Have you ever had sweaty palms before a speech? Have you ever felt like you could get sick before a big presentation because of nerves? If you answered yes, you are not alone. Yet, speaking in front of others is a necessary skill, especially if we want to have visibility and success at work and in life. This may sound dramatic, but I believe it’s a life skill. Both of my daughters go to swimming classes because it’s a life skill I want them to learn. And I talk about presenting like a boss because it is a skill I think we all should learn and continue learning throughout our lives.
My guest today, Bobbie Carlton, is someone I consider to be very skilled in speaking. Bobbie and I have been running in the same circles for a while and she owns not one, two, or three businesses but FIVE of them, so I am grateful she made time to join me for this conversation.
During our discussion, Bobbie and I talked about:
- How Bobbie came to own and run FIVE businesses and how she does it
- Bobbie’s tips on how we can move past our fear of public speaking.
- How Toastmasters and even an improv class can help.
- Why speaking can help us up our visibility personally and professionally.
- Why waiting for someone to notice our hard work is a mistake and how we need to speak up and advocate for ourselves
How Innovation Women can be a great way for women to dip their toes into speaking and get the exposure they need.
Listen to the podcast here
Presenting Like A Boss: A Life Skill For Visibility And Success With Bobbie Carlton
I’m so glad you are here. How are you doing out there? Let’s start with some questions, some fun ones. We will see how fun you think they are. Have you ever had sweaty palms before a speech? Yeah, I have. Me too. Have you ever felt like you could get sick before a big presentation because of nerves? I’m raising my hand over here. Yet, speaking in front of others is a necessary skill. Sorry to tell everybody, but it is necessary, especially if we are going to want to have visibility and success with others at work and in life. Think about wedding speeches. Think about presenting in front of your kids’ class or being the parent reader. Those are all speaking opportunities.
All of this may sound dramatic, but I believe that it’s a life skill. Both of my daughters go to swimming classes because it’s a life skill that I want them to learn. I talk with them and I’m talking with you about presenting like a boss because it is a skill that I believe we should all learn and continue learning throughout our lives.
My guest Bobbie Carlton is someone I consider to be very skilled in the speaking arena. Bobbie and I have been running in the same circles for a while, probably about 2 or 3 years. She owns not 1, 2, or 3 businesses but 5 of them, so I am grateful she made time to join me for this valuable conversation. During our discussion, Bobbie and I talked about how Bobbie came to own and run five businesses and how she does it.
We also talked about her tips on how we can move past our fear of public speaking. How Toastmasters, if you have never heard about that, we will define it, and even taking an improv class can help. Why speaking can help us amp our visibility personally and professionally. Why waiting for someone to notice my hard work is a big mistake? How we need to speak up and advocate for ourselves. How Innovation Women, one of Bobbie’s companies, and her speaker foundation can be a great way for women to dip their toes into the speaking world and get the exposure they need.
Here’s more about Bobbie. Bobbie Carlton is the Founder of Carlton PR & Marketing, Innovation Nights, and Innovation Women, or, as she calls them, the day job, the night job, and the dream job. Carlton is an entertaining, tell-it-like-it-is speaker who speaks extensively and passionately about public speaking and how it can be the driving force behind career growth and business success.
She’s a TEDx speaker and entertaining startup event host. She’s spoken at the United Nations. She’s shared the stage with storytelling legend and NPR’s Snap Judgment host, Glynn Washington. She’s been on the main stage for some of the world’s best-known conferences for technical and professional women. Carlton has been featured on CBS News, in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, USA Today, and other major media.
She was previously the head of global PR at two different enterprise software companies and the head of marketing for a brand devoted to providing positive role models for preteen girls. She’s inspired thousands of technical, entrepreneurial, and executive women to take control of their speaking careers and has worked with event managers around the world to deliver diverse and inclusive events.
Before we get started, if you are enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. As always, if you have already left a rating and review, I thank you so much. You have no idea. Your support of the show means the world to me. It keeps me jazzed, motivated, and passionate about moving forward and creating good content for you. Thank you so much. You can also share this show with your friends, family members, or colleagues on your social media feeds. Don’t forget to tag me in those shares because I’d love to give you some social media love right back.
If you haven’t yet downloaded my freebie, 10 Tips to Being Braver at Work, go grab it right now on my website at BraveWomenAtWork.com. Who doesn’t need a nudge to speak up, to go find a mentor, and to ask for what you want? That’s what we are talking about. Speaking up. A lot of that is in the freebie, so go grab it at my website. Let’s welcome Bobbie to the show.
Bobbie, welcome to the show. How are you?
Good. Thanks for having me.
We finally made it happen. We have been talking about this for at least a year. We have been going in and out of groups, so it’s so good to have you.
It’s about time.
I always start by asking my guests to tell us more about their backstories. Why don’t you do the same and tell us how you have gotten to where you are?
Broadcasting degree in college, you can probably hear a little bit of the radio voice. I did work radio early on in my career. I got out realizing that maybe I didn’t quite have what it took to be in radio or TV and ended up in public relations. I worked at some agencies, went in-house, was the head of global PR for a couple of big enterprise software companies, went back to agencies, and then got sucked into the startup world.
I was working with a startup that ran out of money in 2008. Lots of startups ran out of money in 2008. That is when I started my own companies. The day job is I run a PR in marketing firm. The night job for many years was running a startup event called Innovation Nights. The dream job is Innovation Women. That’s where you and I have more cross paths. It’s the dream of getting more women on stage at conferences and events.
I have to let everyone know you are not running just three businesses. I counted it on your website, so I did a little bit more research on you. I counted five. How are you doing that? How are you running five businesses?
The extra two that I didn’t mention were my pandemic retail therapy. I bought two additional companies, and they make perfect sense, I swear. The first one is called My Speaker Leads. It’s a digital research service for professional speakers. Knowing that Innovation Women is an online speaker platform, it makes sense. It came with a three-person full-time research team. I feel the drool forming around the chin of every professional speaker when I say that. Now, it has a five-person research team, so it’s grown over the last few years.
I also bought a digital magazine for women entrepreneurs called Lioness. That also fits in with Innovation Women because it gives our speakers the ability to contribute articles and to be seen as thought leaders. We have a whole Book Of The Week section. We have a Podcast Of The Week section. There are additional ways for us to provide visibility for our Innovation Women members. Officially, both My Speaker Leads and Lioness Magazine is part of Innovation Women. There are officially only three companies, but five projects.
Not everyone in my audience has got a side hustle or a side gig, but we all have dreams. Maybe our dream is to be in corporate or maybe it is to start something new. Do you have any words of wisdom for someone that might be looking to juggle a couple of projects like you are?
Having a team when you are going to do something like that is so important. It’s great because our world is now set up so that there are lots of folks out there doing virtual assistant work. You can hire help. I am a big advocate for SCORE. Fantastic advisors if you are thinking about starting a business. If you are in the US, SCORE is free to you. It’s part of the small business administration and you can get your SCORE advisor. It’s amazing. They are incredible. If you need specific expertise, they will go out and find it for you.
I will be talking to these people very soon. I’m all about delegation. Highly recommend. For those that aren’t even in a small business, delegate. Spinning back to Innovation Women, you and I have never talked about this. What is the story behind Innovation Women? I know you are passionate about getting women on stage, but what’s the story behind why you started it?
As part of Innovation Nights, my second company, we had a weekly newsletter. That weekly newsletter promoted local events. We were focused on the Boston market, and every week we would send out this newsletter obviously with information about our events, but we would also promote other events. It meant that I got invited to just about every event in town.
A little too frequently, I would look up on the stage at whatever event I was at and see what I call the male, pale, and stale panels. Same four old White guys over and over again. I worked in a high-tech for more than 30 years. Pretty darn familiar with the phenomena, but it made me think back to my career. Part of my career was putting executives on stage at conferences and events. I did this for big enterprise software companies. I realized that for the first twenty years of my career, I never had a woman client. All the executives would be old White guys. Don’t get me wrong, I have got nothing against old White guys, I’m married to one.
I think it was a little bit of a wake-up call to keep getting slapped upside the head with it. I started helping some of the local event managers because of Innovation Nights, I had a database with more than 1,500 startups. I had a good amount of companies and people that I could draw from. I would help them create more diverse and inclusive and gender-equitable panels. It quickly became a third full-time job. I’m like, “I already have two full-time jobs, I don’t need a third one.” My dream was I would create this database, it would be completely self-service, and I would take myself out of the business. They are silly little thoughts.
I crowdfunded the money and got myself a developer to create the platform. As they say, the rest is history. It’s grown up quite a bit over the last eight years. We have over 2,000 speakers. I swear, almost every day somebody’s coming at me on LinkedIn or via an email going, “I got this speaking engagement through Innovation Women. You changed my life.” I’m like, “It wasn’t me. You did it on your own.” It does make a difference in people’s careers and their businesses in how they see themselves. That’s the dream.
That’s a big yes for me. For everyone, why do we talk about public speaking and presenting besides the main crux of what we are talking about? It’s because it’s critical. Whether you own a business or you are in corporate, you have to know how to present and represent yourself well. Bobbie, you are the best in this area that I know. I know you are going to school us here on public speaking.
We know it’s right up there with fear of death, public speaking is a big one. I looked up, “How many people in the US are afraid of public speaking?” You will probably tell me if this was right or wrong, but I looked it up on our friend Google and it was 75%. Seventy-five percent of the US population is terrified of speaking in front of others. I was like, “What is the population of the US?” The population of the US as of 2022 year-end was 334 million. That means over 250 million people are afraid of speaking. I wanted to ask you, why do you think that is. Why are we so afraid of speaking?
I’m going to take a step back on those numbers a little bit because the way the question was worded is, “Are you afraid, or does public speaking make you nervous?” I would say that even the most practiced public speakers have a little bit of butterflies in their tummy, and a little bit of sweat on their brows before they get on stage. You are putting yourself out there. It’s so personal. It doesn’t mean that you are paralyzed by fear. It doesn’t mean that you are incapable. It means that you are nervous. I think any speaker is a little bit nervous before they step out on stage.
I also think that there’s so much conversation and we all know that we are supposed to be nervous, so it creates more nervousness and creates more nerves. I’m supposed to be scared of it, so I’m going to be scared of it. If you have been told over and over again that this is something that you should be fearful of, you are going to be scared, so I hesitate.
When you are telling a kid, “Don’t do this,” or, “Don’t touch the stove,” that’s all they want to do. “Don’t see a pink elephant,” that’s all you start to see. Everyone is afraid of public speaking, so you are like, “Should I be afraid of public speaking?” It’s almost a crowd or group thing like we are all afraid.
We have worked ourselves up into such a frenzy about public speaking. I will say that people do get nervous about it because when you are doing public speaking, you are putting yourself out there in such a personal way. “It’s my thoughts, my ideas, and I’m doing it in front of a crowd of people. I’m alone. They are in a big group.”
Think about the last time, even if you never opened your mouth, when you were by yourself and there was a group of other people. You feel alone, you get a little nervous, or maybe a little sad because you are by yourself. If we are thinking about public speaking, that one to many, there’s risk involved. I’m sharing my ideas. There is also a risk in that, “I’m sharing my ideas.” There’s a mob out there that can react positive or negative. There are a lot of those group dynamics that are going on. I do think that we have been told over and over again that we should be nervous, so we are.
I will say I was terrified of speaking in front of people. Not just a mildly sweaty brow, but I was nervous when I was a kid. I thought that maybe you came out of the womb and you were like, “Here I am.” What I did in high school, which was terrifying for me but it did help, is I joined the speech team. Talk about jumping in the pool. I did US extemporaneous speech. Did you do anything like that to jar yourself out of your fear?
In high school, I took a public speaking class because it was required and I was decidedly meh on that. I worked in radio. I never had to look anybody in the face. I was in a little room all by myself with a microphone. That’s awesome. I don’t have to see a soul. It was probably great early training for the last few years of Zoom.
When I started Innovation Nights, don’t forget I started this after decades of being the person who put other people on stage, I realized that first night that I hadn’t thought this through. We are doing a live event. There are going to be startups, pitching, a big crowd of people, and I’m going to have to talk. I am coming off, rolling out the tables, bringing in the bottles of water, directing people, setting up a major event for a couple of hundred people, and I’m a hot, sweaty mess.
Then I have to stand up on stage in front of a whole bunch of people and be the MC without having thought this through. This was a social media-powered event. The idea was, everyone would take pictures, do posts, and share videos of all these little startups. That meant that everybody took lots of pictures and videos of me where I am a literal hot mess.
I looked at that and went, “I am never letting that happen ever again.” Don’t forget, twenty years of training other people to get on stage. I’m like, “Apply the lessons to thy self.” I got better. I did practice. I don’t even remember, but there was a tipping point where all of a sudden people are like, “You are good at this. I’m going to invite you to speak at my thing.” I don’t even remember when I stopped being the hot, sweaty mess. That first night, I sweated through my clothes. I was so nervous. I was so bad. I don’t ever want to be like that again, so practice, and I got better.
It sounds like you just got up again. You just kept practicing and you kept getting better.
We did 135 Innovation Nights events, and I was the host of every single one of them.
Eventually, you are like, “Okay, I’m over this,” or, “I’m better at getting over it.” Let’s start right there.
No, you are never over it.
Let’s give everyone some compassion including ourselves. What tips would you say in terms of getting started? Anyone that is reading that got some healthy fear around speaking publicly. What tips would you say, “This is for you to start?”
Thinking about public speaking more broadly is the first thing I recommend to people. Everybody thinks about public speaking as the lone speaker on stage by themselves all alone. That’s not it. You could be on stage with a round table or a panel. You could be asking a question from the audience. If you think about it, it’s the perfect entree to public speaking. You go to a conference. You listen to somebody else who’s up on stage.Everybody thinks about public speaking as the lone speaker on stage, by themselves and all alone. That's not it. Click To Tweet
When they get to the end and say, “Are there any questions?” You have a question. You stand up. You introduce yourself. Maybe you get the name of your company. Maybe you have to put your question into context. You ask your intelligent well-thought-out question. You are a public speaker because you spoke in front of the same audience the speaker on stage spoke to.
You can even do that even at a meeting. It could be small groups or big groups. It could be anything.
It’s a great way for people who think they are nervous or who are apprehensive about public speaking to get started. It’s also a way of coming to the attention of the event organizers, “Bobbie just asked a wonderful and thoughtful question. She seems to know something else about this topic.”
That’s also giving recognition and saying, “You might have some knowledge.” Rather than holding it inside. I like the other idea about being on a panel. It doesn’t have to always be you alone, the lone wolf, or the lone speaker on the stage. That’s a good idea, too. If someone asks you, “Can you be on a panel?” That would be a good entrée, too. Maybe there’s a next step after asking a question.
Panels, round tables, and stuff like that, you are often seated. You don’t have to worry about the little shaky knees or anything. It’s very simple.
One of the other things I saw on your site, which I wanted to elaborate on is Toastmasters, which not everyone knows what that is, so I wanted to go into that, and then improv. I want to pick your brain on that one. For those that don’t know or maybe need a reminder or a push, what is Toastmasters and why is that something that we may want to consider joining?
Toastmasters or any way of getting practice is a good idea. Toastmasters is a brand that most people know, but there are all kinds of groups that are out there that allow you to get practice, get in front of a group, do your presentation, and get feedback. I can do my presentations to my dog, but he’s not going to give me any useful feedback.
Improv is great because it gives you some principles that you can use to deal with the Q&A portion of a presentation. I think for a lot of people, “I’m good when it comes to my presentation. I am nervous when it comes to what people from the audience might ask me.” Having the improv principles in place and understanding how to deal with things from an unexpected point of view is super helpful and it’s fun.
It is super fun. When I read that on your site, I think it was one of the blogs, I was like, “This is a sign.” I told my husband, “I want to join an improv.” He’s like, “When do we have time for that?” I’m like, “I need to make time. This would be so fun.” Just because I have never done improv or been in an improv class, what are the improv principles? Do you mind sharing that?
One of the big improv principles is the “Yes, and…” principle. You add on to things. You say, “Yes, and this.” You are always adding new information. You are not blocking anybody. You are agreeing with them and you are adding in some additional information. One of the things about improv is they say you should avoid asking questions unless you are also adding information. You use what you are given and put some more on top.
It’s a nice way to participate and play with other people. Improv is good at helping you to think better on your feet because it gives you some structured ways of addressing things. It makes you more confident because you know what’s coming and you can categorize things. It also helps you tap into your funny. Who doesn’t want that?Improv is good at helping you to think better on your feet because it gives you some structured ways of addressing things. Click To Tweet
It does help you. Funny speakers or someone that can throw on a clip or an anecdote on the fly, that makes them more interesting when it’s appropriate on the topic. Funny is good.
Funny is good for more reasons than just the joy of it. Funny helps people remember things. You are more memorable when you are funny.
Now, I’m going into the ultimate improv as Jerry Seinfeld. Who can forget his show? Isn’t his whole show improv?
Yeah, it’s all about nothing.
It truly is. One thing that you brought up, which is new for me, I have never had a problem personally with the question section, but the way you put it, I can understand why people would be nervous because they are getting thrown either softball questions or hard-liners. Maybe they don’t know the answers so they don’t look knowledgeable. I could see why people would be more apt to be fearful or have that trepidation around the question section.
Especially women. There’s a whole aspect of heckling, we call it technical heckling. Particularly, for women in tech, what you will often find is, you have done a presentation on some technical feature of something or some way of approaching a problem. One of the things about this type of presentation is you are sharing your approach to it. There could be many other valid approaches.
Maybe they don’t know they are doing it or maybe they do know they are doing it, but sometimes you will get people from the audience who want to show you, “Have you thought about this way of doing this? Why would you do it that way and not this way?” The questioner knows more than you do. This can be highly disconcerting. It can also be a form of abuse.
Sometimes it can take over a presentation, especially if you are presenting, and in your head, “I’m going to answer questions at the end,” but you are halfway through your presentation and all of a sudden somebody in the audience is wildly raving their hand and they want to be heard immediately. That’s when you get this question, “Why would you do it that way? Why wouldn’t you do it this way? Don’t you know about this approach?” That’s one of the reasons I always tell people, “Make friends with the producer. Make sure you are not alone in this because somebody else may need to step in and say, ‘Let’s hold our questions to the end. Let’s let Bobbie finish,’ or, ‘Maybe we can address that question offline.’” Sometimes you need that.
I have seen that. That’s wise because the speaker is trying to stay within that composure point. That could throw you off if you have someone that’s trying to, I don’t know if they are trying to throw you off on your game purposely, but they get super passionate about their point of view. Who’s the presenter then, the person in the audience or you as the speaker? It can be a mess.
For women that are looking to get to that next level, they might say, “That’s great. I’m not a professional speaker.” One of the things that we were talking about is the idea of having visibility professionally, and how speaking is a beautiful conduit for that. Maybe there are even others you want to mention, but how can women get that visibility that they need? Let’s start with speaking, but if there are other ways, then share. I think visibility to get that promotion, to get that opportunity, and to get where you want to go professionally is important.
I talk about Innovation Women often as a visibility bureau. The idea is that we are providing a way for women to get the visibility that helps them drive their careers and build their businesses. Public speaking alone is just part of that. The visibility that comes from public speaking is huge. You are highly credible when you are up on stage. If you think about it, in-person speaking engagement, often you are physically elevated above the audience. You are on a stage. That helps you be seen as more of an expert, more credible, and as a leader.
These are the things that you can’t achieve in many other ways. Especially if you are being a speaker or a keynote at some of the industry-leading events. We look at the people that are in those roles and we say, “Those must be the most important people in our industry.” I usually start a lot of my presentations with a, “Close your eyes and imagine you are going to an industry conference or an event. You are going into the first session. It’s going to be the leaders in your industry.” In our mind’s eye, that is often a group of older White men. That’s because we see that all the time in those stages. Until we see more women in those stages, we are not going to be seen as leaders. We have been brainwashed.
We are trying to demystify it or rewire it even probably better. One thing I want to clarify, and you have talked about tech and your roots, but I want to stress a part of Innovation Women. I’m not a professional speaker per se, but I’m a woman that’s looking for more visibility. For people that are reading this, if they are looking for visibility, you would encourage them to join Innovation Women for those opportunities, even if it’s for a few years just for them to get that visibility and that practice.
When I started Innovation Women, I was focused on technical and entrepreneurial women. Now, I look back and I’m like, “I was so silly.” Any conference is going to have multiple tracks. Even some of the most technical conferences will have a career track. They will have a track where people are talking about intellectual property and the best speakers for that are lawyers. We are going to talk about digital marketing and maybe we are also going to talk about finance. Pretty quickly, it became obvious that we needed more than just technical and entrepreneurial women. We do have men. We also have a number of individuals who are non-binary and trans. What type of diversity, equity, and inclusion effort am I running here if I was turning people away?
The other thing that I will say when I have been on your platform, there’s not a lack of opportunities. I love how you guys curate. Do you have people pitching through the platform so you guys are always receiving? Do you guys have to find all those opportunities because there are a ton out there on that website?
Given the time, we have between 500 and 700, it depends on the day of the week. There are new opportunities being added every day. It’s between 50 and 100 every week. When I acquired my speaker leads, I got that professional research team, so they now support Innovation Women as well. Event managers can put their opportunities on Innovation Women, too.
There’s the third category of ways that opportunities get onto Innovation Women, it’s people sending me stuff all the time. People see an event and it’s lopsided or they see the events that need our help. They send it to us and they go, “These people need your help.” We have reached out to hundreds of events. I will say, a lot of them are not completely receptive to us reaching out.
It’s because they don’t see it. They may not see it, unfortunately.
They may see it. I hear so many excuses. I hear, “Our industry is overwhelmingly male, so there’s nothing we can do. You have to understand most of the leaders in our industry are men.” I’m like, “How are we going to fix that pipeline? Work with me and I can help you.” We do get also have people who are like, “I pick the best speakers, I don’t care if it’s men or women.” I’m like, “How do people feel submitting to an event website when all they see on your stages are men?” There are a lot of excuses out there and there’s a lot of education that needs to happen. Even in 2023, we still have a lot of conferences with an overwhelming number of men. Somebody gave me a new term, they said male-saturated industries.
If you are willing to share, for women that are searching, and I’m assuming most of the women reading are in corporate or have some day job position. Are there any particular industries that do have that male saturation that it would be tougher to break through that feeling or break through even to the stage?
We do have some particular industries that have either reached out or we have reached out to them that I have difficulty finding women as well as the event organizers do. We have to dig deep. I will say industrial IoT is very difficult. We did a Ask an Event Manager webinar series with the organizers because they were very open that they needed help.
You have an industry where the vast majority of people on stage were men. One of the things that this particular conference did is they did not want marketing or sales titles on their stages. The women in that industry were often in marketing or sales. They were putting up the constraints themselves. I pointed out that if they expanded the definition of what it is they were looking for, they might have better luck.
Another industry is some of the hedge funds. Heavy-duty money management. Financial services, according to the World Economic Forum, is among the least balanced of the industries. I also know that you see a lot of issues when it’s coming to the deep-tech STEM stuff or anything related to it. We had a conference that we were trying to help that was doing development around Postgres, which I don’t even know what it is. It’s way more technical than me, that’s for sure.
We are going to up have to look that up, everybody.
It’s the world’s most advanced open-source database, PostgreSQL, so relational database. If you are programming in that and you are a woman, please come and talk to me. I would love to get to know you.
For those women that are in these industries, reach out to Bobbie or join Innovation Women. Know that you might have even an amazing opportunity to get on stage, to make a difference, and to have that visibility increased. If you are highly female-saturated, we still want you on stages and we want you to have that visibility.
My goal is gender balance, diversity, equity, and inclusion. It should be the goal of every event organizer as well because we want people with different perspectives on stage. That’s when interesting events happen. If you get more different perspectives, you get better events. That’s what everybody wants.
It makes it more interesting and fun. Who wants to hear everybody having the same vanilla perspective? You need to have different perspectives and experiences that come to the stage.
A long time ago, I was part of an organization called House of Genius. They would do small group round table discussions. One of the things I took away from that was this interesting device that I have suggested numerous times when I’m part of an onstage panel, which is the concept of plus one. You don’t have to comment on everything or every question if you are on a panel. You can just say, “I agree, plus one.” You don’t have to take up time. You don’t have to bore the audience by coming up with some creative way to say the same darn thing. You just say, “Plus one.” Your voice has been heard, people know that you agree, and you can move on. Such a great idea. I think more panels should do it.
It sounds like you have been on some panels that haven’t been so good.
I think we have all seen them. You sit in there and there are four old White guys on stage. They all come from the same place, the same life experience. Nobody is going to come up with something radically different. They are going to be shades of the same color.
I do want to ask you this question and I want to share vulnerably a mistake that I have made in my career many times. A lot of women, I’m stereotyping here, I’m sure men do this as well. They work hard heads down and don’t advocate for themselves. They are waiting for the hard work to speak for itself. Sometimes if you have got a good manager and leader, they will see it and they will recognize it, but not always. I have been past the promotions. I haven’t gotten one from a pay perspective. It’s one of the big reasons I do what I do with my show and the work that I do with women. I think speaking and getting these skills are also very important in supporting and advocating for yourself.
As someone who is trying to get diverse stages and trying to get people’s different perspectives. Advocating for yourself, asking for what you want, and even to the point of there might be some people thinking, “If I want to do this, aren’t I self-promoting like getting on a stage?” Self-promotion is good if it’s done well. I wanted to ask your opinion on advocating for yourself, self-promotion, and career success.
A lot of us women of a certain age, which I am one. As a child, you heard, “Stop bragging. Nobody wants to hear about you,” and you internalize that at a very young age. Your inner voice says to you, “You should be promoting other people. You should be talking about other people and asking them questions. You don’t want it to be all about you.”
My Innovation Women founder hat says, “Stand up. No one else is going to do it for you. Brag away. Promote yourself.” Without that work, no one is going to hear about you. It’s a crowded world out there. Without you acting as your own best advocate without you standing up and saying, “Yes, I am an expert in this,” you will not be heard. Your company will not be heard about. Your career will suffer.Stand up. No one else is going to do it for you. Brag away and promote yourself because, without that work, no one is going to hear about you. Click To Tweet
I talked to one woman a few years ago who was telling me that she was currently a vice president at a software company. She’s like, “I have got two paths to getting to be a Senior VP. One of them is, I miraculously cure cancer. The other one is going to be coming through Innovation Women. I’m going to have to get up there and speak at industry conferences and events so that I become the person people think about when it comes to this topic. I need to become visible to be promoted.” I was like, “Are you sure you don’t want to work on the curing cancer part?”
She’s smart. I want to follow her on LinkedIn. Good for her. There are so many of us women and it applies to people in general. We rely too much on our managers or our leadership to give us those opportunities. We get frustrated or disenfranchised because we don’t have an opportunity to be promoted or grow. There is a responsibility on our side of the fence. We do have to take some of that onus upon ourselves to say, “What do I need to be visible? What do I need to be promoted? What do I need to get to the next level if that’s what I so choose?” I think what we are hitting hard on is speaking and advocating for yourselves are big components of that.
Every time you get up on stage, you get a chance to tell your story, to put the world into your perspective, and to give people your opinion and your view of things. It’s that elevation. It’s all the connections that you made. You are never speaking to the people in the room, you are speaking to all of their connections. When you are on stage and when you are doing a public speaking gig, you are usually part of the marketing. If it’s a conference or an event, what are they going to promote? The speakers.You're never just speaking to the people in the room. You're speaking to all of their connections. Click To Tweet
Your name, your company name, your picture, your topic, and your area of expertise, it’s all going out in their email blasts, in their ads, and on social media. There’s a lot more than just the people in the room who potentially get your message. We need to think about public speaking as a very broad-based visibility. People need to know that you are the one. In order for them to know that they need to see your name over and over again in positions of power and credibility.
That’s so wise and so valuable. One thing I forgot to ask you, we talked about Zoom, we touched on it very early in your radio days and I was prepping you for your Zoom days. There might be women that are reading that says, “I don’t have the resource to go and get on a plane to travel.” I would say, find stuff locally that’s in person. What about virtual events? I know it’s becoming much more in vogue. People want to see people eyeball-to-eyeball in person. I love that, too. For everybody involved, for our health and our sanity. I will say that there are still some things that are happening virtually. What about our folks that might have some trepidation? Is a virtual event a good idea also as a baby step?
Even though there’s a lot of appetite for in-person events, there are many events that are still doing hybrid stuff and there are many online opportunities. Everything from webinars, online panels, and live. There’s a tremendous number of online opportunities. Before the pandemic, there were online opportunities. I just don’t think people thought about it as much as they do now.
There are a lot of women out there who turned down speaking opportunities when it required them to jump on a plane, leave their families, leave their homes, or leave their job for 2 or 3 days. Think about it. Going to a conference in another city, there’s travel in both directions. There’s having to be at an event and offsite for 1, 2, or 3 days.
Women are more likely to work part-time. Women are more likely to work for smaller companies. Women are still more likely to be responsible for kids at home. This is probably the weirdest reason why women say no to public speaking opportunities. Women are more likely to be asked over and over again. When you get known for something and you are a woman, often you become the woman. “We have another man. We need to break this up. We will ask Bobbie. We know her.” Bobbie keeps getting asked over and over again. All of a sudden, Bobbie goes, “I got a business to run. I have got a meal to eat. I can’t keep doing every conference and every event just because I’m the only woman in robotics.”
What we do find is that some women get on the circuit and get known. All of a sudden, they have got all of the opportunities coming at them. We need to spread out the opportunities, give more people a chance to shine, and make sure that as women, we are taking advantage of these new tools and opportunities. We don’t have to step on a plane every single time we need to speak. Mix it up a little bit. Do some online stuff, do some in-person stuff, do some local stuff. Maybe travel a little bit, maybe connect it to your vacation travel. Just get yourself out there in a way that supports what you need to get done.
This goes into the idea of everything we have talked about. As you know, I’m all about women taking bolder actions in their careers and their lives, and that’s what we are here for. I wanted to ask you what you believe are 1 to 2 ways women can be braver at work.
The obvious answer for me is, “Get on that stage. Off you go.” Think about the things that you know. There are speaking opportunities at every level. If you just graduated from college, you have got your first job, you have the knowledge that college students want, how did you get that first job? At every stage, you are one step ahead of someone else or you have some unique perspective to share.
If you are younger, older, mid-career, established career, or relatively young and early in your career, you can do some public speaking that is appropriate. If you are younger, maybe think about talking to other students, maybe younger students. There are so many different ways that you can approach public speaking at any time during your career.
Think about how you can start making public speaking a part of your career and a part of who you are. It took me eleven years to get to the point where I felt comfortable on stage. I still get nervous sometimes. You need to work up to it. You can’t just, “Here I am. Now I’m a speaker.” You have to practice. You have to find out what works for you and what doesn’t work.
The underline of the word practice, you have to do it regularly. If you do one a year, as you said, it’s going to take your whole life. If you find some opportunities and you can make a commitment to it, it’s like anything else. As you said, you were scared, you sweat through your clothes when you started and it took time, but now you feel more comfortable. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get nervous periodically depending on the size of the group or maybe the topic. You decided to get up there and take as many swings at the bat as you could and as many practice opportunities as you could.
One of the things about Innovation Nights is I was doing the same thing every single month. The company’s names and the locations would change, but it made it so that I was practicing the same thing over and over again. When you get comfortable with that, you branch out a little more. You need to add something new. That’s probably an unusual case that I could do that.
People don’t practice enough. There’s a speaker that I worked with at South by Southwest. We spent pretty much three solid days practicing. Getting her to visualize a successful pitch on stage, making sure that she knew exactly what it was she was going to say, which words she would emphasize. That was a part of it. Lots of different things that you can do to make your presentations sing.
I did a presentation for a local women’s leadership group in Boston. I have not done my signature talk on stage in a long time. It was supposed to be a seven-minute presentation. I practiced it enough to know it was like 6:45, somewhere around there. It ended up being an eight-minute presentation because it’s been so long since I have done that presentation. I had forgotten to allow for a laugh. I have to wait for them to stop laughing. I’m in my head watching the seconds tick by and I’m like, “I’m going to go over.” I hate that. Point of pride, I don’t go over.
You will learn. Even you, a seasoned pro, still got to practice. It’s been a while since you have done it. Thank you for sharing that example. I want everyone to go to Innovation Women. Go and check it out. If you want to become a speaker, join. There are so many great resources. There also is some good stuff on there. Resources for newbies that I saw, speakers, but then the other thing I want to leave for homework is I loved your suggestion of either trying to get on a panel or just simply raising your hand and asking questions in meetings, conferences, and what have you to get that practice. That’s the way you started. Bobbie, thank you so much for being on. Where can women find you? Let’s go with Innovation Women. If you want to share some of your other business links, we could do that, but let’s start with Innovation Woman. Where can they find you online?
InnovationWomen.com. Super easy.
Do you also have social handles for Innovation Women too?
Bobbie, thank you so much for spending time with us. You always are a treasure trove of information, knowledge, and wisdom. Thank you so much.
I’m a treasure. Don’t you want to just bury me?
No, I want to keep talking to you to learn. Thank you again for being on.
Thanks for having me.
That’s a wrap of my conversation with Bobbie. I hope you found our discussion both valuable and inspiring. I’m going to leave you with a challenge. Raise your hand in the next meeting to speak at work or volunteer to do a presentation. Yes, I said, “Volunteer to do a presentation at the next all-employee meeting for your organization.” Maybe a little smaller, maybe you speak up at a team meeting. These little acts of bravery are going to make you a more confident speaker, I promise you. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts and Stitcher. Until next time, show up, present like a boss, and be brave.
- Bobbie Carlton – LinkedIn
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About Bobbie Carlton
Bobbie Carlton is the founder of Carlton PR & Marketing, Innovation Nights and Innovation Women, or, as she calls them, the day job, the night job and the dream job. Carlton is an entertaining, tell-it-like-it-is speaker who speaks extensively (and passionately) about public speaking and how it can be the driving force behind career growth and business success. She’s a TEDx speaker; an entertaining startup event host; she’s spoken at the United Nations; she’s shared the stage with storytelling legend (and NPR’s Snap Judgment host) Glynn Washington; and she’s been on the main stage for some of the world’s best-known conferences for technical and professional women.
Carlton has been featured on CBS News, in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, USA Today and other major media. She was previously the head of global PR at two different enterprise software companies and the head of marketing for a brand devoted to providing positive role models for preteen girls. She’s inspired thousands of technical, entrepreneurial and executive women to take control of their own speaking careers and has worked with event managers around the world to deliver diverse and inclusive events.