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Women in the Boardroom

Overcoming the ‘fear factor’ is not difficult but it takes tenacity

Gulf News

Returning from Qatar after delivering a public speaking programme to an executive women’s team, I can really see that there is a huge amount of untapped talent just waiting outside the boardroom door and yet we see that their actual representation around the table, is very low.

According to Shamsa Saleh, CEO of Dubai Women’s Establishment, the UAE female participation in the public sector is recorded at over 50 per cent with a 22 per cent of women presence in the boards’ positions. But their presence is quite low when it comes to the private sector at 1.5 per cent only.

It doesn’t mean that women are unable or don’t have the skills to compete in a man’s world, particularly in the Middle East, but there are still many challenges along the way.

There are many factors that may contribute to this but the one that I focused on within this women’s executive team programme, were their public speaking skills.

Overcoming the ‘fear factor’ is not difficult but it takes tenacity and a determination that will persuade others of your opinions.

So below are some the key learning points that came from this programme which I believe should be of great interest to all of my readers, both male and female.

Start a presentation with the end in mind: When you create your presentation, think about exactly what you want your audience to remember when they have finished hearing you speak.

First impressions are everything: Your first 5 minutes are vital to your presentation as you need to engage with your audience immediately to get them on board.

Tell a story to illustrate your point! However your story has to be meaningful so that your audience can immediately see its purpose and reason for telling it.

Little is more: Don’t fall into the ‘death by PowerPoint’ trap. We all know that this programme is very impressive but take care not to have too much text on any one slide.

Don’t just read from the slides: Your audience can also read but they came to hear you speak!

Never walk in front of the screen whilst showing a slide: Buy a remote control that has a ‘blank screen’ button so that you can turn off the screen while you are talking and in that way you will bring the audience back to looking at you and not the screen.

Speak with passion: Your energy is contagious and people will listen to you more effectively when they can see you are talking from the heart and really mean what you say.

Use frequent pauses when speaking: These are vital to add ‘weight’ to your message. Many speakers never stop for breath and never give their audience a chance to digest what they have said before they go too quickly onto the next slide.

Body language and voice tone: Look around your whole audience and engage with everyone. Whether it is a boardroom table or an auditorium, make sure you connect with each and every person around the room.

Be ready to manage difficult questions because they will come! You need to know your subject well and to listen carefully to what is being asked, then deal with it accordingly - or you may decide to have a one-to-one conversation after the presentation.

Whatever your subject, love what you do! If you love what you do, it will be obvious to your audience and you will hold their attention.

Make sure you issue a ‘call to action’ at the end of your presentation regarding the message you wish to deliver. Make it clear that your audience knows exactly what action they are going to take.

Start and finish on time! It’s as simple as that! Don’t become known for going over time as you won’t be invited back to speak!

Be authentic! Be who you are and be known for what it is that you stand.

Using this guidance, you can become a professional speaker and with that comes personal growth, respect and being known as an expert in your field.

One of my aims is certainly to get more women into the Boardroom and as a speaker coach, if you need any help along the way, then do get in touch.

Good luck!

The author is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international Stress Management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.

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