The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

I attend a lot of business events in Tokyo and probably the vast majority of audiences that I see here have a 70/30 male female ratio. I have noticed a few commonalities amongst the successful women presenters in this male-dominated environment. What is working well for businesswomen when speaking in public?

Confidence is the overwhelming positive first impression. This is communicated in a number of ways. The voice is strong and clear. Even relatively soft voices can become powerful enough, through using the microphone technology available today, so there is no excuse for letting a weak voice derail the presentation.

Funnily enough, many macho male businessmen seem clueless about how to use microphones. You see them actually wave off the offer of the microphone, because they have a fear or distaste of it.

If your voice is strong and the venue not so cavernous, then that may be okay. If not, or if you have any concerns, spend some time with the microphone to understand how to use it properly, before the audience arrives.

Eye contact is another useful tool. Looking at the audience allows us to connect with them. This might sound obvious, but sometimes looking at the many faces in the crowd may suddenly trigger nervousness.

The successful women I have seen in action pick out members of the audience, and speak directly to them. And they do this throughout the talk. Thus the speech goes from being a one-to-many, to being a one-to-one address. It is powerful because we feel they are personally connecting with us.

Looking at our laptop screens, the big screens behind us, or our notes, takes our eyes off the audience. We need to see them to ascertain whether they are buying what we are selling or not.

Thus, don’t let some helpful venue staffer turn off the lights, so the room becomes darker. We want the audience to see us and we want to see them. If someone turns the lights off, stop presenting and politely request they turn them back on.

The successful presenters want to use all of their body language to assist their communication, so they are not tied to the podium. Powerful female presenters, meanwhile, don’t pace across the stage, back and forth, showing possible nervousness.

They usually stand to the left of the screen, so that the audience will look at their face and listen to their voice, and then read the screen left to right. In this way, they dominate the screen, rather than the other way around.

Persuasive women demonstrate their confidence by never—ever—apologizing for their state of health, degree of nervousness, lack of preparation, or anything else. I doubt very many men care about the speaker’s health status or any other excuses.

The successful women have worked this out, and they keep their health concerns private. They want to be seen as true professionals.

If they are ever feeling anxious, they make sure not to show it. Consequently, they are taken at face value by the men in the audience and get full credit for being a business expert in their area of expertise.

I was at a presentation recently by a visiting speaker. Everything was going fine, until about five minutes had passed. She started to lose it, suddenly announced she was losing it, and that she needed a deep breath.

After a couple of repeats of this routine, she finally pulled herself together. The interesting thing is, if she had not told us, we probably would never have known she was so nervous. Even if you are having a meltdown, keep it to yourself and keep going.

There are plenty of professional, competent female speakers in Japan, so please take note of what is working for them, and join their ranks.