- "Since I'm in public relations, I'm really behind the scenes. So when I have to speak--at a press conference or in front of my peers--I don't feel sure of myself."
- "I like to think that I’m pretty good at chairing, even very large events with high profile speakers, whether the speakers are male or female, but I have been doing this since I was a student and find it quite easy, I’m guessing because the focus isn’t on me."
On a long flight home from my recent London trip, I found inspiration in 20 Feet From Stardom, a documentary about the primarily female backup singers in the music industry. Blues singer Mable John--one of the first singers Motown founder Berry Gordy signed to his own label, and a backup singer in Ray Charles's Raelettes--shared a perspective on backup singers that women speakers would do well to borrow:
We in the music industry, especially African American people, need to know our worth. We need to know as women, we're important. And I think the breakdown is when a woman doesn't know who she is and she settles for less. Check out your worth. You're worth more than that.I'm not saying you shouldn't moderate or chair. These are important speaking roles, and good stepping stones as you progress as a speaker. They're not simple tasks, by any means. But if you look at the last few years of the speaking you've done and find you are always supporting others and their ideas, it may be time to push yourself forward, into the spotlight. The documentary's great inspiration if you've been lurking behind the scenes, and shows what it's like to always be in someone's shadow. How will you work on moving from backup singer to featured performer in your public speaking?
On May 15, I'll be convening another session of Be The Eloquent Woman in Washington, DC. It's a subversive new workshop that helps women executives and public officials learn how women speakers are perceived and how to turn those expectations on their heads with confidence, content and credibility. Go here to read how the first workshop went and what participants had to say.