Comedian JoJo Sutherland is to utilise what she’s learned over a decade in the male-dominated sphere of stand-up to help women trying to get ahead in the business world.
While the number of female CEOs has quadrupled in the last ten years, this still leaves only 24 women leading Fortune 500 companies.
JoJo, 47, of South Queensferry, who has also used her talents to help people suffering from mental health issues, is now hoping that her Stand-up and be Counted workshops, which provide tips on public speaking – and how to deal with hecklers – will help more women shatter the glass ceiling.
She said: “I recently read an article where people were asked to list their greatest fears. Number one was public speaking and number two was death, meaning there are people out there saying that they would literally rather die than give a speech. Of course, suffering from nerves isn’t something that only women experience, but in many spheres, and especially in the business world, women are conditioned in a way to stand back and let the men do the talking.
“I attended a business event recently where ten different groups were each asked to make a presentation. There were women included in each group, but time and time again it was a man who stood up to speak.”
JoJo has already run a taster workshop for women from different companies, ranging from bank workers to gym owners, and found that often just knowing other women are experiencing the same fears was enough to start making steps to overcome them. “Discussing worries, or sharing experiences of situations you feel you could have handled better, and what you would do if you had the chance to do it again, can be very cathartic. It’s important to know that you are not alone,” she said.
And she is hoping her own experience of rebuilding her life after some setbacks will inspire other women to make changes in their own.
She said: “Fourteen years ago I was a single mother with three children and no job, I was on the verge of losing my house and then I suffered a brain haemorrhage. It was an immensely difficult time in my life, but it was also what urged me on to start doing stand-up.
“Now as well as gigging regularly in clubs, I also perform at corporate events, do warm-up for TV audiences and I’m also one of the only female comedians currently entertaining the troops. I’m confident anyone who joins my workshops will leave feeling not only empowered but also having had good fun learning a few techniques which will help them to Stand-up and be Counted in all areas of their life.”
BE PREPARED: “Every stand-up knows what they are going to say first when they walk on stage. They may not know where the gig will go after that, but it’s the first impression that counts. Nail down your opening line, grab their attention straight away.”
GET INTO CHARACTER: “Focus completely on where you are and what you are doing. Leave the wife and mother part of you behind, they’ll still be there when you’re finished. Body language is very important – if you look confident, your audience relaxes. If you look stressed, they also become stressed because they take it as a sign you don’t know what you’re doing. And that stops them from listening properly to what you are saying.”
DON’T LET A HECKLER DERAIL YOU: “A trick used by many comedians is to repeat a heckle back to the heckler. Not only does this make sure the rest of the audience know exactly what you are reacting to, but it also gives you another second or two to think of a response.”