The Well-Spoken Woman: Your Guide to Looking and Sounding Your Best
by Christine K. Jahnke

Prometheus Books, 2011. ISBN 978-1-616-14462-3.
Reviewed by Stephanie Barko
Posted on 12/29/2011

Nonfiction: Active Life

If you are seeking an up-to-the-minute resource that will turn you into a first rate speaker, The Well-Spoken Woman is your book. Written by top speech coach Christine K. Jahnke, 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. 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 Well-Spoken Woman'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 which she should spend the most time improving. This is the part of the book I learned the most from; it changed my focus from the message itself to the way 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. She then examines which tools work best for each "C," 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—that's 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. Jahnke's specialty publisher did an excellent job of producing the paperback, including acquiring a back cover endorsement by Gloria Steinem. This book further validates the fact that our time as female standard bearers has come.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Founder and President of Positive Communications, author Christine K. Jahnke has spent the past 20 years helping people from all walks of life stand and deliver before audiences large and small. A Washington, D.C. based speech coach, Chris prepped First Lady Michelle Obama for her International Olympic Committee speech and Al Franken for his U.S. Senate debates. Jahnke wrote The Well-Spoken Woman to encourage more women to find and use their voices. She believes you can be well-spoken, too!

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