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Seven Presentation Mistakes Women Commonly Make

Recently I have taken up the role of President of Chester Speakers Club – a wonderful honour within a fantastic organisation. Here’s a picture of me being handed over the baton! I’ve been part of Toastmasters for around 2 years and it’s helped me enormously with many aspects of my public speaking. The clubs are very friendly and everyone wants to see you succeed.

Both within the speaking club and with my work supporting women leaders, I’ve come to recognise patterns in how women communicate. And where they lose their impact. I’ve called this the ‘Seven Presentation Mistakes’ and you’ll find them outlined below. Have a read about how many of these mistakes you might make, and what you can do about them.

Mistake One: Ask questions instead of make statements
Compare, “What do you think about us doing…?” or “Have you considered…?” with, “I propose that we…”

Expressing your opinion as a statement is a direct and more appropriate way of communicating. If you feel your statement sounds pushy, add, “I am interested in your thoughts.”

Mistake Two: Use preambles
To soften their message, women add a jumble of words before getting to the main point, thereby diluting it. Be clear and direct. Before you open your mouth to speak, ask yourself:

What is my main topic? What two or three points do I want the listener to consider?

Your mantra should be, “Short sounds confident,” and practice your message using as few words as possible.

Mistake Three: Explain
Shorten your explanations by 50 to 75%. When you have made your point, give two or three pieces of supporting information, then stop. The silence is their cue to respond. Voicing everything you know about the topic is unnecessary and very common. It effectively turns off half of your audience.

Mistake Four: Ask permission
Inform others of your intentions rather than ask for their permission; it shows respect for the other person and it assumes equality. For example, “I want to let you know that I will be working from home tomorrow as I am expecting a delivery,” as opposed to, “Would it be all right with you if I work from home tomorrow?”

If people frown upon your plans, they will let you know.

Mistake Five: Apologise
This is such a big one! When a top golfer missed some easy shots and played badly, he said, “I didn’t play poorly, the wind and conditions were just against me today.” It illustrates how even when confronted with obvious errors and poor performance, men will deny or minimize their mistake, rather than apologize or take responsibility.

We, on the other hand, do the complete opposite – even apologizing when we are not at fault.

It may be a conflict-reducing technique, but apologizing for small, accidental errors erodes our self-confidence and even worse, the confidence others have in us. Save your apologies for big mistakes and when you do apologize, do so only once, before moving into problem-solving mode. Refrain from apologizing where you are in a one-down position to ensure you will be liked. Regardless of the status of the other person, they are not better than you.

Mistake Six: Use minimizing words
As children we are told, “Do not brag.” As adults when we receive a compliment we say, “It was only…,” or “I just…” Practice saying, “Thank you. I am pleased with how it turned out.”

Mistake Seven: Fail to pause before responding
Give yourself time to reflect on your reply before answering. A pause before speaking suggests you have given your answer thought, it generates interest on the part of the listener and it gives the impression you are self-confident.

Practice counting to three before replying to a question, even if you know the answer. During the pause ask yourself what the main point is you want the listener to take away.

Let me know which of the mistakes most resonate with you! I love to hear your thoughts. And if you are interested in improving your public speaking, check out www.toastmasters.org for a club near you.

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