by Guila Muir
Is it true that men tend to make certain types of blunders while presenting, and women others? In my experience, yes. I have worked with hundreds of individuals and single-sex groups, and notice recurring, gender-specific behaviors that sabotage presentations.
In the interest of advancing further research, I submit these very common blunders, and give you the tools you need to prevent them.
Most Common Presentation Skills Blunders: MEN
1. Guys, you wander aimlessly too much. Move with purpose ONLY. Pacing or shuffling weaken your delivery and your message.
The best reasons to move are:
- When you are changing a subject.
- When you are changing an emotion.
- When you’ve been in one place for the entire time.
Stand and deliver, then move.
2. Get those thumbs out of your pockets or your waistband. This posture is called “genital framing.” Do you really want to express “check me out, I am a virile male” during a high-stakes financial talk? (Or maybe you do…What do I know?)
Instead, use your hands and arms in a natural way to emphasize your words. You can even just let your arms hang down at your sides (now that feels weird, doesn’t it?) Just don’t tuck your hands away…anywhere.
Most Common Presentation Skills Blunders: WOMEN
1. Read the following. Is Mary credible?
“Hello. My name is Mary Smith? I am the communications director? And I’ve worked here 15 years?”
I’ll bet your answer is NO. Mary just sabotaged herself, big-time. Even if she is most credible person in the company, she now has to earn back the credibility she lost through the upward inflection at the end of her sentences.
Professor Yia Hei Kao of Claremont University is just one of many researchers and linguists who have found that when women end their sentences with an upward lilt, they project uncertainty, tentativeness, and the desire to please others.
Women, is THAT how you want to come across? We no longer need permission to speak, so why act as if we do?
Practice introducing yourself. Listen for the upward swing at the end of the sentences. Enlist someone else to help if you are not sure what you’re hearing. End your sentences with a downward inflection. This “fix” is one of the most important things you can do to increase your credibility as a speaker.
2. Stand evenly on both feet. Don’t heap your weight onto one hip. This “cheerleader” stance makes you look like you’re posing for a photo shoot. To come across as grounded and powerful, BE grounded from the floor up.
OK, men and women. I hope these tips help you. Share them with those of the same and the opposite gender. Let’s all work towards a world full of improved presentations!