How to Hold Your Own at the C-Suite Table

The Public Speaker shares 4 tips for exerting influence to get your ideas heard.  

Lisa B. Marshall,
May 9, 2014
Episode #250

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You have probably witnessed the situation during a meeting when one person introduces an idea that is passed over.  But then, the idea is repeated (perhaps in different words) by someone else and all of a sudden it gets traction.  This may have even already happened to you. It’s a challenge that we all face from time to time: getting our ideas heard. .

Although men do face this issue, it is more prevalent for women.  In one interesting study, Western Michigan University researcher, Kathleen Propp, handed out cards of information and asked participants to introduce a key bit from the cards to a group. The result? When a man introduced an idea, it was almost always used, whereas when a woman introduced the idea, the most common response was to ignore it. Men contributing the idea were 6 times more likely to influence the group!

Recently I interviewed Linda Descano, President & CEO of Women & Co. Citibank’s online resource for women professionals. Here’s what Linda had to say about influence at the C-suite:

“It’s important to speak with confidence, project your voice, and make eye contact with the one or two key decision-makers in the room. Sometimes I actually direct my comment to the key decision-maker to grab attention. If someone does repeat a point that I made, I acknowledge it, saying ‘Yes, thank you X, for expanding on the point I made earlier. Your comment really helped bring it to life,’ or something like that.”

(Listen to the full interview or watch the video interview)

When you're sitting in a meeting and you’ve got a mixed audience, it’s important to understand how to make yourself heard.  That's why today I’d like to talk about important skills to help you be heard—particularly at the C-suite table!

Assured Attitude

Linda's quote touched on my first point already—speak with confidence. Before you even enter the room, it’s important to check-in with what is going on internally. An assured attitude (notice I didn’t say assertive) is critically important—assured in the sense that you believe that sooner or later everyone in the room will hear and respect you.  It is important not to feel nervous or intimidated (or show that you're feeling either of those things).

The point is you can’t go in with an attitude that you’ll never earn their respect or that you’ll have to fight to get your ideas heard. When you go in with negativity, it comes out in your word choices and body posture.

Power Posing

For a quick confidence boost just before your meeting, try holding yourself in a “power pose.” Power poses are simply how we physically express power in our bodies—basically taking up a lot of space with open body postures. Harvard Business School's Amy Cuddy, Caroline Wilmuth, and Dana Carney found that by holding yourself in a "power pose" for as little as two minutes, it will make you feel measurably more powerful and willing to take risks.

It’s not just in your head. Holding a power pose actually changes your hormones, increasing testosterone (a hormone that makes you feel dominance) and decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone). You can learn more about how power posing affects performance in this paper and in this TED video


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