What are the barriers to you being “in the room”?

“The barriers that prevent women from being in the room are absolutely artificial”

So said the inspirational Rev. Rose Hudson Wilkin of Oprah Winfrey. Recently, she talked about how Caribbean women led the way in what is called the Windrush generation.  And yet the picture is very different today for black women in the workplace.

No matter your colour, age, gender, etc., there are so many real, perceived and artificial barriers many of us encounter. Would you be surprised to know that 80% of my client base are people from what is considered the most privileged, least discriminated demographic? Why do you think this is?

The fact of that matter is, even the most apparently privileged and ‘able’ demographic recognise that there are barriers to being in the room. And when they come to BESPOKEN, it’s because they recognise the barrier is about communication. This covers several areas.


As people show promise in their chosen field, promotion becomes inevitable. However, an engineer, florist or physicist, for example, didn’t choose their field because they wanted to speak to a room full of people. So they go from being highly competent at their job to consciously incompetent in an important new area of their work. Of course, this is not everyone. Some have developed this skill because of a hobby or their natural strength in this aspect of communication.

Even more challenging, some remain unconsciously incompetent and their business colleagues and clients disengage during their presentations and meetings.


Anyone never been in a boring meeting?

I was privileged to see a Director of Engineering in South Africa demonstrate how to run a fantastic meeting. I have never seen its like since in business. Fortunately, his standard permeated throughout the organisation and all meetings were run like his. All had agendas in advance, all had timings and there was a ‘who’ and a ‘date’ column so that everything discussed was actionable by a responsible party. It is such a simple and straightforward system that I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it. His meeting also ran to time. Every time.

Effective Communication is another reason people come to BESPOKEN. They’re struggling to get their message across in meetings they run or are a part of. In the coaching process, there is time to reflect, identify challenges and work out simple effective solutions. Most people carry the solutions to all of the problems they encounter and they are the best engineer of identifying and executing them.


Career progression inevitably leads to changing workplaces. There aren’t many people in the 21st century who remain in the same organisation for a lifetime. Being interview-ready ensures that you can turn up relaxed and ready to demonstrate your full potential to a prospective employer.

Today, the initial interview may be decided on a video you need to record and send through or it may be telephonic. Assessment Days are becoming increasingly popular where candidates spend time not only communicating but demonstrating their skills. Preparation for this will be enhanced with some coaching.

BESPOKEN also helps with first workplace interviews for school leavers and graduates to ‘get into the room’ in the first place! This can include reviewing CVs and covering letters. There is lots of good, free help online for the latter and I would encourage you to avail of it, but do seek to match your submission to the culture of the organisation. A mock interview with BESPOKEN will ensure you have helpful feedback and are performing at your best going into the room.

Transferable Skills

What about when the room is outside the workplace or university? What if you need to deliver a speech or reading at a wedding or other auspicious occasion. All of the skills we coach at BESPOKEN are highly transferable, but if you come to prepare for an occasional speech, I guarantee it will help you in the workplace too.

Since operating in the UK, I’ve coached a teenager where her friendship group teased her because she invariably spoke better in the hours or days after her lesson. She was embarrassed by this but was also the first to get a job in her group.

Ultimately, YOU keep you out of the room. No matter what your need or story is, don’t let it happen. The good news is, YOU are also the person who can get you in there!”

This article was first posted by Fiona on LinkedIn.

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