One of my clients is up for a promotion, and we’ve been practicing the presentation she needs to give as part of that process. Recently she told me, “I practiced with a colleague the other day, and he told me that I look really serious. Do I need to smile more?”


This is such a loaded topic, primarily, but not only, because women hear this advice so much more than men do. 

I’ll tell you what I told her. “I think it sets a good tone when you find a way to be warm in the first 15-20 seconds of your presentation. That can be a smile, but it doesn’t have to be. There are moments in your presentation when you’re discussing something that you’re passionate about, and it lights you up. In those moments we see another side of you. But the more serious side of you is also important, so ideally a combination of these would be good.

Ultimately, I worry that we never see you smile because you’re not relaxed enough to let down your guard and let us in. If that’s the case, let’s work on how you can feel confident and authentic in your presentation so that we can see more of who you really are.”

To echo the posts from earlier this week, the suggestion “smile more” is a shallow solution that’s likely to misfire. Instead, let’s think about how we want to come across, identify any gaps, and work towards an answer that might, but may not, include smiling.

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