This week I had the opportunity to attend a Women in Technology event on personal branding and career development for women.

Outspoken Women taught us the different aspects of branding, including communication, the role and use of body language, the importance of breathing properly while using your voice, and how to handle “manels”.

I was particularly impressed by the experience that the Outspoken Women brought to the event, and it was refreshing to have the speakers to really reflect on their own experiences and what they teach their clients when it comes to communication and presenting.

I’ll share some of the insights here, with knowing that this is merely a tip of the iceberg what really happens in their seminars… (check for their events here


Body language and your voice  

I’ve always known that body language is a massive part of communication but haven’t really reflected always how true that is.

The examples about the different kinds of postures and gestures during presentations made many of us giggle as the presenters discussed the do’s and don’ts on the stage.

For example, one needs to consider always the context: small gestures are good for e.g. tv but big gestures are great for presentations on the big stage.

Sounds simple yes but how many of us actually go through our presentation beforehand and actually pay attention and map which gestures we use in which parts of the speech/presentation?

I find myself definitely often crossing my arms when discussing, and especially if am nervous, I often speak faster.

We discussed range of techniques how to sooth your nerves, but also how to relax our voice, and the important part that using a pause does for our audience in giving them time to think what has been said.

Body language does really deserve its own category as much of our visual and emotional processing is unconscious and particular poses can communicate fear (our own) to the audience.

This can be hugely disengaging especially if we are trying to get an important message out and influence people.


The concept of ROAR

ROAR is what can enable women to become more recognised but also confident at the workplace.

We often feel that especially when it comes to promotions, we are at a disadvantage and don’t even necessarily know how to ask for a raise or that we even deserve one.

And in cases where we definitely think we deserve one, many of us are not sure how to approach that discussion.

Interestingly for men, the default position is that they are going to get the raise whereas it is not so for many women.

The concept of ROAR therefore combines different thought leads that can be helpful when starting to prepare to have such a conversation:

Recognise. Recognise the problem or the opportunity that you can point out to your team and your director.

Organise. If thinking about a promotion, get your facts right (what have you achieved) and gather your intelligence on what that promotion means. Also, address their “no” concern: identify potential reasons why they would say no and address that in the discussion. Think about also other options: what about asking for investments in your super or flexible work hours or opportunities for professional development?

Act. Show your impact and results. Keep a track of your achievements and make a list of achievements that clearly demonstrate your impact and the results that you have achieved.

Reach out. Build allies at the workplace and rehearse the discussion you are going to have about the issue. Ask other women how they have handled similar situations. Show how your option is actually of mutual benefit: how does this raise help you but also the company?

It can be hard to speak ourselves up and sing our own praises, but this is increasingly what we need to learn to do.

Yet, engaging in such talk (or choosing not to) is also about what we believe about ourselves.


How to handle “manels”

There has been quite a lot of buzz in the media about “manels”, which are male-only panels.

Often adding a woman is done at the last minute in a state of panic as the organisers realise the mistake and need to bring in more diversity.

There were questions about being a “token woman” on a panel that is otherwise all male, and how we can make ourselves heard in the discussion.

The key thing for me and a mantra that is very useful is to think “I deserve to be here” and trust your own expertise.

Another good thing to do before panels is to google the other participants and see what their expertise is in and what they have published or commented online to get an idea where you can contribute the best.

But also be prepared.

When you show up to a panel, make a list of key points that you want to focus on and get through to the audience in the conversation.

As one of the women noted, “communication is about solving a problem or creating an opportunity for your audience”.

Think carefully which ones your audience needs and appreciates and make sure you have a clear set of issues for the discussion.


Bios and headshots

The importance of knowing your story was also talked about in terms of branding yourself and your expertise.

The question “why now, why you” is crucial: what makes you different from the others and why is your expertise or idea needed now.

Having a consistent online presence is important, with for example in social media: post about those issues that fit within your brand and where your expertise is.

Very good advice on bios: prepare bios that are consistent with your brand and have 3 different ones ready to go (one sentence, one paragraph, one page) that you can post and share where the right length is needed.

I would add that often conferences, seminars and panels require a bio and always writing a new one takes a lot of time but also reduces consistency in your brand (as they are each bound to be quite different).

Headshots are also important in today’s world: get good ones done professionally and think about also the posture that you want to use and what message that can send.

I would however disagree with the discussion on using different photos across online mediums because one of the main key principles with branding is consistency.

So I would suggest people stick with one or two different headshots that are still fairly similar to create consistency across their Twitter, LinkedIn, and other profiles especially if you are trying to establish your expertise in a “crowded” area and it’s important that people remember your face and brand.

I for example use only one headshot across all my professional channels that was taken by a professional photographer.

Although much of the information that was discussed in the seminar is widely available online, nothing beats the real thing: hearing insights from three incredible women who are funny, have such depth of experience and yet are incredibly humble.

That is the kind of leadership we need to see, and also how we as women can support each other in creating greater, stronger and louder voices for us at the workplace.

So, hear us roar.