Women – Why you have GOT to get over “Podium avoidance syndrome.” by Cathy McNally

You already walk the walk. It’s time to talk the talk.

Because it’s Women’s History Month, I want to tell you about my new mission. I want – no change that – I need to help women be more confident about speaking up, speaking out, and letting their voice be heard everywhere.

Photo © 2012 Brisbane City Council - Green Heart Schools public speaking competition
Photo © 2012 Brisbane City Council via Flickr – Green Heart Schools public speaking competition

I want women to step up to the stage at work, at church, in boardrooms, conference halls, and rallies. Wherever there are ears in a room, I want women at the front, talking! I want this for women no matter their religion or political party or opinion. And it’s not just me that needs women to speak up, it’s our entire world.

As Program Development Director of the Speaker Sisterhood, my job is to help women who want to be more confident public speakers. Most of them are jittery about public speaking. Some are stomach-churningly, sweat-drippingly terrified. In fact, we have members who have turned down job or advancement opportunities because public speaking was required. I would really like to stop hearing that. I don’t blame the women; I blame our sexist world. But I want to help the women step up to that podium gladly – or at least willingly.

The weird thing is, these women may not be reticent about leadership – they will take risks and responsibility, manage projects, keep teams in line. It’s not the leading that scares some women, it’s the speaking. So many women already walk the walk, but they don’t talk the talk!

Women have understandable reasons for being nervous. Our world judges women much more harshly than men, devalues their offerings, and even actively silences them. And many women grew up at a time when they were not encouraged to speak up and lacked role models.

So there’s lots of rational reasons for “podium avoidance syndrome,” but my work is telling women why they should get over it. And I’d like to share three big reasons with you.

Three reasons why you should overcome “podium avoidance syndrome.”

1. You can have a larger say in your profession and your world

Those who can and do speak carry the persuasive power. In our world, anywhere you look, you see that women are vastly underrepresented where important decisions are made – in the legislatures, the boardrooms, the churches. There are many ways to make women more visibile, but a crucial one is women speaking out publicly about issues that matter to them. If you want to see things change anywhere, you have got to be able to say something about it, often repeatedly, and often to large groups of people. That’s how stuff happens.

2. You will get to know yourself in a whole new way

Speaker Sisterhood CEO Angela Lussier likes to say that “Public speaking is like getting a master’s degree in your own psyche.” She’s talking about the self-insight you gain from sharing your ideas with an audience. As you see how much the audience responds to your talk or presentation, you develop more respect for your own ideas. And as you gain practice, get feedback, and try new things, you will see rapid improvement. For women who are interested in self-development for personal, professional, or social reasons, there is no more effective accelerant. Not to mention the gigantic boost to your self-esteem. And the good news is, this is all within your reach. Once you get over the fear, getting the skills isn’t really that hard. (Don’t tell that to the people who pay me a lot of money!)

3. You will be a model for other women and girls

If you care about seeing more women have influence and visibility at work, in politics, and everywhere, then lead by example. Each time a younger colleague, a daughter, or a niece sees you getting up to speak, they inch closer to seeing themselves in that role. This is what’s been happening with men – for centuries. Now let’s get it started with women – with you speaking up or out, in a small way, making a presentation at work, addressing the congregation at church, talking about your business at a networking meeting, or standing up for a cause at a rally. You can do it. The world needs you to.

If you want to join a community of women who want to increase confidence, boost public speaking skills, have fun, and maybe even change the world, find a speaking club near you at our club directory.


As Director of Program Development and Training of the Speaker Sisterhood, Cathy McNally loves creating tools and activities that enable members to build skills, boost confidence, and have a blast doing it.  You can learn more about her corporate training and comedy background at McNallyCommunications.com.  Her motto is, “You can say it better. I can show you how.”