Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur the collaborators are his.
Some say it’s intimidating to be the only woman in the room, and as someone who’s been the only woman in the room on many occasions, I can empathize. However, I want you to remember one thing the next time you’re the only woman in the room – the only reason you’re in that room is because you’ve earned the right to be there. Your skill, experience, expertise, reputation or insured ideas that invite.
That said, I know that human emotion, self-doubt, and fear of the unknown are very real. I also appreciate you being able to enter a room completely confident in yourself and suddenly let yourself be shaken by someone else’s words or actions. So how do you manage the inherent concerns about your ability to be heard and respected as the only woman in the room? How do you show others that you deserve to be there and that you deserve their respect, investment, or support?
In my experience, if you “practice and prepare” before each meeting, presentation, or presentation, it will be easy (or at least easier) to communicate with confidence.
Related: 10 rules for success as a woman
Learn from mistakes
At the beginning of my career, I had less confidence in speaking at meetings for fear that my ideas or thoughts would be perceived as irrelevant or immature. I wouldn’t contribute unless I really knew my thought would be well received. But after working closely with men for a while, I realized that they often said the first thing that came to their minds, even if the idea wasn’t entirely “perfect” or not entirely thought out. I also realized that if his thinking was disorganized, the group would quickly forget about it. Remarkably, the men did not sit down and rolled over. They moved on immediately, usually sharing more ideas.
The more I observed his behavior and attitudes, the more comfortable I felt following the same. Gradually, I would contribute more, and sometimes my ideas were overthrown right away. At first, I felt embarrassed, and I would certainly pay too much attention to the “failure”. But the more I put myself in it, the more comfortable and confident I felt talking about what I was thinking, which in turn increased the confidence my co-workers had in me. They saw me as a collaborator and proactively asked me for my comments. Suddenly, it became clear that trust is built and respect is earned when you show that you have knowledge about a topic and that you are authentic in your approach.
You also need to focus on the other person, whether it’s a colleague, a client, a partner, or another business contact. There is a simple saying, “No one likes to feel that they are being sold.” This is something that has always stuck with me, as it applies whether you are an entrepreneur, a sales professional from a larger company, or just trying to get the other person to stick to your idea.
When I present our product portfolio to a customer, I talk in terms of their challenges and how the solution I present was built in direct response to the challenges we have seen having customers like them. Yes, I talk about why we have been successful in selling this solution to others. But I am not proud of the fact that we are leaders in the company and that we serve the largest customers in the world. People don’t care how big you think you are. They are interested in how you can help them, whether they are trying to gain a competitive advantage for their small business or the Fortune 500 business. Once you have shown that you know your stuff and care about helping them, they will give you the opportunity to prove it.
Related: 10 things every woman should remember for maximum personal and professional success
Do what I tell you, and what you say you will do
You can practice and prepare throughout the day for a presentation, presentation, or meeting, but if you don’t follow what you say you can or will do, then those words you’ve practiced lose value. Actions always speak louder than words, or at least validate that your word can be taken. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep. And if you come up with something out of the ordinary, then they have to re-think their position. It’s okay to be just the “brain” behind the plane and not the one directing the ship to its final destination.
Since I haven’t always been the most vocal person in the room, I’ve had to follow my own advice often (which is why I know it’s good advice). I may be sitting quietly during meeting after meeting, feeling like a fly on the wall. But once I understand the task I have and how I can contribute, I leave this room and make a lot of noise with my results. I make things happen. So if you want to know how she “looks” like the only woman in the room or make others buy what you sell, show them that you are capable of being the person they need you to be: the person who offer what they want or what you have convinced them they need.
Build the necessary connections to be invited to the room
I’ve heard people say that all entrepreneurship is “social entrepreneurship,” which makes sense, given that you have to connect with people to be successful. But if it’s not in your nature to be too social, or you’re just a more reserved person like me, you may find the courage to have allies, mentors, and friends like me. I don’t set out to find them, but when I connect with someone who makes me feel comfortable, safe, or secure, I make an effort to build a relationship. I also appreciate when people challenge me. In fact, many of the ways I have made connections throughout my career is by taking on extensive projects or new jobs within the company, either proactively or because an ally or friend presented me with the opportunity. .
I have held six different roles during my 15 years at Zebra, from product management to product marketing to vertical marketing and now regional product management. With each move, I met new people, worked for new executives, and as a result, made allies, friends, and a pseudo mentor. (We never made it official, but I always thought of him as a mentor). Having allies from other departments always facilitated each new role and made me more valuable to the new group, because I had connections within other departments.
Now, if you’re venturing on your own as an entrepreneur and you don’t yet have a solid business network, you may not see the parallels between my experience and yours. You don’t have any set of “integrated” resources to take advantage of. Or you?
What about friends, family, and neighbors? And your friends, family and neighbors? Just because you don’t have a formal business relationship with them today doesn’t mean they can’t support your business. Plus, they already know you, so it will be easier to gain their trust in this context if you don’t already have it. You also have a variety of community resources at your disposal, including SCORE, an organization that can help you find a volunteer mentor (or 10).
So my advice is to find allies where you can and find ways to work with more people. Don’t make allies just by going to a networking lunch. You make allies by working with others and showing them that you’re not just a well-polished conversation.
Encourage yourself by knowing that action speaks louder than words and gender. Being the only woman in the room is a privilege, and we should treat it as such if we are lucky enough to have the honor. So have the courage to speak up when you have something to contribute to the discussion and don’t be afraid to sit, listen and learn. This can be just as powerful when you try to gain the trust of others and show that you can be a powerful business partner, advisor, or ally. Others will appreciate that you have truly listened to them and understood what they want and need, and will be grateful when you have delivered exactly what they have asked for as a result.
Related: The Secrets of Leadership Presence for All Women Leaders