6 Ways Women Business Owners Short-change Themselves When They Communicate

Ever wondered how public speaking skills have for your communication?  Many of the tips used in public speaking training happen to be highly relevant in general communication.  Sarah Denholm shares some tips with us.


In my work, I regularly consult with women business owners on improving their public speaking skills, and I watch women presenting to groups both large and small. The natural tendency of women towards being inclusive and collaborative gives them an advantage in business – but I’ve also seen common themes emerge where they unintentionally diminish and short-change themselves as they communicate; I’ve also done this myself.

Because our listeners take their cue from us as we speak, it’s vital not to let unhelpful habits – which we may not even be aware of – cloud our message.

So, what can go wrong, and how can you fix it? Here are some pitfalls and solutions:

Public speaking

(Photo credit: brainpop_uk)

1. Not trusting your ideas.

Not trusting in the power of your ideas to make a difference in the world is often the biggest internal block to overcome. Believe that you have something to offer – get in touch with your inner conviction, list for yourself the reasons why you add value if it helps, and resolve to be bold!

As an example, a client told me recently that she’d decided to resign from her corporate job, which freed her up to start speaking out and making suggestions more often. “My whole experience at work changed as a result” she told me. “My colleages started listening to, and respecting my opinions in a whole new way, and life in the office became so much more rewarding”.

2. Using “feeble” words.

It can be easy to retreat to the perceived safety of wishy-washy language such as “this possibly means…”, “perhaps this might…” or “you may not agree with me, but…” when you communicate. These types of comments don’t help your cause.

When you hedge your bets, it keeps you safe from the possibility that your listener(s) may push back and disagree with you. But being willing to stand by what you say shows exactly what your clients or audience are looking for: your authenticity and power. So don’t be afraid to make a statement – literally! “I guarantee that you…” “I promise that…” “You’ll think differently about…” are all examples of this.

Certainty is attractive to your listeners, who are drained by the ever-growing pile of options available to them. I know that you don’t want to come across as arrogant, but consider moving slightly further in this direction as an experiment. You’ll be more charismatic as a result.

3. Using too many words.

There are usually two reasons for this: either not trusting the merit of your ideas (see No.1 above), or because you don’t want to come across as inflexible or dogmatic. Over-explaining, justifying and apologizing fall into this category, and there’s rarely a need for them when you communicate. Being succinct is a relief in today’s marketplace: so say what you mean and then stop.

4. Not using your voice effectively.

Make sure that your statements don’t sound like questions (particularly prevalent in Australia) or your audience will think you’re uncertain even if you’re not. Ending your sentences with a downwards inflection will help with this (while still having vocal variety).

5. Not fully inhabiting the physical space available.

Part of diminishing your communication is shrinking from using the full space available to you. These are common

  • Not breathing fully into the space, or remembering to breathe consciously to your listener(s). Breathing sends your power out into the world.
  • Holding your energy back rather than letting it fill the room. If you’re more spiritually inclined, imagine that you and your listener(s) are in a shared energy bubble.
  • Not using your peripheral vision but ‘tunnelling’ your visual focus instead. (If this sounds a little mysterious, here’s a link to the neuro-science of this topic in my article “Using peripheral vision to impact your public speaking

6. Not pausing.

As well as not inhabiting physical space, it’s also common to hear women not fully inhabiting the “time” space available. Take up the space that’s righfully yours: don’t rush to fill silences. Pausing before you speak (more natural for introverts than extroverts!) and between key thoughts is much more impactful than running your ideas together in a word-stream.

Luckily, none of these tips require a personality shift – just a change in perspective and some practice. Why not begin with one tip you’d like to work on and try it out over the next week or so? You can practise the ideas in your personal life too.

About the author:

Sarah Denholm is a public speaking and presentation skills coach, working with clients to become confident, engaging and feel greater presence and ease. She coaches individuals, does in-house training and runs public courses. The next 5 week public course “Complete Presentation Skills” is on Wednesday evenings beginning the 30th of January at the Mont Albert Quest. For more information on how Sarah can help you, go to: https://www.improveyourpublicspeaking.com.au


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Comments 5

  1. Mi,

    You make some excellent points and frame some solid reminders.

    My mom always wanted me to present myself confidently, so we talked about use of personal space, and speaking in grammatically correct ways.

    When I got older – into college and into my life, I found that not everyone is taught these important things. Not pausing, and voice inflection. So, some homework I will have!

    Thank you for covering this important topic! I hope even young ladies will find this and consider seriously.


    Today I led my first webinar, and I found myself doing a couple of the things above:

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