Do Men & Women “Do Public Speaking” Differently?

Do Men & Women "Do Public Speaking" Differently?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Personality and cultural differences – a reflection of individual personal qualities such as confidence and their environmental upbringing.
  3. 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.
  4. 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…

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.

© 2013, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.


Comments · 9

  1. Pingback: Making a difference one conversation at a time | Collaborative Services
  2. Ms. Barkworth,

    I am a student in the department of Communication at the University of Arizona and I am beginning research for my senior honor’s thesis. I want to study the perceptional differences between men and women in public speaking such as being perceived as credible, authentic, emotionally controlled, etc. I was wondering if I could reach out to you via phone or email to discuss your thoughts on the issue and where you found your knowledge in this subject.

    Thank you,

    Kaitlyn Macaulay
    Communication Major
    Pre-law & Political Science Minor
    College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
    The University of Arizona
    [email protected]
    (520) 429-2747

    1. Hi Kaitlyn,
      thanks for your email and thanks for calling me “Ms Barkworth”!!! Must mean I’m a grown up now or then again, it could just be American formality which we lack here in Australia. Sure, love to have a conversation with you re your research on perceptual differences between men and women. Let’s communicate via private email to set up a time. Best wishes, Geraldine

  3. Hi there,
    We are looking to host a diversity session in our office, and I think this is a fascinating topic. Do you come to Sydney often, and if so, how much do you charge for a presentation? We are a not for profit health insurer run to benefit teachers and their families.

    1. Hello Bronwyn,
      thanks for your message. Yes it is a fascinating topic. I’ve sent you a private email about running a presentation for you in Sydney. Geraldine

  4. Hello Geraldine Barkworth,
    I would like to ask you about this article, where did you find information about public speaking of men and women? I’m really interested in this topic because the final project of my grade will deal with this topic and I wish you could help me giving me advices, or all you know about the topic.
    Thank you so much for your attention.

    1. Dear Nuria, the information comes from my experience and observation of coaching men and women since 2002. You may find more information at your National Speakers Association for your country. Good luck with your project. Geraldine

  5. Hello Mrs. Barkworth! I know you said in the article that your opinions were generalizations based off of your experience and observation. I had a question particularly about the part where you said that men needed to be more descriptive; was that a generalization as well? I only ask because as an author, I feel like I use very descriptive language in my writing and speech in conversations (when necessary). I’m curious if you have in fact seen men who were descriptive as well in their language style, as i’d Imagine that, being a generalization, that claim would not apply to every male? Also, do you ever coach on interview preparation? Thank you for your time!

    1. Hello Tyrion,
      thankyou for your question. Apologies for delay – I’ve been on holidays and incommunicado. Mmm, yes, I definitely was generalising because that’s all you can ever do when it comes to the supreme diversity of the human species! Perhaps dividing communication style into male and female is too broad. From my observation, people who are more logic based, prefer concrete facts and default to cognitive awareness (rather than feelings, the felt sense, instinct and perception), can help others to understand their message by expanding their natural communication style beyond concrete facts, stats and results. As you know, people process information differently and perceive reality differently. An audience of fellow logisticans will love presentations grounded in the language they relate to. It makes sense to them. But when an audience is mixed, the speaker is more effective when their language, examples and behaviours encompass different communication styles. For instance, a technical term may be used, then the jargon version, then a felt sense version describing how it feels and impacts. Paint a visual and sensual picture as well as the stats. I think it’s more inclusive, doesn’t make presumptive assumptions and ultimately IS more logical because it covers more bases.

      Yes I have worked with men that are more naturally descriptive in their language and they do tend to work in communication and the arts. As in authors, therapists, artists, politicians, coaches and people managers. I also work with women who are confused by discussing emotions and painting pictures and just want to list a series of facts and results without the connective story. And that’s ok if its not needed. If listeners are coming away confused or bored, then description filling out the facts may be needed. And, vice versa. Too much description and emotion is equally boring and fluffy, so facts and structure are needed.

      Yes, I do coach on job and media interview preparation. Thanks once again Tyrion for persisting with contacting me and I hope I have answered your question. Geraldine

Leave a Reply


Product added to cart

No products in the cart.

%d bloggers like this: