Presentations/Soft-spoken women

Annette C. Hollmann ah690549 at bcm.tmc.edu
Tue Oct 28 14:36:14 EST 1997


In article <632kju$duk at mule.fhcrc.org> mbrown at fred (Megan Brown) writes:
 >While attending a small (150 people) conference for the last couple of
 >days, I was struck by a problem that a few women speakers had--they were
 >too soft-spoken and their presentation could not be heard!
 >
 >The conference room has a nice acoustic design and I have spoken in it
 >several times without a microphone with no difficulties. For this
 >conference,there was indeed a microphone, but unfortunately it broke
 >temporarily and was unavailable for several hours. During this time
 there
 >were a number of 10 minute talks by students and postdocs, both male and
 >female. All the men were able to sufficiently raise their voices so that
 >they could be heard throughout the room. But a couple of the women had
 >problems with this.

A think a deeper voice does intrinsically carry further, but this is just
an observation from 5 years of dorm life.

  It was very frustrating for the audience. The women in
 >question were not first year grad students either. They were postdocs
 who
 >by now in their careers must have given numerous talks. How could it be
 >that they hadn't learned to raise their voices in all these years?

I can't raise my voice much either. I have asthma, and a combination of
inhalers and recurrent infections does quite a number on the old voice
box. Reduced lung capacity doesn't help either.

 >During the first couple of minutes of one woman's talk, she was asked 3
 >separate times to speak up. She would perhaps raise her voice for about
 3
 >words and then go back to her soft-spoken presentation that no one could
 >hear. Quite a few in audience got fed up and used this time to excuse
 >themselves from the hall for a break.
 >
 >So my suggestion to women (and men, who can also be soft-spoken) for
 >presentations is to make sure you raise your voice loud enough to be
 >heard. You can't get your message out if no one can hear you.

If you are cursed with a voice that's not quite up to par, you can make up
for it by preparing better slides/overheads. I always make sure that all
figures are well-labelled and simple enough that I could get the
information across even if I couldn't talk at all (which hasn't quite
happened yet, but sometimes it's been pretty darned close)

 >
 >I was left wondering if this inability (or unwillingness) of some women
 to
 >talk loud enough was physiological or sociological--maybe some women
 have
 >been socialized to not talk too loud because it is not ladylike?.

It probably varies among individuals. I'm definitely *not* ladylike - I
just don't have much of a voice. 

Annette





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