If you want people to listen, you must do more than speak. Lessons from voice and impact coach Patsy Rodenburg

Patsy Rodenburg discovered her super strength early on in her career.  In the 1970s she was a young supply teacher where she routinely got sent into tough schools to teach ‘naughty’ kids.  After a while she asked: ‘why do you keep sending me into these difficult schools, with these difficult kids?’ The answer helped her identify what would become her super strength. 

“I was told I was the only one who could keep order,” she says.  “I hadn’t really thought about it, but I realised I had a skill.  I could just talk to these kids and they’d listen.  They’d stop when I said stop.  I could do something that could be used to help on the planet.”

Over the years Patsy honed and broadened that skill to become a world-leading presence and impact coach, helping others use their voice to be heard. Whilst today she spends a lot of time with professionals and well-known personalities, you’ll still find her with pupils in inner-city schools. 

“I’m an educationalist,” she says.  “Everything I do has stemmed from my love of teaching and a passion for social mobility.  We can’t have the wealth gap we have today without it ending in tears. We mustn’t leave anyone behind and that starts in the classroom.” 

For Patsy, that means paying attention to those being left behind.  “Our world isn’t going to get to be a better place until we have more female leaders.  Ninety percent of leadership is about communication and women have particular communications sensitivities.”  What Patsy knows for sure is those communication challenges start in the classroom and what happens there, follows you as far as the boardroom.

To make her point, most recently she asked an inner-city comprehensive to provide a list of students that ‘on paper’ could make the grades needed to go to any of the country’s top universities, like Oxford or Cambridge.  34 names made the list.  32 of them were girls.  “But do you know what?” Patsy says.  “When I asked how those girls spoke, no one could tell me. Girls need to be as impactful in person as they are on paper.  Our schooling system is educating these very intelligent girls who never speak.” 

Quiet, attentive, hardworking girls, it seems, progress – something that sticks with them through education into employment.  “Women in the workplace simply don’t speak out as much as men,” explains Patsy.  “That impacts their professional progress and, those who do make it to the top, find themselves catapulted in to a position where suddenly they must speak. The difficulty, by then, is that most women have no idea how to use their voice.”

That’s when Patsy is called in. She helps people use their voice, conditioning it to have greater strength, power and range.  “Most people have no idea they can change their voice,” says Patsy.  “They can, radically and quite quickly.  And, in today’s noisy world, if you want people to listen, you must do more than speak – you must do so with confidence and authority.  In short, you must project your presence and be impactful.”

Patsy Rodenburg is speaking at Women Ahead’s event in support of International Women’s Day this Friday 8th March.  The TED-style event taking place at the Barbican, will include a series of eight to 18-minute stories from a variety of inspirational speakers like Patsy.  The event is being professionally filmed and a free downloadable pack is being made available for schools.  To register your school’s interest in receiving this free post-event resource contact events@moving-ahead.org

Patsy Rodenburg is a world-leading voice and impact coach and an ambassador to Women Ahead - an award-winning social impact organisation committed to female development from schoolroom to boardroom. To find out more about Patsy watch her showreel here or visit www.patsyrodenburg.com