One of the gifts of being a guest speaker for a conference is observing the way men and women behave differently in this distinct social environment.
Attending a conference, people may be tense and apprehensive because they are out of their regular environment and thrust into a social situation that requires them to engage with people they don't normally interact with.
Some of the distinctions I have noticed:
Women are very relationship, conversation oriented. In unfamiliar surroundings, to build rapport we may compliment each others' appearance. I have seen women make instant connections by simply complimenting a piece of jewelry. The discussion may continue to evolve around children, family and work.
Men approach social interaction from a more fact, reason oriented approach. They are more likely to ask questions like Are you in the golf tournament tommorrow? Did you see the keynote guest speaker? What did you think? Men tend to state their opinions and banter about the event, the weather, etc.
From my experience, the biggest difference in the the genders interact at a conference is that men converse around the event and the environment and women converse over appearance and relationships. This is just to break the ice, and eventually the conversations evolve in all directions for both men and women.
Inspirational keynote speaker and author Deborah Tannen, Ph.D. says, "Men view conversation as a contest with a winner. Women view conversation as a game requiring each person to support the other's participation."
- As a guest speaker at a conference it helps to balance your interaction around facts and the environment with relationships.
- Good ice breaker events for men may be a golf game, or anything physical and/or competitive. For women, receptions and opportunities to interact may be more relevant.
- Mix the group up, so men and women interact more with one another
- Make sure your guest speakers roster has a good male/ female balance
These are not hard and fast rules or meant to suggest this is necessary for all events. For instance, where participants know each other well, breaking the ice may not a concern.
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when I am an inspirational speaker for a womens conference I really notice the dynamics of an all female audience.
What do you think? How do men and women behave differently in Unfamiliar social situations?