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Female empowerment through public speaking

By 26th October 2016Uncategorised
Female empowerment through public speaking

There are times we fall into gender traps. Ways we are ‘taught’ to behave by society. I grew up thinking that it’s good to be ‘Good’; that one should be polite, smiley and pleasant. One should never offend, never assert themselves too much, nor should get too passionate or too emotional. One should, you might say, be a ‘Good Girl’.

What society thinks is good actually equals obedient.

Obedience taught to us by reinforcing what being a good woman looks like and sounds like… demure, humble, don’t interrupt, behave, think inside the box, don’t be mouthy or opinionated, play with girl toys, and never ever EVER dare interrupt someone.

Ladies, ask yourself if you’ve ever felt or done the following:

  • You worry a lot about pleasing the audience “Will I know enough?” “Will they like me?” “What will they think of my talk?”;
  • You moderate what you’re saying so that it’s easier or nicer to hear;
  • You would rather change your opinion than disagree with someone in a public speaking setting;
  • You have a tendency to rush through your material or shorten it, preferring not to take up too much time of the audience;
  • You tend towards facilitating a discussion, rather than rallying change;
  • You tend to apologize or get embarrassed if you notice yourself having too much impact
  • You seek connection and resonance with the audience more than allowing them the discomfort needed to change.

Sound familiar? Here’s how to break out of the gender stereotypes and bring some serious female empowerment to your public speaking.

Drop the fillers

  • justI’m just wondering …
  • I actually have a question.
  • I just think …
  • I actually want to add something.
  • I just want to add …

The words “just” and “actually” demean what you have to say. “Just” shrinks your power. “Actually” shows that you are surprised that you have something to say. Think about how much stronger it sounds to simply say what you need to say without the “Just’s” and “Actually’s”

  • I’m wondering…
  • I have a question…
  • I think…
  • I want to add something…
  • In addition…

A public speaker is also a leader, so if you are uncertain about the force of your message, you will signal to your audience that they shouldn’t take it seriously either.

Other words and phrases of which to be wary

  • In other words…
  • Basically…
  • In fact…
  • To make a long story short…
  • Essentially…

Stop Undermining Yourself

take-care-how-you-speak-to-yourself-because-you-are-listeningWhen you start sentences with:

  • I haven’t done much research on this but …
  • Just thinking off the top of my head but …
  • You’ve obviously been studying this longer than I have, but …

What you’re actually saying is

I’m not completely standing behind what I’m about to say and I’m worried that you won’t like me

When you unleash your true voice you become more powerful than you can imagine. This is what brings the most benefit; both to your audience and to you. Your true job as a public speaker is to bring about inspiration or change; to get across a message of some sort.

Next time you start to worry about whether your audience likes you or not, remember that you’re missing the point. The audience are much more interested in getting benefit from your talk, than in judging you as likeable or otherwise.

Clip the Caveats

caveatsWomen sometimes tend to preface their arguments with a ‘warning’ or ‘admonition’ of their limitations.

  • It’s just my opinion
  • I’m not really sure
  • I could be wrong but…

All of this is a subconscious signal that we don’t have enough confidence in our opinions.

So often, we wait for someone to tell us that it’s ok for us to speak our mind, to argue, to stick up for something important. You could be waiting forever for that to happen. Instead of waiting, take permission from yourself that you are allowed to express yourself. Or if you really need permission – I give it to you right now.

Always being pleasant might make you likeable, but it’s more likely to be mediocre than powerful. Rapport is important to connect you to an audience, but there are times when you need to risk breaking rapport to have the biggest impact.


Women need to find their OWN voice – not a male substitute

bobSome women tend to believe that being a good speaker involves being a more ‘male ‘speaker.

Don’t buy into it.

Don’t give credence to the current advice to ‘lower your voice to sound more authoritative’.  You need to be clear, of course, but to inspire trust you need, above all, to be your authentic self.

Stop thinking of it as pushing your agenda and to start to see it as allowing the space for people to connect with the full power of your message. It’s a shift from constantly worrying about your own aims, your own ‘bottom line’ and your own ego, to seeking to benefit others.

Don’t change your personality: find the power that already exists within you (Anything else will make you seem fake)

I have something important to give – I’m not only ‘taking’ from my audience.

How much do you believe in your message? Your information has value for your audience and if you believe in your message then your audience will as well. The act of public speaking is all about giving. Giving a voice and face to the information your audience needs.  Don’t downplay or belittle the act of giving.




About Sarah Lloyd-Hughes

Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is a popular speaker on confidence and inspiration, an award winning social entrepreneur, founder of Ginger Training & Coaching and author of “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking” (Pearson).


  • Jutta Nedden says:

    Thank you, Sarah, this is a great article. 1. Low confidence is one of the main reasons, why women are less successful than men. One reason: we are often our worst critic. It is also about self-compassion – and I don’t mean self pity, it’s the opposite of self-judgement and self-blaming. There is a great book and website, with a free self-assessment, just google “Kristin Neff Self-Compassion”. 2. Shouldn’t we rather talk about feminine and masculine behaviour instead of female and male behaviour? For example I know many men with confidence problems, and confident, extremely target oriented women who tend to neglect relationships.

    • Oh Jutta! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I, too, am aware of the same gender issues. In my experience, I’ve seen the same things you’ve noted ” men with confidence problems, and confident, extremely target oriented women who tend to neglect relationships.” When speaking of gender, it’s a touchy subject. I’ve used that phrasing ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and was told it was demeaning. I suppose different people are offended by different things. Therefore, I did focus on how (mostly) the gender stereotypes with which many of us women folks have been raised, placed on us by society.

      I’m working on a blog post right now for our gentleman speakers and the specific problems they face (not showing emotion, the tendency to put on a mask, focusing on facts instead of relationships, etc)

      I so love your comment and that you took the time out of your busy day to connect. x

  • Sophia Travis says:

    Hi Sarah, this is a brilliant post and extremely empowering – the examples of using fillers to apologise for your own opinions is a habit of which I’m definitely guilty! There’s definitely an expectation for female speakers to follow certain unwritten ‘rules’, e.g. to allow others to speak first without interrupting and never to be too direct in sharing views. I love the lines: ‘Instead of waiting, take permission from yourself that you are allowed to express yourself. Or if you really need permission – I give it to you right now.’

    • Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment Sophia – and I’m truly glad this post resonated with you! Us ‘good’ girls sometimes need to stop apologising away our truth. Best to you! x

  • […] a few weeks back I wrote about female empowerment through public speaking. Gender issues are barriers that can seem very real, mostly because of the way we’ve been […]

  • Really important issues to highlight Sarah. Thank you. The idea that as women we are just not good enough…and so we shrink verbally and physically. Would like to say that this “reserved” style is prevalent amongst British and Scandinavians, (they even have a special word for it “janteloven” don’t be the tall poppy in the room kind of thing. Coming from a ‘latin’ influenced family, expressing yourself with more zest is normal. When I lived in London, British people often said, I was flamboyant…because I used my arms and facial expressions a lot and that I was a “show-off” because I interrupted and spoke out in an assertive way. So, my point is, we can learn sweet things from cultural differences 🙂

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