In the past 15 years I’ve coached hundreds of male and female executives, CEOs, Olympians and BDMs to present powerfully and engagingly and quite simply there is a difference in the way women present, especially to male oriented audiences.
So, if you’re in a boardroom, pitching for business or find yourself with a microphone, here are my Top 10 Professional Public Speaking Tips for Women.
1. Stop talking about yourself , your company, how passionate you are about your new widget and start talking about the audience. Passion is compelling, but it’s not hard to become the bore at the party if you focus your presentation on your world rather than the client’s; Simple rule: if you’re still talking about yourself after 5 minutes, you have become the self indulgent talking to the self interested
2. Voice matters (1). If you have a high voice, it will only get higher at the exciting bits. The audience will then hear ‘shrill’ not passionate. Practice lowering your tone two thirds of a smidgen (very scientific) and you will have room to move.
3. Voice matters (2). Talking fast is natural with two of your best friends and a bottle of Mumm, but audiences (especially we slower listening men) can’t take it all in. The issue is if it’s too quick and we don’t get it, it’s as if you haven’t said it at all. Add three times the number of pauses as you think normal. Don’t slow your delivery –just add pauses.
4. Don’t Flirt. Yes, I know this is obvious in a professional setting, but it still happens. The hair flick, sexy voice and constantly calling the client by his first name may work for some but it is not perceived by the majority as necessary for professional business engagement.
5. Watch the Bling – I’ve seen presentations where the presenter had 3 bracelets, 4 rings, 2 necklaces and a wrap that was constantly being re-arranged. It just becomes a total distraction – and sometimes a noisy one with a remote mouse being waved around as well.
6. Tell stories – It amazes me that so many women are great storytellers around the dinner table, yet become more formal in a business setting and leave all that natural storytelling ability behind. Tell a story about a client’s result, rather than putting up slides about functionality. Tell a story about your research into the client’s goals, rather than just boring facts about productivity, market share etc.
7. Talk outcomes, not process. It depends on your role, but men tend to be better at saying ‘right this is the bottom line – if you pay us $50K per month, we’re going to cut 15% off your total expenditure over 2 years. Many women enjoy discussing how you’ll get there with all the nuances and variables with the presumption that the outcome is obvious. Again, we of the Y chromosome need to hear it, plain and simple.
8. Don’t overcompensate. You don’t need to be blokier or dress down or change your language if it’s just not you. They can tell and you lose the power of authenticity.
9. Use visuals and creativity not boring slides. Use pictures, images, YouTube videos to make your case. It freshens up the whole presentation and makes you stand out.
10. Practise. Yes, I know it’s boring but there are presenters that will spend three hours checking the spreadsheets, preparing their choice of lipstick, hairstyle, skirt, heels and 20 minutes rehearsing their content, If you don’t rehearse, where do you find your mistakes?
As CEO of Salient Communication, Elliot is a sought after keynote speaker and corporate trainer who has coached and trained over 4000 people including CEOs, senior management and successful sales teams throughout Australasia and Asia including Hong Kong and Singapore.
Elliot is a specialist sales speaker for high profile corporates having spoken at over 1500 conferences, workshops and break-out sessions on presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching for leading companies such as HP, Alcatel – Lucent, Commonwealth Bank, Hitachi, Computershare and SEEK. He is renowned for ensuring presentations are engaging, interactive and relevant to winning business in competitive markets.
He is an advisory Board Member of Generation –e, one of Australia’s fastest growing IT companies.
Elliot is based in Melbourne where he lives with his wife and two expensive children.