How to Be Heard: Learnings from the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference

By Deanna Tomaselli
Young Professionals Co-Chair

Speaking up doesn’t always come easy for everyone. But there’s a difference between speaking up and being heard. It’s less about being the loudest voice in the room, and more about being seen and recognized, which unfortunately doesn’t always happen.

The Pennsylvania Conference for Women took place virtually this year, and speaker Charmaine McClaire – an executive coach and communications expert – shared her insights on the topic of helping people find their voice. Which can be even more difficult now, as we’re not meeting in person and meetings take place virtually over tools such as Teams or Zoom. Charmaine notes that we need to have domain over our own narrative. Because if you don’t define yourself, others will define yourself for you.

Defining Who You Are

When thinking about defining ourselves, it’s more than just a title. For example, yes, I am Vice President of Client Services at The Motherhood, but how does that resonate with who I am speaking to? Charmaine notes that there is power in our voices and our stories. And your story is about how you add value. What’s your personal value proposition? When I think about mine, I help my clients tell their brand story to targeted audiences through the power of influencer marketing. They can reach new customers through these trusted, established thought leaders in their communities. See the difference?

In addition to talking about your value, it’s also important to quantify it. There’s strength in numbers, and quantifying what you do (or the data behind it) helps bring your story to life. Perhaps that means the amount of budget you manage, or the number of people on your team.

An important note here, too, is that what you do may not always be your day-to-day job. Instead, it can be what you are passionate about. This could be the work you’re doing in your community – whether that means volunteering with a non-profit, writing a blog, sitting on a board of directors or helping at your church. Or something like being a caretaker of a neighbor, child or parent. Whatever it is that you do – and whatever brings you happiness and provides others value – should be included in your personal definition.

The Six Principles

Now that you’ve established who you are, it’s time to be heard! Here are Charmaine’s six principles to put this into action:

  1. Communicate the vision: Leaders communicate a vision, not a task. They paint a vivid picture that you can see long-term.
  2. Speak in headlines: When you think about watching or seeing the news, you know what is attention-grabbing. Use this same principle when communicating your vision.
  3. Have three “must-make” points: What are the top three takeaways you want people to remember and that encapsulates your vision? These are the three questions every audience member will have: Why should I listen? What’s in it for me? What do you want me to do about it?
  4. Create witnesses: Make sure you have people in your corner that are witnesses to your great work. Setting them up in advance to be your advocates and back you up can help make sure your vision is heard.
  5. Don’t audition for the part: You don’t need to ask for permission to share your insight. Show up and communicate because you’re going to add value.
  6. Embody your message: Ensure you are walking, talking and acting the part. Because you must believe and live your message before conveying it to others.

Practice Makes Perfect

Before your next call, presentation or conversation, practice. Don’t speak with a question mark. Speak with authority. Try practicing in front of a mirror or record yourself on your computer or phone. One other tip is to make sure your witnesses are ready to go before you speak. Say you are presenting via Zoom and someone argues with your or disagrees with you. Yes, they have the right to, but your witnesses can serve as backup to prove your thoughts. Knowing they are there can help you build your confidence.

Now is the time to take action. While being heard can be intimidating, the results will speak for themselves. As Charmaine noted, be freaking powerful.

Deanna Tomaselli is a Vice President at The Motherhood, an influencer marketing agency, and an active member of the PRSA Pittsburgh board. She shares industry insights, career learnings, and life in the ‘Burgh at

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  2. […] One of the sessions I attended was from a woman named Charmaine McClaire – an executive coach and communications expert. Charmaine shared her insights on the topic of helping people find their voice and defining their own narrative. Because if you don’t define yourself, others will define it for you. I wrote more over on the PRSA Pittsburgh blog. Read it here. […]

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