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Level 5

Talk Like a Girl: 6 Tips for Speaking Confidently (Even to a Room Full of Men)

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When I read recently that the average person is more afraid of speaking in public than of death, I thought, yup, I get it. Technically, I don’t suffer from “glossophobia,” but that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced the stomach-clenching, palm-sweating, heart-thudding moments when it’s my turn to talk in front of a crowd of any size. Over the years, I’ve noticed this unpleasant somatic experience intensifies when the audience is dominated by men.


I know I’m not the only female entrepreneur who has felt heightened anxiety when presenting to a room full of men (a pretty common scenario, especially during the hunt for financial backing). Yet it’s critically important for women to be able to confidently pitch their business to everyone from customers and clients to potential partners and investors. That’s why I asked business coach and public-speaking pro, Julie Gordon White, to weigh in. What tips does she have for women entrepreneurs when it comes to public speaking – particularly in front of men?


1. Be wardrobe-wise


“My first thought,” Julie tells me, “is about clothes. Ugh. I kind of hate that it’s my first thought. But for women, there are some things we need to consider when deciding what to wear. Cleavage. Heel height. Skirt length. No matter what you decide, your wardrobe should fully align with your brand, make you feel comfortable and confident and be appropriate for your audience.”


Bottom line? Julie says whether you’re sporting purple hair or a power suit, “make sure it’s authentically you.”


2. Stand tall


Research about the gender dynamics of public speaking suggests women should pay some attention to their body language. A “power pose” – for example, standing with your hands on your hips – helps us gals take up a little more space in the room.


“I’m a small person,” says Julie, “so when I wear heels, I feel physically bigger and more powerful. It gives me a tad more bravado and helps me bring just a little more badass to my talk.”


3. Know your numbers


If you’re looking for partners or investors, it’s critical to know your numbers precisely. While this is true for male and female business owners alike, it’s especially imperative for women pitching to a typically male audience. “No investor will give you money based on a good feeling about your business,” explains Julie. “Present clear financial proof of your winning idea, and do your market research. Show that you’ve done your homework extensively and let the numbers tell the story.”


4. Keep it concise


After 14 years of helping women entrepreneurs grow and sell their businesses, Julie makes this observation: “Women tend to elaborate … and elaborate … and elaborate, and men tend to be a lot more concise and get straight to the point.”


When you’re addressing a crowd, Julie says women should remember three little words: Less is more. “Choose words that resonate deeply with your audience, and resist the urge to over-explain your point of view.”


5. Manage your audience


Another observation from this seasoned speaker? Sometimes, audience members – both male and female -- like to hear themselves talk. Julie has three suggestions for keeping the mic from being hijacked during a Q&A session.


  1. Don’t take questions until your talk is over
  2. Clarify that a Q&A is only for on-point questions, not for self-promotion or storytelling
  3. Hold any handouts until the end of your presentation to hold their attention


6. Don’t apologize


If (or, more accurately, when) something goes wrong when you’re delivering a talk, don’t apologize. Instead, says Julie, continue with your presentation and keep control of the topic at hand. Even if you’re panicking, stay the course until you reach the end. “If things feel really uncomfortable,” says Julie, “just remind yourself it will be over soon!”


Want five more public speaking tips? Watch this video


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QB Community members, tell us about your experience pitching your business or presenting to a crowd. What are your tricks to stay cool, calm and collected?


Want to weigh in but not yet a QB Community member? Click HERE to sign up in a flash!

1 Comment
Level 6

Talk Like a Girl: 6 Tips for Speaking Confidently (Even to a Room Full of Men)


I could add to that. While speaking in public make eye contact with people in the audience who are paying attention to what you are saying. It makes these people more attentive and makes you feel more confident.

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