Faced with a large roomful of people of predominantly one sex or the other, it’s amazing how many speakers address themselves only to the majority. This is a big mistake.
In my public speaking ebook, I’ve mentioned my sister’s experience of training for ordination at a college where some of the lecturers chose to ignore the fact that women as well as men were now becoming vicars. The women in the class felt unimportant and most of their male colleagues uncomfortable – which is hardly conducive to learning.
As one of two or three female members of my local magic society, I am sick and tired of being collectively addressed as “gentlemen”.
Conversely, at a talk about depression, I was disappointed in the female speaker, who talked as if the three men in her audience of thirty or so didn’t exist – for example, exorting sufferers to seek “support from girlfriends”, which has a somewhat different connotation to a man.
This sort of behaviour is rude to the minority and it can also be distracting to the majority. As public speakers, we should be speaking to everyone who has come to listen to us, including and valuing every member of the audience.