Recently we arrived at the office of a client to prepare her for an upcoming speech at a national sales convention. She is a regular client who has worked with us on many presentations over the last three years. We’ve developed a very good working relationship, and we were confident about how the session would go — we’d go through the deck, tweak the language and slides, then polish her presentation. This is the usual flow for our voice and presentation coaching.
But when we arrived our client was in an emotional turmoil because she found out that she may have been passed over for a promotion to VP. What we thought would be a good rehearsal turned out to be both an emotional roller coaster to navigate and a strategy session for making her case. First step, allowing her to vent and get her emotions out of the way. Then, we used a set of visual imagination techniques to get her clear on what she really wanted amidst the tight deadlines and the emotional stress.
From there, we engaged in a strategy session to help her prepare for her meeting that hour (!) with the human resources representative to discuss her job status We wanted her to understand that the HR person, while friendly with her, was not her confidante or best advocate. That meant: listen, stay calm, and let it be known that you are the best candidate for the VP position.
We left her that day knowing that she felt less hurt and more confident, which gave her courage and fortitude to face this difficult interaction. We had no idea what the outcome would be but we knew we’d coached her through her moment of crisis to a place where she was able to own her accomplishments and ask confidently for the promotion she’d worked long and hard to achieve.
The next week we heard from our client that she’d met with the CEO and team and, as she expressed it, “got her stripes.” She thanked us for our real-time “multifaceted assistance” towards getting her VP promotion. As coaches we have to be ready for anything, but it’s key to build a strong foundation with clients so that when the unexpected occurs we have the tools and rapport to have an impact no matter what circumstances we walk into.
Voice & Presentation Coach Marilyn Pittman and Executive Producer Marianne Wilman were the coaches at this session
Recently we spent two days training members of a high-profile online fashion media team. The mission was to polish the skills of a group of 11 team members responsible for producing most of the content. The two-day training included on-camera work and red carpet interviewing, voice-over tracking for video packages, and representing the brand in media appearances.
We started with voice work. Many in the group, especially the younger women, needed better chops —breathing, projection, diction, emphasis, rhythm. We directed the team through copy, identifying individual weaknesses and fixing them. One person needed help with breathing and diction, another with pacing, another with what words to emphasize. Working in the same room allowed everybody to learn from each other.
The group was mixed in experience. Those with little experience tended to be tight, so we used an exercise that required them to read the copy as if they were drunk. The exercise is designed to help them stop trying to perform perfectly and loosen up, be playful. You can’t find the right value for the words unless you explore. It’s an acting technique that really works for voice-over because the take right after the silly drunk one is usually so much more authentic and conversational.
We also used an opposite exercise of softly whispering for someone who needed to not project. This enabled her to soften the volume and add more breath so the voice quality became warmer, lower, more intimate, and less nasal.
Next we explored on-camera interviewing. Many of the editors regularly host interviews with well known fashion designers and experts. In reviewing the video content there was a tendency to speak quickly, to swallow words, to giggle or show inexperience through their body language. We focused here on nerves, prep, facial expression and voice projection. You’re on camera so you need to learn facial expressions, such as getting a feel for how much is too much and whether your eyebrows are out of control? As we trained the team on interviewing techniques they became more relaxed and confident, more at ease with their guest and more focused on asking short, open-ended questions.
There are specific challenges to talking to stars on the red carpet on camera. The environment is loud but you can’t just yell. How do you relax before it all begins? Prep is essential to pulling off a live event with confidence — know your subjects and have scripted short questions that elicit good responses.
We also discovered hidden talents and creativity in several people. One gal really shined when she talked about the company. Another stood out as having a gift as a trend spotter and an ability to communicate her process. We were able to address all levels at once, polishing up the pros, while giving the junior people the skill sets they need to move forward.
Plus we had a blast. We jammed creatively, worked hard on the techniques and identified all kinds of strengths and weaknesses. And, we left them with recordings of their training that will serve them well as their careers progress.
Voice & presentation coach Marilyn Pittman & executive producer Marianne Wilman were the Business Presence coaches at this training.