Powerful Speaking for Powerful Women

Tricia Karp

We’re sitting around a boardroom table.

I’m at the head, with two women either side of me. They’ve been nominated for a prestigious award, and I’m helping them prepare for the inevitable media interviews coming the way of the winner.

Two have fronted up to the media before. They love talking. A lot.

The other two haven’t. One is the quietest in the room. She tells us she’s been identified as an “Accepting Introvert” (I hadn’t heard of that term, but I knew exactly what it meant, especially in relation to her). The other loves talking, mostly about everything that has nothing to do with what we’re all meant to be doing together.

Among them, they all have the usual concerns:

Feeling nervous, talking too quickly, forgetting to breathe, not feeling prepared enough, not knowing how to answer a question they don’t want to answer, not wanting to ramble, worrying about being misreported or taken out of context…

After learning the essentials, we get down to interview practice.

Guess who stands out far and above the other three?

Yes, it’s the quietest woman in the room.

Want to know why?

She doesn’t dive in to answer the question as soon as I stop asking it. She pauses and takes a moment to gather her thoughts. Then she’s considered when she speaks.

She’s sincere. She’s believable. Her topic matters to her and she speaks in a way that shows that.

And best of all? When I ask her a question that’s tricky, and a bit political, and she doesn’t want to answer it, she pauses. She takes a moment to gather her thoughts, and says what she wants to say in a way that’s well-considered and not in the slightest bit offensive to me (unlike those politicians I used to interview, who so blatantly ignored my questions).

She deflects beautifully. She owns the interview – and the room. It’s all on her terms, baby. We’re all silent, drawn in by her speaking, and blown away.

Here’s the moral of the story:

Take your time.

On the stage? Pause often. Pauses are the most underrated cause of helping you hold an audience in the palm of your hand. Word.

Don’t rush. And if you’re someone who speaks quickly, sloooooooow it down.

In a media interview? Pause before you answer questions (when it’s pre-recorded, take as long as you need. You don’t want to pause for too long though when it’s live because a few seconds can feel like an hour). Consider what you want to say and what you want your audience to hear. Remember, it’s not about the interviewer, it’s about your audience.

Remember: It’s your stage.

Speak your way, on your terms. The stage and the room are yours to own, girl.