Having worked in the PR industry for over 20 years, I’ve become accustomed to walking into a high stakes meeting, looking around and finding that I’m the only female in the room, especially during higher executive business meetings.
I’ve found that women sometimes do one of two things when they’re in this situation. They might try to emulate the men in the room in order to fit in, or they may use their sexuality and femininity to draw the men’s attention towards them.
I’ve learned that neither of these strategies are the right way to go. Instead, women should follow these tips to better handle the situation.
Sometimes women can go into a meeting with all guns blazing in an attempt to convince the men in the room they’re the real deal. It’s especially common among extroverted women, and while it can give the impression of confidence, I’ve found when you go into a meeting you should listen first. Doing so allows you to learn more about the people you are meeting with, and how you should go about communicating with the other people in the room.
Pick up on cues
When you’re presenting, it’s important to read the body language of the people in the room. Take note if they’re distracted by something, such as their laptop or phone. Also, focus on how they’re seated, whether it’s with their arms crossed, sitting forward or leaning back in their chair. These visual cues tell you something about the person. It can determine if they’re really listening to what you have to say and whether they’re taking you seriously.
Adapt your communication style
While you should always be yourself, it’s important to adapt your communication style when you’re in a high-profile client meeting. Try to take notice of the language they use, and find commonalities between their life and yours and go from there.
Remember you’re in that meeting for a reason. You have probably worked twice as hard as every male in the room, and you have earned your place. Be confident about what you have to say, and don’t be afraid of voicing your opinion.
Being the only woman in a top-level meeting can seem daunting at first, but remember that you have a right to be there. By following these tips, you’re bound to make an impression on everyone else in the room, male or female.