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The Well-Spoken Woman: Your Guide to Looking and Sounding Your Best

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Sheryl Sandberg advises women to "lean in" to realize their full potential. To do so successfully, women need effective communication skills and a confident presentation style. In this must-have guide, one of the nation’s premier speech coaches shares tested techniques from twenty years of coaching women on what works and what doesn’t. The author details the practices and techniques of successful women to help all women improve their presentation and public speaking skills. With access to her expertise, you’ll learn strategies that will help you present your best self in forums from PTA meetings to TV studios, conferences to classrooms, boardrooms to YouTube.

The author has advised First Lady Michelle Obama for her International Olympic Committee speech, provided speaker training to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and coached corporate CEOs and more women elected officials than any other trainer. Every woman can benefit from studying the polished speaking skills of such powerful women.

Strategic advice on everything from messaging to hair and hemlines will allow you to come across as polished and prepared. The author includes easy-to-follow exercises so you can try out techniques immediately, from the use of sound bites and secrets to establishing eye contact to what not to do with your hands.

Filled with behind-the-scenes advice, this book is for every woman who wants to present herself well, express her ideas with confidence, and earn the respect of any audience.

355 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Christine K. Jahnke

2 books7 followers
A communications coach who prepared Democratic women to run for office.

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5 stars
127 (28%)
4 stars
137 (30%)
3 stars
113 (25%)
2 stars
50 (11%)
1 star
15 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews
Profile Image for Tara Brabazon.
Author 22 books317 followers
December 5, 2018
Well, well, well. This was a surprisingly fabulous book. It covers effective models for public speaking, with attention to voice, posture, clothing (always a bloody nightmare for female speakers) and managing speaking on camera.

This was simply excellent. Whatever the level or standard of speaker, there is something relevant and useful here. Because men dominate the public sphere, we all maintain a literacy in men who speak. We are comfortable with men offering commentary. Whenever a woman occupies authority, she is uncomfortably jarring within normative discourse. This will change. But this book offers opportunities for women to occupy space, speak their truths and disseminate ideas through a wide audience.
Profile Image for Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti.
14 reviews6 followers
January 6, 2012
When I first heard of this book, I had great expectations as I do believe we, women, should be able to give each other a kick in the ass from time to time to propel us in our careers - not to mention that I am the president of a Toastmasters club (in Finland) and that I indeed know how important it is to support the development of public speaking and communications skills, the importance of gaining confidence through training, etc.

I have not been disappointed: the book is very comprehensive and covers all types of addresses - including very interesting tips on how to speak on TV in its "conquering the camera" chapter... The women serving as examples are Michelle Obama, Madeleine Albright, Melinda Gates, etc. who are very appealing models - although they are all American examples but that's the author's audience too... The book is strongly built and offers concrete examples and exercises to be that woman that stands up in the crowd (you and me that is) and I can only recommend its reading to assess where we stand in communications terms and help planning how to achieve projecting the image we want to (appendix 3 "how to become a well-spoken woman").

Training in communications is however not a theoretical issue: you need to practice and even more than practice, you need to find an audience that gives you feedback and helps you further assess if your efforts paying off... there are clubs throughout America (and all around the world :-) for that but your family, friends, co-workers etc. constitute an equally ideal test audience. One should also consider the wealth of communication means generated by social media (including the possibility to receive feedback through such means)... Social Media... that's probably the only weakness of this very articulate book: it has not yet entered the SoMe era! I would love a sequel with a "refresh button" :-)
Profile Image for Stephanie Barko.
182 reviews126 followers
Currently reading
May 4, 2019
If you are seeking an up-to-the-minute resource that will turn you into a first rate speaker, this is your book. Written by a top speech coach, this book leads you into claiming your power by confidently stating your ideas and opinions while looking polished and prepared. In short, it helps you conquer public-speaking anxiety and be taken seriously.

Simply illustrated by Kersti Frigell with real life examples from speakers such as Ann Richards, Pat Summitt, Maya Angelou, and Melinda Gates, the material is engagingly displayed and clearly laid out.

The book’s opening premise is that a woman’s power persona evolves from bringing her whole self and signature style to the podium. “Expression and engagement are hot…dialogue, listening, and showing empathy are now valued and respected.” It seems the time has finally come to express our uniquely feminine leadership from the front of the room.

Research reveals that 58% of a speaker’s impact comes from body language and appearance, 38% from voice quality, and 7% from the message. Now that we have the science behind it, it’s easier for a woman to identify which elements of her presentation really matter and what makes sense to spend the most time improving. This is the part of the book I learned the most from—it changed my focus from the message to how my voice carries the message, and from what I wear to how I move.

After learning what makes for an impactful live performance, Jahnke moves on to something she calls the “the five C’s of message development”--clarity, connection, compelling, concise and continual. The neat thing about her “message map” technology is that it applies to all different kinds of topics. We then examine which tools work best for each “C” and how to practice a speech and whether to write it out first.

If you’ve ever thought of videotaping yourself, you’ll welcome the chapter with tips on how to become camera ready. There’s even a chapter on how to deal with the media.

At the end of the book are three appendices. The first one profiles famous speakers, where I learned that Bill Gates is married to a Texan, that Madeleine Albright was born in Czechoslovakia, and that Suze Orman is gay. Did you know all that? The second appendix is a chronological history, beginning in 1637, of female speakers and their claims to fame. The third appendix is a handy FAQ that includes a checklist on which your presentation can be rated.

In my work, I examine a lot of new nonfiction and I must say that I was hard-pressed to find much wrong with this book or its approach to public speaking.
The specialty publisher Jahnke worked through did an excellent job of producing the paperback, including acquiring a back cover endorsement by Gloria Steinem. If this book sells, it will further validate that our time as female standard bearers has come.

Note: This review will also be published at Story Circle Book Reviews.
Profile Image for Tara.
31 reviews7 followers
January 10, 2012
I really appreciated the author's anecdotal style to describe some of America's most outspoken women from whom she has drawn much of her inspiration. I don't speak publicly, so there were many parts of this book that I was able to skim, but I did find it useful to hear the stories of how women mentors handle themselves in the face of sexism and self-doubt.
Profile Image for Mary Kenyon.
Author 14 books114 followers
October 28, 2018
While there were many excellent suggestions for improving as a public speaker, the examples of well-spoken women leaned heavily into political figures. I was surprised the author didn't address speakers who "read" from their script, something I find maddening.
Profile Image for Danielle.
538 reviews1 follower
February 25, 2018
While I found this book informative, it did not maintain my interest. As a result, I had to force myself to finish it. I believe part of the problem for me is that there was a large focus on political figures (especially American political figures) and since I am not from the US I did not relate well to these examples. Additionally, I downloaded this book to my e-reader. I believe I might have obtained greater benefit from the book if I had it in hard copy and it was easy to go back to the couple of sections that I found most relevant to myself.
Profile Image for Maggie.
86 reviews4 followers
February 26, 2015
I thought this book was incredibly useful and had some great advice for speaking, whether you are on a conference panel or presenting to your team at the office. I happened to go to two events this week and was able to note what the panelists were doing effectively and ineffectively - men and women! I also liked the author's strong call for us to support each other as women leaders and the profiles of different strong female speakers.
Profile Image for Lisa Peterson.
6 reviews1 follower
January 30, 2012
This is a phenomenal book which should be required reading for any woman who has to speak to anyone, ever. It was both inspirational and instructional. I came away with many useful tips I can immediately incorporate into my upcoming public talks.
2 reviews
August 9, 2017
Love the way the chapters were broken up and the interviews done.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
273 reviews9 followers
May 3, 2019
I confess that I have had The Well-Spoken Woman next to my bed for a couple of years, and did start it a few times. Because I am leading a quiet life in my twilight years and have no intention of becoming a circuit speechifier, I suppose that I was not motivated to read this densely instructive and specific self-help book.

Last month when I was without any new reading material I made a decision to finish this book, The Well-Spoken Woman. I had to go back to the beginning since I had long since forgotten how the book started.

I am happy that I read this. Not only did I pick up a few tips that will aid me in my general speaking in public, even in generally communicating better in social situations, but I was very much re-ignited in my admiration of women who have honed their speaking skills to provide clarity and influence in important public forums. I was inspired by many of the obstacles that women had to overcome to find and use their voice for good purpose.

I was also impressed with the wonderful writing by Christine K. Jahnke, who left no stone unturned in providing examples and instruction in how to become an inspiring speaker and an influential person.

I would recommend this book for any women who feel motivated to seek public office or who find themselves being groomed for public speaking, a television or internet interview.
Profile Image for Tracy.
15 reviews
January 19, 2019
Good thoughts on how to deliver your message in various ways. While the book claims to help you overcome public-speaking anxiety, it seems that all of the advice it gives can contribute to making a person anxious - having to remember all of the extra things - like body language, tone of voice, etc... could make a person more nervous. The true way to overcome or lessen anxiety about something is to practice and prepare.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
480 reviews8 followers
August 19, 2021
This is a surprisingly good book. just goes to show, never judge a book by its cover. Ms. Jahnke provides great examples as she explores ways for women to speak in public and be taken seriously. This author speaks heavily from an American political perspective. I would have preferred additional international references.
Profile Image for Kris.
161 reviews11 followers
February 17, 2019
The book is okay. It offers practice examples. Gets to be a bit long and repetitive.
39 reviews
January 22, 2020
This book is a well rounded guide to public speaking and appearances. I also enjoyed the last chapter about changing the double standards that apply to how women are judged in the public sphere.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
259 reviews
August 3, 2020
Great resource for professional women. I'll be pulling this one back out from time to time to remind myself of the great tips.
346 reviews1 follower
February 25, 2017
some good stuff here, but the style (and typos!) drove me up the wall.
Profile Image for Kelly.
62 reviews
September 1, 2014
An excellent resource for any woman who desires to sound (and look) her best in any speaking situation... from a brief introduction to a major speech or media interview. Jahnke profiles many, many successful women as she instructs the reader on how to state ideas more effectively, overcome anxiety, be taken seriously (especially in situations dominated by men), gain confidence in asserting opinions, and be polished and prepared. This is a great addition to my library, and a book that will be referred to often. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Rosie.
83 reviews1 follower
September 30, 2016
Well written, with lots of good, useful advice. I wonder if some of it will sound dated in about 5 years, but most of it will probably stand the test of time. It was about public speaking, and, although geared to women, it was useful advice for all. She used examples of successful women from all walks of life which was inspiring, and she had a tendency to make her advice not only quite clear and easy to follow, but memorable. I would recommend this book to any of my friends interested in public speaking.
3 reviews2 followers
November 19, 2013
One of the best ultimate books for public speaking. You cannot read this book one time it must be read several times over.I personally read this book seven times and still reading different chapters once per week. The book cover everything from how to prepare and deliver acceptance speeches also how to speak with the media and so much more. It's your own private speech coach. The Well Spoken Woman is a book to have in your personal library.
Profile Image for Lillian.
108 reviews3 followers
July 6, 2015
The Well Spoken Woman is a great book on public speaking with a guide to how to prepare and present a speech that is thoughtful and thorough, while at the same time entertaining and inspiring with stories of well known accomplished women. I think the main reason I only gave it 3 stars is because I thought that it would have more tips on how to be a well spoken woman in the workplace, not just for giving speeches and presentations.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
350 reviews388 followers
April 18, 2015
Decent primer for someone looking to get tips on public speaking -- although truthfully this is a skill that really should be taught/practiced in real life, and not just read about in a book.

For someone who has been trained in public speaking the book does not offer many new insights beyond the basics.
Profile Image for Holly.
305 reviews25 followers
January 17, 2013
An excellent primer on public speaking and comporting yourself in the best way possible. All range of women could benefit from this book, not only women in the public eye. Give it a try!
Profile Image for Lynn.
22 reviews1 follower
September 14, 2013
Very helpful. I know I'll be referring to it in the years to come.
Profile Image for Jenna.
28 reviews3 followers
March 13, 2014
Must-read for any woman who regularly speaks to the public or works with the media!
Profile Image for Avin.
11 reviews9 followers
October 28, 2014
It is a must to read book, it guides how to be a truly well-spoken and astonishing presenter. And Christine is an amazing writer, the book is very well put together. lucky to have such book :)
Profile Image for Jan.
7 reviews
March 25, 2016
Really helpful to improve public speaking skills, and I love that it is tailored to women.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews

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