01 Apr How to … find your voice
Blog by Angela Terry, Founder, One Home.
Angela Terry, environmental scientist and founder of climate action website – One Home (onehome.org.uk), shares her insights on why she set up One Home and how women in energy can – and should – make their voice heard.
I started the year, not with a leisurely lie-in but in a broom cupboard in a deserted BBC studio talking to listeners of Radio 5 Live about going green for 2019. It was not how I had planned New Year’s Day. But it was a sign that, ten months after launching One Home, I was making progress towards my goal of putting climate change at the forefront of people’s minds.
One Home grew out of my frustration that, although I had worked on renewable energy projects for two decades, progress was becoming harder, despite the enormity of global warming. So, I decided a campaign was needed to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change and, crucially, to promote the clean technology solutions that not only already exist, but are affordable and reliable.
But to do that, I had to have confidence in my voice and that has not always been easy. I am the daughter of economic migrants so I was brought up not always fitting in with what I perceived was ‘normal.’ Throughout my career in forestry and sustainable energy I was often the youngest person in the room and normally one of a few women. When you already feel different, you can spend a lot of time trying not to stand out.
This usually meant I would hesitate to be assertive, even if I knew there were better ways to do things, and would rarely stand my ground if challenged.
But here is what changed. I have always felt a huge obligation to speak up if something is wrong. And now the evidence of climate change is right before us: rising sea levels, extreme weather events, wildfires. We are racing towards a tipping point from which there is no turning back. As an environmentalist, I am confident that my views are backed up by science and so they cannot be dismissed. And as a mum of young children I feel a huge obligation to do everything in my power to protect their world. I do not want my sons to grow up and fight wars over water.
So public speaking is no longer to me an ordeal but a welcome opportunity. And that transformation from dreading to delighting in public speaking has increased with experience.
Building confidence in your voice
However, this transformation did not happen overnight. I had to go through many awkward moments of wondering how things landed. Still to this day, I can feel frustrated that I am not more eloquent or able to jump to a studio request, because my husband is working offshore. But the key lesson I’ve learnt over the years is not to worry so much. It may not be perfect, but it will do. As Lord Deben, Chair of the Climate Change Committee, said at the EI Awards: “Perfection is the enemy of the good.”
So my advice to everyone who wishes to be heard is to
- know what points you want to make;
- prepare and fact check;
- rehearse; and then – crucially –
- step beyond your comfort zone to deliver your message.
Because, like everything, practice makes perfect and finding your voice is no different.
Finding your platforms
Knowing what to say is one thing. Having the communications channels to reach the right audience is another.
For me, the scale of my message – that transitioning to a low carbon economy requires drastic change in every home, business and organisation – meant I needed to use the media and its huge capacity to reach and influence people. Hence radio and TV interviews, blogs, news stories and articles have become a very important part of One Home’s strategy to persuade people of the importance of taking action, with simple but impactful lifestyle changes.
So when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its special report on 1.5°C, I spent the entire day in and out of studios with coverage on Radio Five Live, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, Radio Devon and BBC News Channel. Overwhelmingly presenters are professional and supportive – and so are the viewers – so the lights and cameras are not intimidating.
Obviously, though, if you put your head above the parapet there are risks. I was asked to go on national radio at short notice, not realising the presenter was a climate change denier (yes, he was white, male and over 60) and an unpleasant twitter storm followed the ‘debate’. So these days I am happy to say no to opportunities if the context isn’t right.
Women continue to be severely underrepresented across our industry and sometimes are missing entirely from public debates on the future of energy. To have influence it really helps to be visible. That is why I love the Switch List, which encourages conferences to have at least 30% female speakers.
And with the advent of social media there are so many new ways to make your voice heard. My first invitation to write an article came from one tweet after the American Presidential elections. My first appearance on daytime TV came from an editor who found me on Twitter. I have met some incredibly influential and supportive professionals through Linkedin, which is a great place to network and promote your ideas. (Noticeably though, of the many requests I receive to connect every week, hardly any are from women.)
As Michelle Obama wrote in her book Becoming, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s the power of using your voice.” If we are to avoid runaway global warming then all of us need to use our voice. Becoming spokespeople for change, whether at work, home, in our communities or with the media, is not difficult. And, like me, you may just end up enjoying it.
Footnote: For tips and training on public speaking, check Sarah Lloyd Hughes who spoke at PfW’s Annual Conference last year on “Vison, voice & visibility: how female leaders can stand out in a male dominated industry” https://www.gingerpublicspeaking.com