Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Inside Voice: Liz O'Donnell, PR executive, blogger, author

(Editor's note: Inside Voice is a new interview series on The Eloquent Woman, in which we'll ask speakers, speechwriters, and storytellers to share their insights. I'm delighted that you can hear fromLiz O’Donnell, a senior vice president at Double Forte, a public relations and marketing services firm She is the author of Mogul, Mom, & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman and the founder of the award-winning blog Hello Ladies, ranked as one of the top 100 blogs for women by Forbes. Promoting her book means she's doing even more speaking these days.)

What was your first public speaking experience? Your most recent one?

My first public speaking experience that I can recall was an assignment in high school Spanish class. I shook, and my voice cracked, and my classmates laughed at me. It wasn’t a teasing/bullying kind of laughing; they were my friends and just thought it was funny. I, however, found nothing funny about it. It was a weird experience to feel my head, which was saying, “You’ve got this,” separate from my body, which seemed to be saying, “You are going to die up here in the front of class.”

When do you feel most successful as a speaker?

I feel most successful as a speaker during the Q&A when I can tell by the questions I’m being asked that I’ve made a connection. As an introvert, I am wiped out every time I speak. A good tired means it went well and hard work paid off. A kind of blue tired, doesn’t feel so successful.

What do you dread about speaking?

Well, I used to dread the fact that even if I thought I was enjoying the speaking experience, my body had a mind of its own. I used to shake – a lot - when I spoke. And my voice would crack and my lips would get stuck to the front of my gums. But when I’m speaking about my new book, Mogul, Mom, & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman, I love it -- and my mind and body feel connected.

Do you have any bad speaking habits? Any good ones?

Apparently, I fidget when I speak. I just had one of those, not-feeling-so-great speaking events and some woman came up to me and told me I fidget. Great. Thanks.>

On the good side, I am told I am very relatable and very authentic. It’s been fun learning that this introvert can actually make these great connections with her audience – simply by speaking my truth.

Have you ever had training or help with your speaking? What did it look like? Why did you seek it out?

I’ve had lots of coaching. In college, at Emerson, I took courses like Oral Interpretation and Public Speaking 101. Throughout the course of my career, I’ve gone through several coaching sessions and I took the Dale Carnegie course – which was great. I always seek speaking training out out because I know I will benefit from help in this area. What does it look like? It’s always scary going in and fun coming out. Always.

The advice I remember is that my mouth makes a natural frown so I really need to turn on my smile when I speak. But the best advice was probably from the Dale Carnegie course, and it was speak about what you know.

Tell us how it feels when you're speaking or presenting.

It feels freeing to speak about my book. I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing – connecting with women on a topic that is important to all of us. I love being on -- as long as I have time to crash post-speech. Again, as an introvert, speaking wipes me out. I need to build time in for the post-speaking crash.
If you knew you could not fail, what kind of speech or presentation would you give? Tell us about the setting, audience, type of talk, content...

I’d give a TED Talk on one of the many themes from my book like How to Keep Women in the Workforce, How to Close the Housework Gap, How to Make Time for What Truly Matters, or Why We Should Listen to the Women of Main Street – Not Just the Women of the C-Suite

What's your public speaking pet a speaker? As a member of the audience?

Apologizing. I try not to do it.

Why is public speaking worth the effort, in your view?

It’s all about the connection. If you had told me a year ago that this introverted writer would like speaking about her work as much as she likes writing about it, I never would have believed you. But it’s true.

I'm offering a new workshop on women and public speaking. Be The Eloquent Woman will take place in Washington, DC, on Feb. 28, and in Oxford, UK, on April 2. The day-long workshop will help you build confidence and competence as a speaker, and help you subvert the expectations that many women face when they speak. Please join me for these unique professional development sessions!