By Ingrid Laub with Kari Ickert

                                                                                                                                           


People’s #1 fear isn’t snakes. Or planes. Or even snakes on planes.

                                                                                                                                                           

It’s public speaking.

A sold-out crowd faced their fears head-on in an interactive communications skills workshop by the WICT NY chapter and Own the Room. I was introduced to Own the Room last spring, when I attended a 1-day session. I was impressed and thought WICT NY members would really benefit from the training, so we worked with Own the Room to develop a 90-minute program specifically for our chapter.

Our trainer, Robin Amos Kahn, had us practice various techniques to banish weak language (the “like”s and “um”s that dilute our messages), speak with authority, and grab people’s attention. We paired up and took videos on our phones so we could see and hear ourselves – which I personally find horrifying, but it’s a great teaching tool.

Robin tailored our session to the predominantly female group, sharing with images of strong, pioneering women (from Mary Tyler Moore to Beyoncé) to inspire us. She demonstrated the effectiveness of walking up and down the aisles, making eye contact, modulating her voice, and using stories and humor to keep us engaged.

A few specific tips:

  • Project to the four corners of the room
  • Be your authentic self
  • To be more memorable, introduce yourself with a scene or question, THEN your name
  • If you’re nervous, get over yourself! What really matters is your message
  • Your most powerful tool as a speaker is SILENCE
  • Being concise makes you a stronger speaker
  • You have only 20-30 seconds to engage an audience
  • Be different / emotional / visual

 

It was a fun, enriching evening that left us feeling empowered and excited to put our newly-honed skills into practice. We also realized that we’re not alone in our efforts to become more powerful speakers. Too often, a woman will say something in a meeting and be ignored; then a man says the same thing and gets credit for the idea. Robin shared the Obama White House’s “amplification” strategy. If a woman’s idea wasn’t acknowledged, another woman repeated it, giving her colleague credit for suggesting it. Women need to support each other to make our voices heard.