Great question, Alice--it underscores the subtle signals, many silent, that speakers can send to their audiences, whether it's colleagues around a table or listeners in a lecture hall. And in truth, there's nothing to stop a woman from rolling up her sleeves or taking off her jacket, right? But if you're uncomfortable doing either, try these options:
- Take command of the space: If everyone's seated, stand. If you're behind a lectern, walk out to the front of the audience. If there's a U-shaped table format, walk into the space inside the "U." Move in a relaxed way; a good look if you're standing is to hold your arms with elbows bent, hands lightly clasped, as here. If you're seated at a table, put both arms stretched out in front of you and lean forward.
- Take charge with your words: "Let's get started," or "let's get to work" couldn't be clearer. But make it an invitation to join you--"I know everyone here has good ideas, so let's get started," or "I'm excited to be with you at such a critical time. Let's not waste a moment getting started."
- Do either before you sit down. If it's your meeting--or you want it to be--try either of the above strategies as you enter the room or shortly after, but before you're seated.