The public speaking myth

Hey Women With Voices,

When I tell people that I express my voice most commonly through public speaking, the very first thing they are sure to share back are their fears. The very next thing I share, however, is that I wasn't born public speaking. Like most babies, I screamed my merry head, utterly peeved at being pushed to leave the comfort of my mothers warm womb. On being yanked out, I did not launch into a fully fledged speech:

"Hey Rubes (mum's name, short for Ruby), why the hell have you forced me to come here, it's blooming freezing mate!!!??? Okay, my journey so far. Cool nine months. Bit stingy on the grub second semester, was stressed with that row you had three weeks ago, but otherwise you did good did good."

Err, no. When you see me out there doing my public speaking thing it is as a result of learning, practising and mastering my craft as well as, most importantly, going through the hills and valleys of finding my voice. Truth be known, my father didn't want to know me and I wasted many a years thinking this made me imperfect. From a young child in primary school I became compelled to become a great speaker in the hope that it would make him feel differently about me. I did put that one to bed eventually, but what came out of it was some pretty awesome public speaking skills. The reason I'm sharing this is so you know it is something that I learned. Motivated by a dodgy dad, nonetheless, to learn it well.  We aren't born public speaking. We learn it. 

When you see anyone out there for that matter doing anything particularly mind blowing, the same rules applied. From the swish salsa dancer on the dance floor to the yoga teacher doing bends in places where there are bones, they learned, practised and mastered. Nothing is beyond you.

Likewise, when you see someone who is not all that cool yet at any art form, it's because they are in still in the learning phase and perhaps, depending on the skill, put themselves out there too soon. The only reason someone gets to mastery and someone doesn't, is simply because one quit. There may well be for valid reasons for quitting. Indeed, doing anything creative will make you want to quit loads. There are many things I have quit.  Running in the park, for example.  I would SO love to be one of those runners I see running in the park. I started however, but then I quit, hence, I'm not one of those runners running in the park.

What throws the need to practise 'public speaking,' out the window is the 'speaking', element. We see it as 'speaking' in general. What throws the spanner in the process even more. is because the aim is to be as though we are just speaking. The same with needing to master our communication skills. We are communicating all the time. It's not at the forefront of our minds, however, that there are skills to be learned there too. The thing is, those who are compelling and who make an impact are using techniques that have become habitual. Their brain, after tons of practise has been rewired with the new skills. It is this that makes it appear natural.

We really should start calling it as many do, The 'Art of Public Speaking.' Or if I had my choice it would be simply called learning the art of communication. I've added, 'The Art' and removed 'The Public' bit because when you have found your voice, you are the same person both on AND off the stage. Wherever you go you would communicate compellingly and leave behind a memorable fingerprint. A stamp so to speak.

Also, if we prefixed it with 'The Art,' of communication, you would be more inclined to not be fobbed off with one-day courses promising to make you a public speaker in a day. Or being able to ooze confidence, as I have also seen written, after a one-day workshop. We would also recognise the fear aspect, not as fear period, but as simply not having enough competence. Confidence and competence are two entirely different things yet often confused.

Just like PR experts have to rattle on about press releases when the truth is they hardly send them ,I have had to use the words 'fear of public speaking' only because it is SO ingrained into our psyches. Once I get you on board, however, it is identifying how much competence you have and how your lack of competence is playing out. The confidence aspect comes at the end of the training, not before.

Confidence alone doesn't mean you have made an impact either. The impact comes as a result of having a voice AND communicating that voice using beautiful finely tuned communication skills.

Ladies, nothing is beyond you. Not a darn thing. The only thing between the great's and the not so great is practise. No magic formula and no one day course.


How to find your voice at work

Hey Badasses,

At a recent event of women lawyers the issue of women being unable to be their authentic self at work and to have a voice raised its head once more. One lady felt her male colleagues would close rank on her if she dared to be herself and that she would be ostracised from the club.  It would be less painful, it seemed, for her to stick pins in her eyes. 

The question is this, however: 'If you can't be your authentic self at work then who are you going to be?'

The guy you bumped into at the coffee machine? The fella who sits at the desk opposite? Your boss? You can't be them. You don't want to be Jack, Jeremy or John, you want to be you. 

Here's the other thing, when you try to be anything other than who you are in order to fit in, people will smell your fear. It's like being fearful near a dog. If it gets even the slightest whiff that you're not completely cool, it'll bark its head off. 

Women with Voices is about discovering and expressing YOUR voice at work, through a business, at home and day-to-day. Which means, even though I love them dearly, it is not for the record a male voice. 

Due to this strangulation on our creativity, women and millennial's are leaving careers in their droves. Your voice and what you stand for is your personal brand. If you don't have a voice at work, then that's your brand. 

Indeed, for many it takes courage to find their voice and to be their authentic self at work, especially in male dominated environments. Often it takes a crisis for you to finally say, that's it no more, but then, women often end up just leaving.

I always do me when faced with similar situations. It is totally empowering. No mater where I am or who I am with I always do me. The feedback is always the same too: 'You're a breath of fresh air.'

You see, we are living in a world of information overload. People are craving for a difference. If you are simply blending in, no one will ever remember your name or know what to recommend you for.

 From today, instead of waiting for a crisis to ultimately be yourself, through empowering each other and as a collective, you will leave your jobs no more. Instead, do what is outlined in our pledge: 

 Every day I will take at least one small step towards unbuckling the straight jacket on my voice.

 Three quick tips on how to find your voice at work.

1. It takes time to reverse your negative thoughts to suddenly say it's okay to be you and to let the world know what you stand for. Making a small change one step at a time however, helps massively. This reassures your primal flight or fight response that you're not actually being attacked by wolves or will be ostracised from the club. It can be as simple as wearing a small item of clothing you've always loved but have never had the courage to wear. Do whatever empowers you and separates you from the rest. It doesn't matter what.

2. Ask yourself if the situation is true. Maybe you would be seen as a refreshing change as opposed to being ostracised. After all, when you are yourself it's when you are at your most creative. How can you think about the situation differently? 

3. Better still, start your own darn 'club.' Why do you want to wriggle into their dead, fuddy duddy way of doing things anyway?  You may well have conformed to the voice of the company which is strangulating your true voice. 

Give me a shout about setting up a Women With Voices CorporateHub and step-by-step you'll find the courage to find your voice and just be you. Your company will love you for it as a result of the sudden burst of creativity - and the profits that would be sure to follow. 

Have an amazing day and remember, it's time to unleash your inner badass so that the world can hear your voice



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