From avoiding the limelight to being a guest on Desert Island Discs

Posted on: February 6, 2018

My high profile interviewee this month is the inspirational change-maker Pinky Lilani CBE DL, who was a recent guest on BBC’s iconic interview programme Desert Island Discs.  Pinky is an Asian businesswoman, a Muslim, a champion of women and the founder of the Women of the Future Awards – this was definitely a woman I wanted to meet!

Pinky is a highly sought after speaker, who has been invited to speak at the Oxford Union.  She is funny, insightful and wise and to hear her speak you would think she has been a speaker all her adult life.  Yet this was not always the case – not so long ago she avoided speaking and felt very unconfident.

Over a cup of tea at The Shard’s Shangri-La Hotel in London she told me about her journey into public speaking.

What advice do you have for women who would like to become more confident at public speaking?

First of all practice, practice, practice – take every opportunity to speak. I did 25 Women’s Institute talks in 2 years and I felt much more confident as a result.  

Recognise that you will have good performances and not so good ones – learn from your mistakes and don’t be crushed by them.

Secondly, value yourself – if you don’t then no-one else will – but don’t let it tip over into arrogance.  The best speakers, and leaders for that matter, are people who can portray themselves in a positive light but don’t take themselves too seriously.

To be honest when I was invited onto Desert Island Discs this year I had no idea it was such a big deal – listened to by over 8 million people around the world – so I was quite relaxed about it. It was only after as the responses and invitations flooded in that I realised its significance.  I’m glad I didn’t know before I did the interview how high profile it is!

Thirdly, be willing to be vulnerable. I’m an Asian woman, a Muslim, in my 60s and have a hearing impairment. It would be easy to let these factors hold me back, yet when I tell my audiences about my disability for example, they are invariably kind and understanding and feel more connected with me as a result of my openness.

Why is it important for more women to be speakers?
It’s important that more women get their voices heard and step up as leaders so that we can bring more kindness and collaboration into society – 2 qualities I value highly. I hope my example will encourage women to put themselves forward.

Thanks for this great advice Pinky!