Photo by Marco Luiz via Unsplash

“Nearly three quarters of American women – and over a half of British women – believe that at work, their voices aren’t treated as seriously as a man’s…Clearly a problem of such magnitude needs solving urgently. It’s damaging to those involved and damaging to the greater economy…

…learn how to tackle the dictatorial and overbearing communication style that’s become the corporate norm. You’ll be able to create a happier and more productive working environment, based on greater collaboration, arising from better relationships and a greater level of trust.”

Chris Davidson, author of Hear and Now book

Chris’ findings support the messages I have been giving to the business clients that I work with; namely, that more women should be represented in the boardroom; that they should be encouraged to use their authentic voice, and that their different approaches can make for highly effective stakeholder engagement.

Speaking Up

A large part of my work focuses on coaching people on how to step up and speak up in their workplace and in their personal lives. As an experienced Board member who happens to be female, of an ethnic minority background and often younger than my Board counterparts, I’ve had to find my voice and make sure that I use it, especially when it’s about a subject I feel strongly about.

Too many women, even at a senior level, still don’t, for reasons including imposter syndrome, being talked over/down to, or even a worry about being perceived as too ‘soft’ by favouring case examples (stories) over hard data.

I know that many people, men and women alike, are anxious about public speaking. Despite my experience, there are still times when I too feel nerves. Sometimes larger audiences of several hundred feel less daunting than a group of 30 or so peers.

I’ve learned a fair bit about presenting over the years, so here are a few of my tips.

Presenting tips

Managing anxiety

There’s a lot going on within our brains and our bodies, especially when we’re feeling nervous. Have you ever wondered why your knees knock, your voice falters or your hands shake when you’re presenting?

It’s due to Mother Nature. Adrenaline is flooding your body, putting it into fight or flight mode. Focusing on your breath can help to bring nerves back under control, and don’t focus too much on your trembling either, as this will only make it worse.

Loosen your grip on slides

Many presenters are lazy, using their slides to do the talking for them. Your slides should illustrate the story that you are telling. Don’t confuse slide with handouts!

Avoid information overload

Don’t bombard your audience with facts. You should ideally cover three to five key points. Ten top tips is fine for blogs, but not for talks.

Brain training

Did you know that when you are surprised, your brain is trained to pay attention? This also activates pleasure responses. Knowing this, you can figure out ways to enrapture your audience. Storytelling is an effective way of connecting with your audience if you make it relevant to the subject.

Show your vulnerability

Your audience will warm to you when you show emotion and allow your personality to shine through. I once shared a story about how far one of my coaching clients had come and I was trembling as I told her story. I explained to the audience that I was feeling emotional because I was so proud of her. When I was done, I got a number of hugs – and a new client.

Anj Handa is the Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers. She helps women to speak up: for themselves, for others, and for social issues.