I recently took my son and his friends – a dozen 12-year-old boys – to see “Captain Marvel.” I was really thankful to sit several rows behind them so that the other movie-goers did not readily associate me with them. What I did not know going into the movie was that Captain Marvel is a woman. I assumed, like in most action films, the central character would be a hero, not a heroine. I had in fact just read an article about Reese Witherspoon’s efforts to build a pipeline for more diverse leading roles in film and TV and was pleased to see an example of Hollywood placing women front and center. It also made me wonder if the gender of the main character would be a factor in the boys’ reviews of the movie.
In the past few years, I’ve had several opportunities to present on Commanding Confidence to women, and in every group, I always am asked the same question: “When will we reach gender equality?” I don’t have the answer to that. It is an enormous question with global implications and decades of work ahead.
What motivates me to speak about this topic? I set out to apply my experience as a speaker coach and media trainer to help women feel stronger in difficult corporate settings. These are often business environments where they are the only woman in the room – from real estate to tech to banking. What I have experienced surprised me because it goes way beyond coaching by me. These sessions have also created forums for women to speak with one another, share stories, commiserate and leave each other stronger. Those conversations are actually some of the best confidence builders. There is a superpower in women having time together to coach each other along the way.
Here are three of my tried-and-true tips for presenting with Captain Marvel-like confidence:
- Body – Strike a Wonder Woman pose before a meeting for a surge of confidence-building testosterone. According to research by Amy Cuddy, an expansive body position can actually boost your confidence. Sit forward and be at the table. One study showed women are interrupted less often when they sit forward at the table.
- Voice – Record your voice to check for distracting vocal tics such as “uptalk” (upward inflections that make you sound uncertain) and “vocal fry” (groggy vocal patterns that make you sound disengaged). Work toward Perfect P’s – pitch, pace, pauses and pronunciation. Stop being overly apologetic. Somehow our propensity to please and not offend has translated into high-frequency “I’m sorry.” Don’t be sorry for speaking up!
- Eyes – Use consistent eye contact with everyone in the room for a confidence booster. It may seem counterintuitive because when we are nervous we tend to look away; however, wandering eyes increase nerves and appear less commanding.
By the way, the boys loved the film. And as far as I could tell, they had no impression one way or another about the main character being a woman. I don’t even think her gender registered. In the best kind of way.