CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – OCTOBER 1, 2020
Public Speaking Tips For Women (PT.1)
You are brilliant.
Your ideas? Incredible. Your questions? Insightful. Your critiques of the status quo? Right on.
I keep meeting brilliant women like you, with powerful ideas to contribute, important businesses and organizations to build, provocative questions to share. But so often, the way they communicate fails to command power. They equivocate, apologize, and look away as they speak.
I do this too. We are subtly undermining ourselves with their words. As a result, our ideas aren’t having the impact they could.
Here are eight ways you might be undermining yourself with your words—and eight ways to stop:
1. Drop the “just:” “I’m just wondering …” “I just think …” “I just want to add …” “Just” demeans what you have to say. “Just” shrinks your power. It’s time to say goodbye to the justs.
2. While you are at it, drop the “actually.” “I actually have a question.” “ I actually want to add something.” “Actually” communicates a sense of surprise that you have something to say. Of course you want to add something. Of course you have questions. There’s nothing surprising about it.
3. Don’t tell us why what you are about to say is likely to be wrong. We are still starting sentences with, “I haven’t researched this much but …” “I’m just thinking off the top of my head but …” “You’ve clearly been studying this longer than I have, but …”
We do this for lots of reasons. We don’t want to appear arrogant. We aren’t totally sure about what we are saying. Or we fear being wrong, and so we buffer the sting of a critical response by saying up front, “I’m not totally standing behind what I’m about to say, but …” Then, no one has the chance to say back, “Well, I know you strongly believe this, but I entirely disagree.”
No matter what the reason, doing this takes away from the power of your voice. Time to change the habit.
4. Don’t tell us you are going to “just take a minute” to say something. Often, in presentations or meetings, I hear women say, “I’d like to ask you to take just a minute to consider this idea” or “Now, I’m going to take just a few minutes to tell you about our product.” Think about how much stronger it sounds to simply say, “I’d like to tell you about our product.”
Go ahead and only take a minute, if that’s appropriate, but skip using the phrase “just a minute” in a talk or presentation. It sounds apologetic and implies that you don’t think what you are about to say is worthy of time and attention.
5. Don’t make your sentences sound like questions. Women often raise the pitch of their voice at the end of a sentence, making it sound like a question. Listen to your own language and that of women around you, and you are likely to notice this everywhere. Unsurprisingly, speaking a statement like a question diminishes its power. Make statements sound like statements; drop the tone lower at the end.
6. Don’t substitute a question for a statement. You might think you are “suggesting” increasing the marketing budget by asking, “What about increasing the marketing budget?” in a meeting, but your colleagues aren’t likely to hear an opinion (and certainly not a well thought-out opinion) in your question. When you have something to say, don’t couch it in a question.
Sometimes, of course, there are strategic reasons to use a question rather than a statement: to gently introduce an idea to a group that is likely to be resistant to it, for example. But women often turn to questions rather than statements because we are avoiding conflict, avoiding visibility, avoiding claiming power. We use questions because we have old stories about it being dangerous or inappropriate to state our ideas definitively, and we can’t see how sharing our perspective boldly and directly could actually hugely benefit our careers. Time to let the old stories go.
Make It A Champion Day!