Wednesday, June 13, 2012

From the vault: 13 simple things you can do to help women with public speaking

This blog's full of examples of the difficulties women face in public speaking, starting with just getting a spot on the program. But instead of blaming women or saying this can't be done, what are some practical and simple things that any of us can do to help a woman with public speaking?  Unlike some observers, I'm not suggesting that only women should do these things.  These are tasks any woman or man can do.  I welcome your additions to this list in the comments:
  1. Talk about this issue--with your friends and colleagues, with your boss, with your professional organizations. Ask what they can do to help. Share this list as a starting point.  When you see people helping to keep women silent, point it out. 
  2. When you organize or moderate a panel, take the time to look for, invite and encourage women speakers to join it. Got an all male panel? Include women.  (This is a problem even in female-dominated professions, by the way.) Get your organization to make this a rule of thumb.
  3. Share speaking resources with women you know.  I always hope you'll recommend The Eloquent Woman or The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, but please also share the many books, blogs, seminars and other resources you find useful with women interested in speaking.
  4. If you're a manager, offer support for speaker training, particularly for younger women on your team. Use a low-cost alternative like Toastmasters, private coaching, or team training for the women on your team. Insist that women working on your team get speaker training. Encourage them to keep trying.
  5. Managers also can make public speaking and presentations skills a professional development goal for female team members, both to indicate their importance and to cause training to happen.
  6. Not a manager? Then ask for presentation and speaker training at work, and ask to make it part of your professional development plan. Suggest group training for you and your colleagues. Feel free to use my memo to the boss for this purpose.
  7. In a meeting, ask a woman what she thinks about the matter at hand. Listen to what she says.  If a woman's having trouble getting a word in edgewise, help her out: "I'd like to hear what Emily has to say on this score" is all it takes.
  8. If a female friend or colleague is speaking, go hear your speaking friend. Congratulate her. Encourage her to do it again. Ask intelligent questions during her presentation. Tell others to go see her.
  9. If you're a woman who speaks on a subject with authority, make yourself known to program organizers, and publicly.  Women are sometimes penalized for putting themselves forward in this way. Do it, anyway. It's okay to "toot your own horn."
  10. Offer to help a friend practice public speaking.  Watch a video playback with her, watch her rehearse, or sit in the audience and offer observations afterward.
  11. Mentor another woman with less speaking experience.  Let her watch you speak, and talk to her afterwards so she has the chance to ask questions. Help her get speaking gigs and opportunities to practice. Show her how to network in ways that will help her be noticed as a speaker, and talk to her about how to promote her speaking.
  12. Speak up and shut down the myths, mocking, negative talk and sexual slurs that attempt to silence women. A simple "that's unacceptable" should do it; if it doesn't, make a complaint. Don't let women around you be intimidated into silence.
  13. Before you register for a conference, figure out the proportion of female speakers.  Send a message to the organizers if it's out of whack. Let them know the problem has been noticed--and ask what they're going to do about it.
Please add to this list--and share it with your colleagues. I look forward to your thoughts and ideas.