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My High Class Presentation Tips For Women
“Women are always told, ‘You’re not going to make it, it’s too difficult, you can’t do that, don’t enter this competition, you’ll never win it’ – they need confidence in themselves and people around them to help them get on.”
“Presenting as a woman”: In a perfect world this piece of advice wouldn’t exist, right? I mean, you do not read blogs with titles like “Breathing as a woman” or “Eating as a woman” or “Getting the flu as a woman”. But we do not live in a perfect world, not even here in Tuscany where I am writing these words down, and we are all aware that woman have a tougher time to make their way to the top in business than their male counterparts. And I think that we are also aware that women actually do present in way that is different from what men do on stage. But is a woman’s different approach to the Art of Presentation helping her to cross the chasm on her way to the top or on the contrary one of the reasons that she might fall behind?
This is a tough question and most of my colleagues are wise enough to avoid this topic in their books and on their websites. Well, I will try to do better. Let me start with my very personal impressions as an associate professor for presentation and negotiation and as a business executive coach: The most impressive students I have met during my career as well as the most impressive top executives were women. My female students are mostly more intelligent and better at preparing a presentation than their male counterparts but – yes, there is a but – overall my male students are more confident when on stage: They do speak with a louder and more convinced (and therefore mote convincing) voice, they stand taller meaning that they use power poses and power moves more often and more naturally and they usually are more convinced to be “right” than the young women in my classes. Women who usually bring home better grades and end up with better Masters and PhDs than my male students act very often less convinced than their male counterparts.
Do you get this? On average my female students are better overall than my male students and better when it comes to grasp the Art of Presenting, but my male students are still more self assured and more convinced that they are doing the right thing while on stage.
The Era Of The “Golden Women” & the “End Of Men”
Let’s take a broader look: What we have seen all over the world during the last 30 years is that women have become in most nations the second or even the first breadwinner within their families. While in the old times men went to work while their wives stayed at home, today women work as well as their husbands or partners and often do so in better payed jobs. One of the reason for this revolution is the transition from an old capitalism based on production to a capitalism based on services. Today education and soft skills are more important than 30 years ago, and women are typically better able to combine hard skills and soft skills – good skills in math, physics or informatics with good social skills. On the job women regularly excel not just because they have an excellent college education but because of their flexibility and multitasking capabilities (often earned the hard way by managing kids as well as a job at the same time).
The number of female college students have skyrocketed over the last 30 years while the number of their male counterparts has only risen slightly. In the US, women today earn more than 60 % of all Masters, around 50 % of the law- and medical-degrees and almost half of all business-degrees. Today women in most modern countries like Norway or Australia are holding more college degrees than men. And astonishingly this is also true for many countries in South America, Central Asia and even for Arab states like Qatar, Bahrein or Saudi Arabia. Today there are hundreds of millions of extremely well educated and ambitious women, called “Super Women” in L.A. or “Golden Woman” in Seoul, who outperform their male colleagues and who see early marriage primarily as a threat to their careers. To these women most young men appear just as guys who only think of dating, drinking and having fun with their playstation, guys who are basically no competition on the job but also no candidates for a marriage or a steady relationship. From a situation when women were the exception in elite high-schools and -colleges as well as elite-law firms and -consulting firms, we have now come to a situation, at least in the advanced capitalist countries, where many top-universities have introduced quota for men!
Please read: “The End Of Men And The Rise Of Women” by Hanna Rosin.
Still, and there can be no doubt about that, women like Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Ginni Rometty (IBM) or Ana Patricia Botín (Banco Santander) remain the exception. Women have conquered their families and they have conquered the universities and top-universities, yes, but they haven’t conquered the top-positions in business yet. And they haven’t conquered the business stage yet.
The two phenomenons might well be connected, due to the most important rule of communications in a man’s world: “You have to convince me! And, man, you can have the best data and arguments and reasons in the world, but that is not a guarantee that you are going to convince me.”
The women I have met are most of the times better prepared and brighter than their male counterparts, but they have a structural disadvantage (well, or great luck): They didn’t grow up among men. Men learn from Kinder-garden-age on that men compete with each other 24/7. They learn that in order to prevail in a group of men, you have to be cool, fit on the body level, witty, self assured, tough, sometimes even cruel and a great bluffer. In a group of man usually nobody gives a damn if you are intellectually gifted, what you do achieve or seem to achieve is much more important.
It seems to me that many women are too factual to understand that men live mainly in a world of interchangeable symbols, where driving a great car might might make up for the lack of original ideas. I think that many male CEOs make it to the top because of their image, their grey hair, their way to walk and talk, their golf handicap, their friends and connections, their suits and cars and wives and not because they are the best in their firm. It’s hard to understand for a woman, I guess.
So get a golf club membership card and a sports car? Why not. But it’s even more important to understand what men expect from a presentation. Not in order to bow to their wishes and lose your authenticity as a woman, absolutely not, but to be able to convince the largest possible number in your audience, once and again, on your way to the top.
Getting To The Top With Your Presentations
Well, and here obviously it’s time to talk about my fantastic seven high class presentation tips that will help you to get to those very top positions as a woman!
1. Be confident, sound confident. Never relativise what you say by using words like “probably”, “just” or “actually”. Finish every sentence with a full stop, not with a question mark, avoid the so called uptalk. Practice to lower the tone of your voice, especially under stress, build pauses into your presentation and talk slowly. Give your audience the chance to follow your pitch effortless by affording time to think about what you said and by using short sentences.
2. Tell stories. Women have, among others, one important advantage compared to men; an outstanding verbal agility. Use it. Moreover women usually are also better at perceiving people’s non verbal reactions to what they say, thus being able to make little adaptions while conversing with their audience.
3. Talk about the great things you did and do, don’t be modest, but do so only in a by the way manner. Give explicitly credit to your team when teamwork produced success or a break trough, but do so with only with a few words. Don’t list all their successes, just say with a convinced, strong voice: “They did a great job and I am very proud of them!” That’s it: fewer words, great voice, more impact!
4. Get quicker to the point. In my experience women are very good in shedding light on side aspects of a matter, but when doing a trip on the Amazon River you can’t explore every distributary (this is the brilliant metaphor I use with my students). That is why you have to balance out the presentation of the process with the presentation of the outcome. The higher your audience is ranked, and the more men it contains, the earlier (not faster) you should get to the results or main proposals of your pitch.
5. Don’t flirt and don’t distract. Never pitch in miniskirts or transparent garments, don’t show too much skin, and do not wear too much jewellery. Your message is everything, you are the honest broker who delivers it. Wear a good make up though, studies show that women wearing make up are estimated by strangers to have higher paid jobs and more authority.
6. Read the famous speeches women delivered before you successfully in history and let them inspire you: They did an amazing job, and so will you.
You find three here: Upcoming.
7. A good pitch deserves good money: When in doubt, ask for more money, not less. Know what you are worth. Delivering a great 12-minute-presentation needs many days of preparation and the best never work for free (at least not in business).
Please also check out the presentation tips for women by:
Nancy Duarte: www.duarte.com/presentation-tips-fatal-distractions-ladies-dont-be-the-center-of-attention.
Elliot Epstein: www.salientcommunication.com.au/top-ten-public-speaking-tips-for-women.
Leslie Belknap: www.ethos3.com/2015/12/public-speaking-tips-for-women.
*The quote by Zaha Hadid at the beginning of this page is an original one 😉