Thursday, October 5, 2017

Stop interrupting women speakers: Another episode

Kathryn Presner of Get Speaking! encourages women to get started in public speaking, particularly in tech, with web resources and workshops. And back in July, she reported on an episode at WordCamp Ottawa that sounds awfully familiar over here at The Eloquent Woman: A woman speaker being interrupted repeatedly during her talk, and an audience intervention to get it to stop.

That's similar to what was described in our post When the male moderator won't let the lone woman panelist speak. Here's what Presner saw--and stopped:
That afternoon, a woman was giving a lightning talk, with a short amount of time to present. Smack dab in the middle of her presentation, a man piped up to voice disagreement with one of the examples she was showing. Audience conversation started rolling from there, and I could see the speaker – who’d never presented at a WordCamp before – start to look a little flustered, as her talk became completely derailed. 
I was filled with rage. I’ve never done this before, but I had to say something. 
“Let’s let her finish her talk. She only has seven minutes left, and she can take Q&A after.” 
There was a small shocked silence. I’m not sure if I imagined it, but I might have heard a few murmurs of agreement. 
The speaker finished the rest of her talk without interruption, and then took questions after. 
Afterwards, a few people – including the speaker – thanked me for calling out the interrupter.
Presner offers good tips on setting expectations about interruption at the start of your presentation, something that many speakers don't think they need to do. But if there is no moderator or chair present and you are on your own, it's not only fine but helpful to say at the start, "I'm going to take all questions at the end of the presentation, so please hold your insights and questions until then." Then when someone interrupts, anyway, you can say, "Thanks, ask that again at the end, please," and keep going. You've got the floor and the mic. 

Keep in mind, too, as you can see in this video, that women are interrupted far more than men when they are speaking, and that mansplaining often begins with an interruption. All the more reason to announce to the whole audience your set of question rules first--so the audience can help you enforce them. And you can control the gender aspects of Q&A by announcing that you will call on a woman, then a man, then a woman, in turn. It's not only a good way to make sure women get a question in, but to balance a potential onslaught of mansplainers. Yes, you need to be speaking at a gender-balanced conference but try this...it really helps.

And you bold audience members who actually want to hear the speaker who's speaking? Speak up yourselves and insist on it, and put that in your feedback forms to let the conference organizers know they may need moderators or other rules on Q&A.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Capital Ideas Edmonton)

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