Thursday, September 16, 2010

Female Business Speakers - Does Gender Make A Difference?

When booking a Keynote/ Motivational Speaker for your corporate event, or for any other type of event for that matter, does gender really make a difference to your audiences experience and the success of your event? This article discusses the pros vs the cons of choosing to hire one gender over the other.

When I used to work in the Technology Transfer sector, I would have enjoyed seeing a female speaker, I don't ever recall hearing one! They were either techno nerds dishing out veritable tombs of work, which were nearly as impossible to absorb as they were to listen to, or testosterone oozing heroes, banging on about how wonderful they were and how we should all be pushing the envelope by attempting challenging feats. Blissfully ignoring the fact that the only reason a lot of these motivational speakers have successful speaking careers is due to the fact that their amazing feat went hideously wrong in the first place and (the achievement which resulted in managing adversity and chopping off their own hand/ living without food and water for three weeks//losing all their fingers and toes to frost bite) probably wouldn't have happened had they planned a little better in the first place. I don't know about you, but trying to manage the house, kids, career and squeeze in a single handed sail across the Atlantic before my next appraisal, just doesn't seem feasible. Having endured 15 hours of second stage labour to deliver a 10.5lb baby without the benefit of pain relief, I would have gladly gnawed my own hand off to have avoided the forceps delivery. Hence you can see why women in the audience are not impressed by these types of speakers. Plus they're usually distracted from the point of the presentation by wondering what sort of woman puts up with a partner who does things like this when he could have stayed home that weekend and put up the shelves he'd been promising to fix for months!

Women make up nearly 50% of the workforce now, so always choosing the same sort of keynote speaker for your event, may not be the most appropriate option, nor the most benefit to your business.

Firstly you need to consider the culture of your audience. If they're quite macho, then booking a 'right on bra burner' or a 'wishy washy do-gooder' is not going to get the best audience connection. There are plenty of ballsy female business speakers, with experience of both male dominated and mixed sex business environments that will hit the spot with both male and female audience members, and who can make their point without having won an Olympic medal, fallen down a crevasse or recovered from a life threatening illness.

Then you need to consider the point of your event; some organisations like to have a particular emphasis like networking, building relationships, or sales. There are some gender areas where a male speaker has no appreciation of what it's like for women in those circumstances and males speakers can even give out advice that can lead to difficult or dangerous situations for women. For example, the advice a top male networking speaker gives can work superbly for men networking with men. However the combination of his approach and the male tendency to view signs of friendliness as signs of sexual availability, make it very difficult for women to pull off the same approach without giving the impression that they are 'interested' in the men they are engaging. There are also gender specific areas which a male speaker in this area will have little empathy for, i.e. how to ditch/build a relationship with another business networker who is intent on hitting on you. Another example of gender difference/perspective is male speakers who talk on the subject of sales; they fail to give the woman's perspective e.g. women aren't as direct as men, we often expect people to be able to guess what we actually want or mean, also women are more intuitive and critical of the people they're dealing with. There are things that will put a women off a salesman, that wouldn't generally occur in a male decision making process. For a woman business speaker to highlight these points would be fine, but coming from a male speaker, unless he's fantastically tactful, or there's an r in the month, he'll only succeed in offending or alienating the female sector of the audience.

So, does the choice of gender of your speaker make a more successful event?

In conclusion, getting a cultural match between your organisation and approach of your speaker should be your first priority, the gender is irrelevant there. Secondly getting an informed perspective from your speaker which relates to both sexes in the audience is essential. Therefore picking a business / conference/ motivational speaker that can see both sides of the coin and how advice can be applied effectively, usefully and above all safely, for both sexes is a must. Finally if you always book the same sex speaker, then a change of gender is as good as a rest. Women speakers are not necessarily a better choice than a male speaker, but we're certainly as accomplished as the men and can add dimensions to your event and nuggets for your audience, that some male speakers are totally unaware of. As an added bonus, men are physiologically attracted (i.e. they are attracted to colour and shape) therefore you have the extra benefit of a female speaker being of more physical interest to the men in the audience than a male speaker!

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