HOW TO FIND YOUR PUBLIC SPEAKING VOICE
Article by Joy Corkery, Content Marketing Lead at Latana
Back in 2014, Forbes asked, “are women too timid when they job search?” In the article, they determined that the main reason that women don’t apply for a job is that they didn’t think they would be hired because they don’t meet all the requirements and the application would be a waste of time. That’s not stopping Kanye West running for president in 2020, so why should it stop me, or any other woman, applying for a job?
Re-reading the Forbes article reminded me of something similar I’m going through now: a journey toward having my voice heard. As Content Marketing Lead at Latana, my role mostly focuses around writing and not speaking, and presentation opportunities are not voluminous. I had to take matters into my own hands and create some.
The more vocal I become in my role, the more seriously my colleagues are taking me and more of my initiatives/opinions are being listened to. Speaking out more has also made me realise that I know much more than I originally thought. I believe the same would happen in job interviews if I were to take that level of confidence there now.
But speaking out isn’t always easy. This can be down to individual personality, yes, but also the historical implications of the need to silence women. Those of you older than 30 will be familiar with the nugget “women should be seen not heard”.This outdated notion reveals that women are expected to keep silent during arguments, keep their opinion to themselves and not to show anger like a man. On top of it all, showing any sign of emotion in the workplace is considered a weakness, a proof that women are not fit for making important decisions in a clear-headed way.
But it doesn’t have to be like this.
Even the most anxious of you reading this article can overcome their fear (or lack of self-confidence) to become more vocal and grow in the workplace. And it doesn’t have to begin by jumping straight into a company-wide presentation. I’m going to share with you the first steps I’ve made to take me from being a silent meeting participant to presenting full-blown company strategies.
Find a mentor
I’d tried for years on my own to build a level of confidence to take on public speaking but was never able to make a real breakthrough. This further fuelled my theory that I just didn’t have the ability but what I was really missing was a mentor.
Luckily for me, I found a mentor in our new VP of Marketing, Angeley Mullins. Angeley is the first female manager I’d ever had and it made all the difference. She had the experience I was looking for to grow and, most importantly, we understood each other on a fundamental level. I needed somebody I could click with to make the next steps.
Find your own style
Like others, I’ve spent time trying to emulate the people around me. This can be useful at times as we uncover new ways of doing things. However, it didn’t work for me when it came to public speaking. The same way I can’t easily talk about something I don’t believe in, I also can’t speak in a way that is not 100% me.
I found the benefits of being yourself when you speak in a strange manner. I’m more comfortable speaking when I have a lot on my mind, whether it be work-related stress or influence from my personal life. When I’m in this mindset, I realise how minuscule a short presentation is in the grand scheme of things. I also don’t have the mental capacity to be someone else so I’m simply myself.
Through this type of public speaking, I’ve learned that people enjoy my more laid-back approach, the odd joke, and the humility of admitting that public speaking is not a strong point for me. A style of speaking I first thought to be made up of weaknesses on my part eventually were turned into strengths and I determined who I was as a public speaker and built on that.
Use stories to connect
Women have a historic relationship with storytelling. The women of the family were traditionally those who passed stories down through generations and, as time has progressed, have used storytelling to inject a dose of ethics into social situations (think the feminist movement).
Bring this tradition into your speaking.
By using storytelling you can build an emotional connection with your audience. Choose a relevant story to emphasize a point and you will pull them into what you are talking about. Depending on the story you choose (specific to you or not), you can also build a personal bond with your audience, which can be beneficial down the line beyond public speaking. This tactic is also really useful when you need to explain something your audience is not already familiar with.
Pick your audience wisely
Speaking for the first time in public is scary, but the fear can be subsided by presenting to the right audience. When I had to give my first strategy talk, I started by presenting it to the marketing team. I was presenting on social media, an area I knew they were already clued up on, and it helped that I could somewhat anticipate any incoming questions. Also, because we are a tight-knit team, I felt relaxed in their company and I knew I could depend on them for honest, constructive feedback.
By first carrying out the presentation in a more comfortable setting, I built a stronger layer of confidence that, at the very least, lessened my anxiety about speaking in front of a larger group. The confidence in what I was saying shone through and I really felt people were listening to me properly for the first time.
Women have the same tremendous power to speak and be listened to as men have. Sometimes, we just have to dig a bit deeper to find it. You might shy away from public speaking but, in all honesty, in order to grow professionally, it is an important skill to have. You can build this skill by reaching inside yourself to find your inner voice, and by nurturing this voice one step at a time. It may seem a difficult task now, but you won’t regret it in the end.