INSIGHT: Public speaking, do men and women need to do it differently?

I ask myself this question as a woman in technology who is constantly working on her public speaking and presentation skills.

I ask myself this question as a woman in technology who is constantly working on her public speaking and presentation skills whether I’m presenting live to an audience, or for a radio or TV interview.

I watch men speak, I watch women speak, I write down what they do that I like, what seems to work for the audience, what keeps people interested and what makes people lose attention and interact with their phones.

Through studying hundreds of talks I’ve found that men and women need to approach giving talks differently, but so do introverts and extroverts, seasoned pros and those standing on stage for the first time.

What I’ve realised is that there is no “right way”, there is just the way that works and feels comfortable for you (or as comfortable as you can feel on stage).

Stage fright is part of the deal, as is feeling nervous, stumbling over your words, forgetting your lines and wondering if your message is getting through.

As I’ve navigated through trying to understand why some talks captivate audiences and some talks bore them, I’ve found different ways to prepare myself and the importance of writing a talk from the perspective of my audience rather than the perspective of my own knowledge.

What I’ve learned from my career where I’m often presenting technical data to a diverse range of audiences, is that being genuine and working towards giving the best presentation that you can possibly give is probably the most important thing.

Comparing notes with Dr James Whittaker, a person I respect for his incredible public speaking skills I found that as an introverted female, I approach presenting very differently to him an extroverted male.

So we decided to combine our thoughts and give a presentation on how to present from two very opposite perspectives both working towards the same goal.

We agreed that the general rules to follow for a successful presentation are:

Have one key message - Make sure you have a theme and stick to it

Make sure you are well prepared - This means practicing your talk before giving it

Start strong - Your opening line should make people want to know more

Use props wisely - Don’t let them take over the talk

Use voice control - Emphasise words with your voice

Body language - Too much or too little can be distracting or boring

Nail the Landing - And connect it to your opening line

It won’t help you with your nerves, but it might help you to prepare for your first or even your fiftieth public talk.

By Michelle Dickinson - University of Auckland, Co-Founder OMGTech, Board Member Code Club Aotearoa

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