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Own Your Voice: A Businesswoman's Most Effective Tool

"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 wit, skilful 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 poor communication skills that earned her heavy critique. She quickly came to recognize the significance of the voice and the realisation that she did not possess the vocal techniques to be taken seriously, especially in a male-dominated Parliament where she was 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."

“All women in business need to be heard,” says Monique Rissen-Harrisberg, the doyen of Voice Training and CEO of The Voice Clinic in South Africa. “Women should work to develop their vocal skills to become better speakers. One's voice is essential in business situations that require face-to-face verbal statements to be delivered, as many so often do”, says Harrisberg

Harrisberg’s offers effective speaking tips to women who want to improve their public speaking skills:

  1. Physical preparation is vital when preparing to deliver a speech. Practice in front of a mirror, this 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 will boost your confidence.
  2.  Knowing your speech's material, inside and out, is also crucial.
  3. Awareness of the pace of your speech is important.
  4. The pitch of the voice 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. Adjusting one's pitch while speaking becomes pivotal when delivering a speech.
  5. When Margaret Thatcher was being introduced, she sat quietly, breathing slowly and deeply. When she rose to speak, she paused and observed the audience. A strong, low-pitched tone bellowed out one we all came to recognize as the commanding voice of "The Iron Lady."All leaders need to utilise these techniques.

“Use your voice to make an impact,” says Harrisberg. “Our facilitators will provide you with valuable tips and will focus not only on what to say when perfecting your presentation, but on how to moderate your voice when pitching!

If you seek to improve your communication skills as a businesswoman, allow The Voice Clinic and Margaret Thatcher's success to serve as a model for you, through self-evaluation and adjustment,” Harrisberg concludes.