There’s no open debate going on about whether men or women are better at presenting, but what if? Is there a gender effect that emanates from the stage? Are there preset limitations or advantages that we all face as soon as we step on stage because of who we are?
Of course, these days it’s difficult to define ‘man’ and ‘woman’, let alone pick and choose the characteristics belonging to each gender that make up the perfect presenter. But all of us can benefit from stepping out of our own skin for a bit to imagine the way we might seem to other people.
Think of it this way: any parent has suddenly found themselves thinking, “I sounded just like my [mother/father] then”. We do things by routine according to our longstanding personality traits. Inevitably, we become desensitized to the things we do and say that others interpret differently. Certain gender traits are a perfect example because nearly every individual has some preconception of what the differences between men and women are, and everyone values these roles in different ways. Some good; some bad.
But as taboo as the subject can be, presenters are far more often required to be pragmatic and results-oriented than idealistic (though certainly the two converge from time to time). With a truly mixed audience, you could never accurately pick the popular conception that will reign in the room. But from time to time all presenters find themselves speaking to a specific audience, and when those times come it’s helpful to consider the way your particular brand of man or woman will come across with the demographic. For instance, though she is smart, confident, and successful, it may not behoove the female presenter to strike a feminist pose before the Male Chauvinist Association of America–at least, not if a lot of money is on the line. Granted, that’s extreme, but we should always approach presentations giving more than a nod to the demographics of the audience we will speak to.