I spent last week with 78 amazing women from 24 countries, 10 states, and four continents. We gathered at Yale University’s Law School for the 2015 Women’s Campaign School at Yale (www.wcsyale.org), where we focused on how to get elected to office at all levels, both as candidates and as leaders committed to helping other women achieve elected office. I was there, as I have been for the last eight years, to help these smart women fine-tune the way they communicate leadership presence and deliver their messages.
At the beginning of the week, I asked each woman to think about what she wants her presence to convey and what she wants audiences to know and feel about her. I heard some variation on the word choices, but the common theme was that they want to communicate confidence, credibility, and caring – all key qualities that contribute to inspiring audiences.
Since presence is an integral part of our ability to communicate, we talked about how to strengthen our presence while at the same time focusing on the need to understand who we’re talking to and even more importantly, understand what’s important to them. There are some great speakers – in the political, nonprofit and association communities, and business world – that do this well. The very best make connetions aroud a common cause and offer a solution and a vision for making our community and our world better. They also identify with their audience, showing them early on that they share a connection. If your listeners don’t feel this connection, they won’t open up, and even with a strong presence, they still won’t relate to your vision.
The 78 women I met are focused on something larger than themselves. Common wisdom says that we often focus and listen for our own self-interest, but I believe audiences want more, regardless of whether we’re talking about politics, community, or business. People want a larger vision and when you can show them how their self-interest and the larger vision are complimentary – perhaps even synonymous – you will inspire them and give them a sense that they have a stake in what happens next.
Congratulations to the 2015 Class of WCS at Yale – you inspire me!