Out of all of the trainings I lead –whether designing complex civic advocacy strategies, developing grassroots tools for social change, or working with structures within political parties – I am increasingly being asked to talk about public speaking, professionalization and image management for women. The issue of effective communication, attire and presence are equally as important as the tough strategic stuff. And for some women, this is in fact the tough stuff.
Whether speaking at a conference, lecturing for the first time, presenting your ideas in your workplace or just speaking up in a crowd, speaking in public can be a nerve-wracking experience. This is true even for the most confident communicators.
Gender and Public Speaking
I have been in far too many conversations lately where women end up revealing to me how much they “hate” public speaking. Those words are like nails on a chalkboard to me. Never does a man tell me he hates public speaking, even if he does. Women’s voices are being muted in this world in so many different ways — the very least we can do is not contribute to that by self censoring!
Many women communicate from an assumed non dominant position, often diminishing and negating their words and impact. For instance they “forget” to mention their achievements and begin by saying “they don’t know much about” the topic, or they speak with lesser volume and eye contact. If they are American and under the age of thirty, they might have adopted the incredibility annoying habit of “uptalking” – ending a sentence as if it were a question. The underpinning issue with all of these bad habits is the lack of belief in one’s right to be worthy, to be heard and to take up space. Women suffer from this more so than men. Speaking in a manner where people hear you, where your ideas are effectively conveyed, is as much about confidence as it is skill.
So toughen up, ladies! Our voices need to be heard.
Download my Public Speaking Toolkit for tools and techniques to give you the skills and confidence necessary to raise your voice – Speak like a pro, or schedule a training session or one-on-one consultation with me!