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Monday
Dec192011

The Power of Voice

Last week I was honored to be part of the Women in Public Service Colloquium, sponsored by the Department of State and Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Wellesley College. (http://womeninpublicservice.org.)

Thursday morning began with a wonderful kick-off: presentations and conversations with global leaders Hillary Clinton, Christine Legarde, Atifete Jahjaga, the President of Kosovo (at 37, the world's youngest head of state), and Gloria Steinem, among others.

The next day I got to work. I was asked to help train the 40 global leaders who had been selected to participate in the Emerging Women Leaders in Public Service Forum. The day's theme was The Power of Voice; I was there to give the group guidelines for effective public speaking and critique their presentations. I was delighted that the Director of the Forum, Dr. Rangita de Silva de Alwis, had the vision to bring me into the process. Often high-level trainings focus so much on the importance of content they forget that delivery is just as important for getting the message across.

Thrilled as I was to participate in such an exciting initiative, I knew it would be a creative challenge. My role was to offer constructive criticism to speakers who were often speaking, in their second (or third) languages, who had just put content together in committee, and who had not much chance to practice. I addressed technical vocal production and presentation issues; they were happy to get "nuts and bolts" answers to specific questions. I was even drafted to role-play a beleaguered speaker facing a hostile audience!

The women were all deeply committed to their causes (in this session they spoke on reaching various UN Millennium Development Goals: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/gender.shtml), and they spoke with passion. As Arig Bakhiet, the representative from Sudan, said: "Even when they are speaking with an accent, or with a language that they are not fluent in, the feeling, the committment they have for the subject comes through." She was right. These brave, inspiring women are already leading the world into a brighter future. When they return to their countries they will get to work, build stronger networks, and raise their voices for global women's empowerment and equality. The Power of Voice!

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