lynda Katz Wilner ↗ and my company is Successfully Speaking ↗


My name is Lynda Katz Wilner ↘ and my company is Successfully Speaking ↘

A questioning or rising inflection often tells the listener that we are unsure or tentative, or perhaps, not finished with what we want to say. However, to sound more definitive, end your statements with a downward pitch.

And here is the caveat………….we may choose to intentionally make our statement a question in an attempt to sound collaborative with our listener or to come across less authoritative.

We’ll meet at the end of the week? ↗

In summary, be mindful of uptalk and use it judiciously, if at all. There can be a time and place for it depending upon your intention. Remember overuse of any speech pattern can become a distraction.

Contact us at Successfully Speaking for 1:1 coaching or small group workshops.