"If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman." This tongue-in-cheek statement was spoken by the late "Iron Lady" Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and pioneer for women in politics. She was also well-known for her rapier wit, skillful use of rhetoric and a distinctly dominant communication style. Margaret Thatcher owned her own voice!
However, it wasn't always that way. She started off with very weak communication skills that earned her heavy critique. She quickly came to recognize the significance of the voice and to understood that she did not possess the vocal skills to be acknowledged, especially in a male-dominated Parliament where she was already belittled. After thorough assessment and voice-training, however, Thatcher not only extinguished the non-assertiveness and faintness of her formal articulation, but developed her own voice and vocal style so that it came to be described as "domineering."
It is my firm belief that all women in business seeking to be heard, to own their own voice as the late Baroness Thatcher did. Women should work to develop their communication skills to become better speakers. Used properly, one's voice can be applied quite effectively in business situations that require face-to-face verbal statements to be delivered, as many so often do. The following is some advice for women in business that I highly recommend one take into consideration, when assessing one's own voice and speech.
Physical preparation is key when readying oneself to make a presentation. Practicing in front of a mirror will give you a sense of self-awareness that can be a confidence booster when giving the performance; knowing exactly how you look and how your voice will sound as you are speaking. Knowing your speech's material, inside and out, is also crucial.
Awareness of the pace of your speech is also an important pitching tip. When speaking to an audience, it is unfortunately easy to become overstimulated by distracting sounds, thoughts, the audience themselves and even anxiety. For clarity reasons, it is vital that you observe the rate at which you are speaking; your voice should not be too fast or too slow, lest you lose your audience's attention.
One's voice pitch is equally significant. Baroness Thatcher struggled with her feminine, high-pitched voice, which was described as being an irritant. Women, having generally higher-pitched voices than men, may struggle with this in particular and risk losing their audience. Therefore, adjusting one's pitch while speaking becomes pivotal in winning an audience's favor.
I once observed Margaret Thatcher's method of preparing to speak when sitting next to her before her remarks at The Paley Center for Media in New York some years ago. As she was being introduced, she sat quietly, breathing slowly and deeply. When she rose to speak, she paused and observed the audience -- it was then that the friendly women next door's voice was transformed. A strong, low-pitched tone bellowed out. It was the voice of Mrs. Thatcher we all came to recognize as the commanding voice of "The Iron Lady."
At Springboard Enterprises, we encourage and train each applicant to use her voice to make an impression. Our pitch consultant, Sam Horn, provides tips and focuses not only on what to say when perfecting one's presentation -- but on how to moderate your voice when pitching! If you seek to improve your communication skills as a businesswoman, allow our philosophy and Margaret Thatcher's success serve as a model for you, through self-evaluation and adjustment.