Aug. 30, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Coach: ‘Well-Spoken Woman’ Tough, Likable

Ryan Kelly/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Speech coach Christine Jahnke, who has worked with first lady Michelle Obama (above), wrote a book to encourage female presidential candidates by helping women tackle their fears.

There has never been a madam president, but when it happens, it will be because she followed a few simple rules, author and speech coach Christine Jahnke said. 

In her new book, “The Well-Spoken Woman,” Jahnke urges female politicians to refrain from being hesitant, to show resolve when faced with anxiety and to practice their responses to tricky questions — pretty good advice for male politicians, as well.

The main difference in coaching women lies in the candidates’ confidence and view of themselves when going through critiques, said Jahnke, a former press secretary who now works as a speech coach helping women run for office.  

Jahnke joked that men almost always think their execution and speech went perfectly when reviewing tapes. Women, on the other hand, have a tendency to beat themselves up and be too critical. Jahnke strives to find the middle ground and present a realistic critique for her clients, who have included first lady Michelle Obama and surrogates for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 campaign. 

“You have to be yourself. That is the core, and we’ve all seen figures that are not themselves,” Jahnke said. “If you don’t share something about yourself, you don’t really connect.”

It’s not an easy task.

That is, in part, because of the attitudes of voters, which Jahnke admitted have evolved over time. Having been involved in politics at the national level since the late 1980s, she said female politicians find it easier to run for office now than they did two decades ago.

Her hopes were raised by the two women at the forefront of politics in 2008: Clinton, who won more than 18 million votes in her unsuccessful quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Sarah Palin, who inspired conservative audiences during her appearances as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

A Democrat, Jahnke has a soft spot for Clinton — she worked on the campaign — but said Palin also displayed strengths, particularly by showing resolve in the face of anxiety.

She had fewer kind words for Palin’s performance during her gubernatorial resignation speech, criticisms shared by some other commentators friendly to the former Alaska governor. 

“It is a painful video to watch. Her delivery is halted and very stiff and uncomfortable,” Jahnke said. “Having it in the yard was too casual. And if you go back, you see she didn’t really say what she was going to be doing. The message was muddled.”

And muddled won’t cut it.

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