Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Do you talk yourself out of public speaking--or say yes to opportunity?

So many readers have observed that they see too few women as speakers on conference programs that I've begun asking meeting organizers: Do you have trouble finding women speakers, and why?

The answer that surprised me most when I first heard it from a female meeting manager was "We make a point of identifying women speakers. And when we call them about being speakers, most of the time they refer us to someone else--usually a man." Then I heard it again, and again.

I'm wondering whether some women are talking themselves out of public speaking opportunities--or having trouble saying yes to speaking opportunities. There are plenty of valid reasons to turn down a speaking gig, but if those conditions aren't present, what's behind your decision to pass on an opportunity to speak? What are the reasons you hesitate or refer offers on to others?

Please leave your answers below in the comments. I'd love to hear from those of you who've experienced this as speakers, and as program or conference organizers.

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Louise Armstrong said...

Great question that made me squirm when I read it because I think I've been guilty of this from time to time. This may not be a popular opinion but I think, at a certain level of business, some women (not all) feel that everything they do needs to be spectacular in order for them to be taken seriously and valued as much as their male counterparts. I've often turned down speaking opportunities because I didn't believe I was enough of a subject matter expert to "wow" the audience, only to see a man with much less expertise take the same gig. I don't think they necessarily believe they know more or will do better. I just think they're less afraid to fail.

Biddy Bytes said...

I did address this very topic on my blog recently, as I spoke about the derth of women speakers, as with last winter's "Get Motivated" extravaganza, in Providence, RI...Problem? Of all the hot-shots they had on the panel, there was only ONE woman and then I heard, she was a bore (I stayed away, in protest.). Why wouldn't program organizers understand: Women want women presenters, those who've made a difference. We don't want Rudy Guliani or Colin Powell..I'd love to present...just don't know how to go about getting myself on a list..