Why Great Presentation Skills Are Important
Before you start – yes, great presentation skills are important for everyone. When you can present confidently and connect with your audience you can influence on a large scale. Whether you are presenting to a board, a group of customers, your employees, or a crowd (large or small) of strangers – how you present is going to enhance or damage the recipients’ perception of you.
As a woman – great presentation skills are potentially even more of a challenge. I say that because (and I AM aware this is a generalisation, but it is also true), more women tend to lack confidence when speaking. That can show up in many ways, from using phrases which take away from what they are saying, to using body language that does the same.
I have seen many speakers, and something I never see men doing is coming out with phrases like “I just….I think that….it might”. Men tend to use more definite language – which can make them appear more confident even if what they are saying is actually just their opinion.
Common Presentation Traits Of Women.
A really big one for women is body language. Having recently watched a female speaker – who had great content but made no sales from stage, I could tell you why. She touched her hair over 30 times and used the head tilt and hip shift constantly. Theses are natural gestures for most women – but they make you look uncertain. And uncertainty doesn’t sell.
A colleague was telling me about a female marketing manager who was introduced to a new client as managing a 10 million marketing budget. “10 million?” the client repeated. She shrugged her shoulders – as if to say – “it’s nothing”. This is a common female trait – dumbing down their achievements.
I mean, we are taught from being little not to ‘show off’ or ‘brag’, aren’t we? So, it’s no wonder this is such a common trait.
And unfortunately, it has BIG implications.
Take a job interview for example. The more confident-sounding candidate will almost always get the job, over the potentially better qualified. The fact that this frequently translates to men getting the job that a woman was equally qualified to get, is due to many factors.
Subconscious bias being one (see McKinsey), and McKinseys annual report into women in the workplace show that things are not improving at all and if things continue as they are there will be a disappointing 1% improvement in women in senior roles in 10 years time.
Before we look at how to change things, let’s look at why presentation skills are really important.
What Are the Benefits of Great Presentation Skills?
Career growth almost always entails ‘selling’ your ideas to others – whether that’s internally leading to promotion, or externally when in a job interview.
It doesn’t matter how good your product is – if you can’t (sell) present it, then it will fail.
Improving presentation skills is effectively improving communication skills. And since communication skills are key to reducing workplace stress (the number one factor in which is miscommunication) – improving them can only be a good thing.
You can speed things up and improve your time management and everyone else’s if you are a good presenter. I am sure you have sat in presentations where the laboured 1-2 hour presentation could actually have been delivered in 20 minutes. Get good at presenting and you can stop wasting everyone’s time!
You’ll never be the leader you want to be, until you have developed your presentation skills. Look at any great leader and you will see a great presenter. And the same is true for your staff. Customers and potential customers will make judgments about your company and your product based on what they see and hear (in your presentations!).
How Can You Improve Your Presentation Skills?
I believe that men and women can learn a lot from each other in terms of improving their presentation skills.
So, what can men learn from women?
Well, women tend to have a more collaborative approach and therefore engage their audiences more – by asking questions and getting feedback. They also are more likely to consider what the audience needs to hear, rather than what they want to say.
Women don’t have as much ‘ego’ on show – it’s not about ‘me myself and I’ in their presentations but can be too ‘we’ focused. Both of these are not ideal. As the person giving the presentation, the confidence to use ‘you’ is utmost. As the presenter is the leader of the group.
Women often come over as more genuine and less ‘salesy’ and that’s because they show more emotion – or a wider range of emotion. Men shouldn’t be afraid to do the same.
And what can women learn from men about presenting?
Stop using ‘qualifiers’ like ‘I just’ or ‘it might be better if..’. Use more certain and positive language. Beware of the non-verbal giveaways – the hair flicks, the head tilts and the standing on one hip then moving to the other. Even if you don’t feel confident, by having the right stance and gestures, you can appear confident to the listener.