Everybody has a voice and everybody wants to be heard. In light of the public outcry for justice and peace exemplified by the murder of George Floyd and Greta Thunberg’s UN climate change speech, we have been shown that voices are stronger than ever. Even though, making our voices heard has become easier with the rise of modern technology, such a flurry of voices can often times make it difficult to make yours stand out.
Simone Heng, a global keynote speaker on Human Connection and creator of CourageousSpeaking.com, a group coaching community where people in the region can learn to align their literal and metaphorical voices, she has helped numerous people to step out of their comfort zone and speak out. Having coached some of Asia’s most successful female entrepreneurs, Simone has learned that Asians deal with added layers of blocks in becoming confident and powerful speakers. Sharing more than just knowledge, she has spread confidence and assurance to the public, and is here to enlighten us even more.
Nana Asia: What drove you to become a speaker?
Simone Heng: I always knew I wanted to be a speaker from the time I was about 25 and working in radio in Dubai but I knew that a speaker had to have a message. A speaker had to be a thought leader. At that very young age, I was still growing into myself, I didn’t know what I would even speak on. A speaker without a mission would be very much the same as the work I already do as an MC.
Nana Asia: Why is human connection your core message you want to spread as a public speaker?
Simone Heng: Three years ago, when I began this journey, I was working in an organisation that was quite toxic. I saw how a lack of human connection was affecting employees. The truth is, when creative people are disconnected, they cannot create content that connects. And content that connects is the only content people want to consume. I realised if my organisation was steeped in this, then many other places must be feeling it too.
Simultaneously, my mother was progressing in her dementia, which meant that she was struggling to connect with people. This meant that less people visited, which would then make her depressed and the cycle would continue. I was seeing in every corner of my life that a lack of authentic connection posed a huge problem to our mental and physical health.
Nana Asia: Having a voice is something females have been fighting for. Were there any hindrances in expressing yourself as a speaker?
Simone Heng: Yes, there definitely was but it was created by me. When you’ve worked at organisations for years and your personal brand is used to support a larger one, you are essentially gagged. When setting up my speaking business, I was free to say and post whatever I wanted. I felt uncaged and was simply saying everything and anything, it was like someone who had just learned to walk. I just wanted to run about. I said things that I don’t think were connected to my inner self that well. Our intention when we speak is so important, after being forced to speak on air for 15 years, I now choose what I say and when I say it much more carefully because it usually manifests.
Everything changed in January when I did a course. The teacher, speaker Lisa Nichols, said: “I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to protect, I have nothing to prove and I have nothing to defend.” Once I used these guidelines in what I said on stage, online and in-person, my work took leaps and bounds and connected much better with people.
I also found that there were obstacles I placed in my mind right at the beginning of the journey. I thought that in order to be taken seriously as a female, ethnic speaker, I had to come across as more serious. I soon realised my strength was that I straddled the world of media and speaking in a way most speakers didn’t. I now bring much more of my full-self to my work and the journey is still ongoing.
Nana Asia: What are some of the common struggles women face when speaking? In this modern age, how has technology changed the way in which we communicate?
When any of us, male or female, fear speaking out it is because we fear that our views will lead to rejection and as human beings we are wired for connection. Not belonging, is our worst nightmare. Women have to contend with an additional layer of pressure because we have been conditioned to think that being outspoken is unattractive on some level.
Technology has allowed people who would not originally have had access to a community to gain traction for their views and build communities who will listen. It is also somewhat easier to write your voice in a caption than it is to stand on a stage and speak it. There is much less vulnerability shown in creating a post than speaking from the apple box. So I think social media has allowed the voices of people to be seen through different mediums than in the past.
Nana Asia: What advice would you give to women on your platform who want their voices heard?
Simone Heng: Define what your message is to the world. If you know what your message is, then you can work wonders.