How many times have you stopped yourself from speaking up in a meeting or at a conference, thinking that what you wanted to say wasn’t important?

Have you ever held yourself back because you didn’t think anyone wanted to hear you?

This happens to all of us regardless of our age, title, or years of experience. We’ll berate ourselves afterward but in the moment, we can feel paralyzed by indecision or self-doubt.

The way to overcome this self-censorship is to ask yourself one simple question before you walk into a meeting, pitch, conference, or presentation.

The question you ask is, “Why you?”

Why you?

It doesn’t mean “Why are you qualified?” or “Why are you the best person to speak about this topic?”

It means “Why do you care?”

Asking that question reminds you that your right to speak doesn’t come from external validators such as your title or where you went to school. It comes from why you care.

One example is from my friend Dr. Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili. I met Oby in Morocco when we both spoke at the 2019 Women in Africa Summit.

Oby is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, co-convener of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, and recent candidate for President of Nigeria.

One night, on a bumpy shuttle bus ride in Marrakesh, I asked Oby what motivated her in her work.

Oby replied: “I feel like I owe a responsibility to the next generation of women who I see coming into a greater understanding of their power and finding their voice. One thing I say could be pivotal to having a generation of women that could achieve so much more than I could accomplish.”

What a powerful, motivating force that compels her to get up and speak. It’s also what keeps her going through a demanding schedule. That response is Oby’s “Why you?”

Why your “Why you” is important

There are three benefits to identifying your “Why you” before a meeting, pitch, conference, or presentation:

  • It calms your nerves, because it reminds you that you are not center of attention – your message is the center to attention
  • It strengthens your conviction, because it reinforces what’s important to you
  • It makes your language and delivery more authentic because they are more purpose-driven

How to use your “Why you”

There are a few different ways to use your “Why you”

  1. Before you draft a speech or presentation, ask “Why you: Why do you care about your speech, your work, or your audience?” Think of a time in your life when something happened that made you care – either at work or at home – and consider including that anecdote in your presentation. It becomes a powerful opening or closing.
  2. Before you walk into a room or pick up the phone, ask “Why you?” to re-energize yourself, especially if you need to have a difficult conversation. Grounding yourself in your conviction makes the challenge ahead more approachable.

Join us in the #WhyYou challenge

We are starting the #WhyYou challenge to inspire people to share their motivations with others. We’ll be featuring them monthly on social media – please send us your “Why you” and we’ll share it with our community.