Public Speaking Differences Between Men And Women
A question I’m often asked is: “Are there public speaking differences between men and women and do they develop personal presence in the same way?”
Communication and its subset of public speaking does vary between men and women. The ability to speak with presence however, crosses the gender borderline. We all get goosebumps whether the speaker is male or female, as the 2013 video link below of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard shows.
In terms of gender difference, generally, men compartmentalise into narrow specifics and thus need to join more dots and use more descriptive language. Women open many interconnected doors to a broad picture and thus need to focus and hone.
Gender and power are tricky subjects and liable to assumptions and false beliefs from which of course miscommunication often results. Please take my generalisations for what I intend – a broad summary of my observations over the years. There are no rules of course, everyone is different and not confined to a label.
From my observations as a coach of hundreds of people since 2002, 80% of those being women, I have noticed 4 primary differences:
- Gender variation in processing information. To generalise again, men often place more importance on facts and status, women on relationships and emotion, so it’s wise to adjust speech delivery to an all male or all female audience as they will relate differently to content and style as you do with audiences of different age, culture, industry and community.
- Personality and cultural differences – a reflection of individual personal qualities such as confidence and their environmental upbringing.
- Power imbalance – many women still communicate from an assumed non dominant position, often diminishing and negating their words and impact. For instance they “forget” to mention their achievements and begin by saying “they don’t know much about it”, speaking with lesser volume and eye contact.
- Societal perception and interpretation of gender behaviour (the classic: an assertive man described as forthright and strong, while a woman using the same language and manner is described as “demanding and unfeminine.”).
Public Speaking Shared Issues
And in terms of similarities, the common public speaking issues I work on with both male and female clients include:
- Learning to say “no” and negotiate from a place of natural strength.
- Energetically ‘holding the space” and not be ‘elbowed out”.
- Increasing personal confidence and self belief in one’s abilities.
- Asking for what they really want (assertion) and not hoping for a miracle.
- Becoming comfortable with eye contact, pausing, speaking conversationally.
The underpinning issues here are the lack of belief in one’s right to be worthy, to be heard and to take up space. These issues are not solely gender issues, but the issues of anyone feeling disempowered or needing a confidence boost, regardless of gender, age, culture or (dis)ability.
Development Of Presence Regardless Of Gender
Now on to the second aspect of the question concerning developing speaking presence and I’ll start with a definition: Presence occurs when someone speaks directly from their heart to yours. It is something you feel, rather than know. Understanding leaps across the room as an energetic ripple, bypassing the rational mind. Heads turn. Hearts engage. Minds open.
Speaking with presence generates attention and impact through natural charisma. This means if you have a message you want to be heard, rather than struggle to keep audience attention, you can simply tap into this natural resource once you learn how.
You can see speaking with presence clearly in the very popular 2013 “Misogyny Speech” from Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard in the House of Representatives directed toward Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. The speech went viral around the world as a breath of fresh air in politics – spoken from the heart with passion and personality. She used the reinforcing and emotive technique of repeating the words” “I am offended when…” Her body is electrically charged, she is fully focused, you believe her… http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ihd7ofrwQX0
Male or female, speaking with presence is far more powerful than a bland, memorised speech.
And yes, while there are public speaking differences between men and women, you can learn with me how to develop and refine your presence. Email me to book a 60 minute phone or Skype consultation to learn how. Everyone, regardless of gender or confidence level, can learn to speak with passion, power and professionalism.