“Speaking to others is always a privilege….” 

How to empower voices and communicate with clarity ? Your voice is unique and offers the best way of being yourself…A great discussion with Murielle Cozette  on the importance of rhetoric and its place in leadership today. We discuss silence and the complex history between women and public speaking, as well as the importance of clarity of communication for leaders in the new hybrid working environment. How can organisations and leaders work to create an environment where all voices can be heard and help to shorten the complex ‘say gap’ women encounter in organisations. Empowering voices is even more important in a world where we can collaborate virtually, and can sit behind a screen to do so if we prefer. 

Murielle shares her story, insights, experience and expertise on rhetoric and creating an inclusive academy where learning this skill is open to everyone to find their own excellence. 

The main insights you will get from this episode :

  • Speaking to others is always a privilege, yet in France, training in the art of oratory has not traditionally featured highly. Now, however, it is a very important skill: oral examinations carry great weight, and the lack of focus on it is strangely paradoxical.
  • Oratory is the ancient art of speaking well and dates back to ancient Greece and the birth of (direct) democracy, in which individuals had to present and defend themselves publicly. Careful observation of successful outcomes gave rise to practical tools for speaking more efficiently. The art itself and the human reaction to it have not changed, and we still use the 5 canons of rhetoric today - invention, arrangement, style, memory, delivery.
  • Each category needs to be mastered yet leaders tend to focus solely on delivery. Rhetoric shows the complexity and completeness of a skill that requires empathy, critical judgement, analysis, non-verbal and paraverbal skills.
  • Clarity of communication is even more important in the hybrid environment. Many people never have a voice even if they have the skills to speak up. Everyone has the right to speak and be heard nowadays but not everyone has access to high-quality training.
  • The Académie collaborates with different partners (e.g. charities, leaders, entrepreneurs, big companies) to give people a voice (e.g. women, deprived children, students, jobseekers) and aims to have social impact by bringing oratory to new territories.
  • There is a complex history between women and public speaking. For 2000 years, speaking in public was about citizenship; women were denied this right and excluded from public life. Claire Mason’s ‘gender say gap’ addresses this issue of women still speaking less than men and being less confident in their ability to do so, in turn deepening the ‘confidence gap’.
  • People must be informed about this history of silence – knowledge is power and can bring about change. But it is ingrained in national and international culture. Organisations are a male culture and leaders do not take on or are not aware of the complex ‘say gap’ problem. 
  • The issue needs flagging up at both individual and collective level. Too often when women speak up, they are not heard. Why is this? How do we hear what they say? Why do we hear differently what men and women say?
  • Covid allowed the Toulouse-based Académie to broaden its reach on a national and international stage as it brought new and interesting changes that have led to faster development than anticipated, increasing the opportunities to create impact and empower voices through virtual working.
  • Leaders wanting to empower people to speak up should start by listening - a prerequisite for talking to anyone. Asking a question and listening to the answer is a skill to be honed during a lifetime. 
  • Find your own excellence, amplify collective voices and seize opportunities to speak in public. The spoken word is a soft skill with wide appeal - your voice is truly unique and offers the best way of being yourself. 

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