Public Speaking Tips for Sheryl Sandberg

I recently read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, so I went back to re-watch her 2010 TED talk called, Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders.  In this talk she talks about why, despite our pride of the increased number of women leaders, we don’t have nearly enough females who are taking the lead in almost any field. She also offers some advice to remedy this situation. What public speaking skills can you learn from Sheryl Sandberg?

Public Speaking Positives

Here’s what I liked about her talk. She highlighted an issue which reinvigorated the conversation about this important issue. She looked at the issue from a different perspective. Instead of looking externally,  she asks women who want to stay in the workforce to look internally to see what they can do differently. Again, this TED speaker uses the rule of three. Interestingly, by the time she gets to outlining her main points it’s the third time she’s used the rule of three and her outline has 3 points. However, throughout the talk, she breaks things into threes…listen for it.

Stories and Humor

She also uses personal stories and research to support her points when she gets to the main body of the talk.  I was glad to see the talk included light humor. At one point, I believe she seamlessly spontaneously ad-libbed when just after she noticed the audience laughing. (After she imitates a man responding when asked why they did  a good job…”Because I’m awesome.”)  It was either spontaneous or she was coached to move on in case the audience didn’t laugh and if the audience did laugh she was coached to add two more punch lines… “Obviously” and “Why are you even asking?”  Steve jobs was a master of this technique as well.  Finally, she handled the microphone issue and  switch smoothly.  She acknowledges the technician but not so much that it detracts from her talk–exactly the way it should be handled.

Public Speaking Suggestions

If I were to give Sheryl advice for improving this talk here’s what I’d share with her. When she got to the end of the talk particularly and at other times as well, she should have allowed the audience to react. She should have looked at the audience, paused, and soaked in their reaction. This would have allowed both the audience a moment to enjoy her words and for her to feel the impact of her words. It would have the effect of making the words stronger for both the audience and her. I read her book which she wrote as a result of the reaction of this TED talk and I suspect she didn’t fully accept the impact that her words could make in that particular moment –which is ironic considering she was talking about how woman need to take credit for their success.

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Next Steps?

I also believe her opening could have been stronger–I don’t think she made a strong connection with the audience. Her closing story was stronger and more personal, but again, I think it also could have been stronger. Finally, I don’t think she offered enough solutions. Although I understand that the point of the talk was to raise awareness of the issues, I was left hungry for what I could do, for what we women could do, and what men should be doing now that we are more aware of the issue.  I wanted to know what steps I could take. I understand she didn’t have the solutions, but certainly I would have liked to understand what she thought were reasonable next steps that would move us in the right direction.

What did you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


There are 2 comments .

Terry (TDK)

Agree with you Lisa, on Sheryl not giving enough pause to allow her audience to react. Probably because (like for many of us speakers) if we presented enough & continously, we could tweak those skills – giving the audience the pause they need to react properly & fully. Also, how many of them are videotapes then reviewed for them to improve next time ? They probably don’t have enough time for that feedback for improvement. They are good enough for what they need to deliver (I guess).

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