A woman’s new year’s resolution: be a well-spoken woman

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Dear readers,

Happy New Year! May 2012 bring you joy and happiness from communicating and leading with heart, insight and accuracy!

The well spoken woman cover

The well spoken woman cover

Some of you might feel I am starting this year with a rather discriminatory post as Christine K.Jahnke’s book, “The well-spoken woman. Your guide to looking and sounding your best” is prima facie intended for women only. Let me reassure you: as this book is helpful to empower your fellow female co-workers, whether you are a man or a woman makes no difference… you can help!

Before ordering this book, I had great expectations as I do believe that we, women, need a kick in the ass from time to time to propel our careers and it seemed it had this constructive aspect embedded. I have not been disappointed: it is very comprehensive and gives guidelines for all types of addresses – including very interesting tips on how to speak on TV, it enables you to assess your level of “well-spoken-ness”, and the WOMEN (not men) serving as examples to illustrate the guidelines are no other than Michelle Obama, Madeleine Albright, Melinda Gates, etc. truly appealing and successful FEMALE models.

The book is strongly built and its dynamics pushes the reader always further (chap.1 “Ann Richards – Your Best Self”, chap.2 “Indra Nooyi – Take Charge Confidence”, chap.3 “Barbara Jordan – Voice of Authority”, etc.). I dive into chapter 6 about “pre-planned spontaneity” – that very much resembles what we call “prepared speeches” – to support the reply to this burning question in your minds: is Christine H.Jahnke’s advice of a much different nature than what we find in Toastmasters manuals? I will give you some elements to form your opinion. According to this chapter, to prepare for giving your speech and fully enjoy the benefits of “pre-planned spontaneity”, you should:

1) “maximize the situation” and get to know as much as needed about the audience you will address, the type of event and even the setting (seems familiar?)

2) “break Murphy’s law” and anticipate on possible malfunctioning (mike, hardware, seating, noise, etc.). Anticipation makes the difference between an amateurish and a professional presentation, even if unforeseen events always might indeed their way in the most prepared speeches. What do you do then? At times, you have to be ready for impromptu, ready to seize the moment to increment the value of what you had prepared (seems familiar too? no kidding!)

3) have the type of notes and visual support that work for you (full-text speech, note cards, teleprompter… make your choice)… that means the type of support that reassures you and that makes you look and sound NATURAL – in my language!

The great plus of this book is that it is really meant to practicallysupport the planning of your speeches and therefore provides a

Toastmaster in action

Toastmaster in action

series of checklists for each set of advice, all very wise and articulate. One of its flaws is that it is a little bit old-fashioned to my taste (no woman of my generation seems to be an example of success…) and it does not take into account the wealth of communication means generated by social media – and its potentially “new”requirements. “The well-spoken woman” is however a great attempt to provide inspiring women models and women-to-women advice in an era usually populated by all mighty male gods (and some are near to irreplaceable, thinking of Steve Jobs and his unique way to captivate an audience attention… http://youtu.be/UF8uR6Z6KLc).

Elina Aho "Embodied gesture"

Elina Aho "Embodied gesture"

Finally, training in public speaking is not a theoretical issue: you need to practice and even more than practice, you need to find a dedicated audience (or coach, or mentor) that gives you feedback and helps you further assess if your motivation and efforts are paying off… If Christine K.Jahnke is a competent coach that will devotedly help you, there are also Toastmasters clubs all over  the world to welcome you and your pressing search for improvement in the field of communication and leadership. Why not pay a visit to one of our clubs in January and assess if Toastmasters could help you be that man or woman that stands up in the crowd?

Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti – upcoming Toastmasters meetings in Finland http://www.toastmasters.fi

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