It’s foggy and cool around my home in the San Francisco Bay Area. That means it’s August and Labor Day is just around the corner.
Which has got me to thinking about what’s next. Where will I choose to put my energy? What’s important now? How will this inform my primary focus for the remainder of 2017? There are many options and realistically only so much time and energy.
How about you? How is the last stretch of 2017 sitting with you? Is there work to complete, work to generate, or are you already looking forward and planning for 2018?
Here are some DIY coaching questions to help you consider what’s next for you in 2017:
Clarity This is my favorite place to start, with my clients and for myself:
What’s top of mind for you right now?
What options are you considering?
What’s not yet clear?
What’s getting in the way of seeing clearly?
What, if anything, are you avoiding?
Work-Life Integration This is a good place to turn next next, looking at work, home/family, community, personal well-being and health:
What needs your attention most?
What causes your stress levels to rise?
What can you dial up, or dial down, in terms of your health and well-being?
What do you need to say ‘no’ to, at least for now?
How can you be more supported as you move forward?
Presence Here, we’re looking at authority, emotional resilience, confidence, sincerity, and also at external factors like body language, tone of voice and how you’re dressed.
How are you showing up now in your work?
What changes do you want to make?
Who are the professionals that will help you in your transition?
What do you need to start doing, or stop doing, to keep you on track?
How will you handle the predictable distractions and bumps in the road?
Action Finally, we’re focused on moving forward:
What’s a useful next step?
What’s an even smaller next step, towards that next step?
What will be the signs that you are moving forward?
How can you create good habits?
What will help you persevere and keep up your momentum when the challenges hit?’
How will you celebrate your success?
Here’s how I walked myself through this exercise today:
Clarity–I’m sitting with competing priorities. But, as I sink into this question I am being pulled in one direction more than the other.
Work-Life Integration–I need more energy to propel me through to the end of 2017. I know what works for me in terms of exercise, rest and intake. It’s time to put this front and center to create a stronger foundation.
Presence–I will pay more attention to how I can roll with the punches when things get stressful.
Action–I need to create structure, a specific project outline and then a plan. Executing is less challenging for me once I’m well set up.
If you’re ready to dig into the rest of your calendar year drop me a line! There are many ways for the team at Business Presence, LLC to partner with you to ensure you end the year fulfilled– from career, business and leadership coaching, to media training, image consulting and headshots. Contact us today for a complimentary Discovery session!
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
Between us (Marianne andMarilyn), we’ve spent decades successfully training executives to be ready for media opportunities. The hardest part of doing this work with an executive is getting their time, focus and buy-in. Once we have those three elements in place, we can begin work on five key areas for development:
Understand the medium: There are different techniques to master for different environments–broadcast TV and radio, online video and podcasts and print media–so be clear about what you’re preparing for. For example, if you’re an executive appearing on TV to discuss quarterly earnings results, knowing the studio background and the framing of the shot will inform yourappearance and other non-verbal communications. If you’re in a podcast or radio studio, you’ll want to learn the dos and don’ts with microphones.
Know your audience: While you likely speak to many different audiences as an executive, be clear about the needs and expectations of your specific audience. This will help you focus on both your messaging and delivery. For example, if you’re a CEO delivering the quarterly results your audience will expect you to present your financials with personality, enthusiasm and vision. However, if you’re a CFO your audience expects something different–namely numbers, data and trends, presented in a way that generates trust and confidence. Developing your persona with your audience in mind is key.
Master your narratives: Company narratives, product narratives and your personal narrative are all vital for any media appearance. Being clear about your content, what you’re looking to communicate, your positioning and guidelines will help you stay on track during an interview. This work should be done well in advance of any media appearance and you’ll likely have a team of people from various departments helping to develop your content and create the soundbites that will resonate.
Build range in your vocal techniques: Once you’ve mastered your content you’ll need to work on your delivery. You want to be engaging and interesting to listen to. This requires an understanding of vocal dynamics, and that you to hear yourself the way others hear you. Watching and listening to ourselves is generally an uncomfortable experience, but we’ve found it a useful technique in building self-awareness and correcting bad habits.
Make time to practice: Being prepared to answer whatever question comes up requires hours of practice. If you’re not well rehearsed you’re likely to be guilty of one or more of the following:
a) talking your way into your answers b) ‘motoring’–talking without taking pauses
c) not knowing when to stop talking
d) not having strong, concise, soundbites at the ready
e) not sticking to your key messaging
Some of these mistakes could get you into trouble with an intrepid reporter or host, and others will result in your audience zoning out.
We coach media training one-on-one with senior executives, leveraging their existing talents and strengths to improve their communications skills. We also coach in small groups when appropriate. Typically the engagements are a half-day commitment–we understand that executives’ time is tight. Developing a more confident, self-aware and engaging version of yourself is valuable for all presentation and media opportunities.
Recently we worked with an internal PR team at a Fortune 500 technology company. They are a progressive technology organization that heavily invests in media training for their executives.
Business Presence, LLC was hired to assist with certifying executives as company spokespeople, bringing our expertise in both content and presentation. We recorded video of each interview for playback and review.
One of us took on the role of ‘reporter’, interviewing each executive for about twenty minutes with a set of prepared questions. The content covered both the broad company narrative along with communications around their particular areas of expertise. We also scattered in some trick, pass/fail questions to keep them on their toes, simulating an interview with an intrepid reporter. For example, executives are trained by the PR team to pivot away anything related to company financials unless they are on the finance team. Thankfully nobody went to PR jail!
Overall, we were most engaged by the executives who used plain speak versus jargon and who were relatable, passionate, and easy to follow. When a reporter is able to break through the predictable, linear narrative and get sound bites that connect at a human level, their stories are more engaging to their readers.
After the twenty minute interview we moved into the playback and review process. This is always the most uncomfortable part of the certification process for an executive. It’s not easy for any of us to watch ourselves on camera, and it’s even harder in front of a group of experts poised to give feedback. Many spoke very quickly and needed to take more time to disseminate and explain the content, especially when it was technical. Some of the most common issues were being repetitive or buying time at the start of an answer with “great question!” Or they persistently used uh’s and um’s. Adding more color and details via customer stories to illustrate points was another area of improvement. These are problems we can help them overcome. There were a plethora of small notes from the PR team about content, such as how to say something differently, better use of metaphor and when to cut an answer shorter.
Ultimately the executives will pass or fail based on the scores given by the internal PR lead/certifier. About 30 percent didn’t seem ready to speak with reporters. There’s room for them to grow: taking charge of the interview, being less scripted, nailing key messages and giving good soundbites. They can also work on using more range in their vocal dynamics.
Those who pass are in command of messaging and storytelling, and, thanks to our coaching, now have the confidence and experience to communicate with journalists on behalf of their company.
Being an effective company spokesperson requires mastery of both content and presentation, they’re inseparable, one without the other and you’re only half-way there.
We enjoy this kind of work. The content is typically stimulating and we get to bring our expertise around both content and form, and tap into our journalistic backgrounds.
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 worked with a client, Ronda, who was interested in an updated headshot. I’d met Ronda during professional coach training during which I’d personally coached her on re-awakening her creativity. She’d previously been an actress and a singer but has for many years been working very long hours in Learning and Development at a Fortune 500 company. It’s a job she’s great at, but she was ready to re-capture her inner creativity and project her more theatrical side back out into the world.
In the pre-shoot call with our photographer Stefanie Atkinson and hair & makeup pro Sarah E. Hyde we discussed the feel for the image. Ronda’s keywords for the shoot were “inviting”, “magnetic”, and “twinkle”.
Here’s Ronda, before and now:
So, what’s the real difference here? Ronda looks great in both the before and after images!
Sarah says that in the ‘Before’ image Ronda doesn’t look professional, “it looks more like she’s just had a cocktail with friends!” Ronda’s hair is flat, her lips are shiny. In the ‘Now’ image we’ve smoothed out her hair and gone with a modern looking blowout. In terms of makeup, Ronda looks clean, fresh and dewy. Sarah enhanced Ronda’s best feature, her eyes, framing and defining them but not overpowering them and she went with a matte lipstick. With her mouth closed Ronda is more serious, and she looks friendly, warm and approachable. “There’s more depth and self confidence in the new image,” Sarah says.
Stefanie notes that the lighting in the ‘Before’ image is flat and the image has been taken with a flash: “There’s glare on her lip, nose and face and there are bars behind her head. It’s not a professional image,” Stefanie says. “There’s dimensionality, depth and warmth in the ‘Now’ image. The eye goes directly to her, and it feels like she’s really looking at me.” The cleaner background, softer lighting and hair & makeup also accentuate Ronda’s beauty.
So, how did we do? “I feel like you captured the real me…it is so reflective of me, both inside and outside,” says Ronda.
It’s easy to lose oneself in the business world, so go further with your next image and re-capture the essence of you. For a headshot consultation with the Screen Presence team contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally, here’s another image from the shoot that Ronda (and her posse) just adore:
This post was created by Screen Presence president and executive coach Marianne Wilman.
Women don’t have the deeper resonance in their voices that men do, so they are often challenged to be heard and respected in the way they want or deserve. Understanding your vocal presence and how to control and use it to get your message across is vital to being an effective speaker.
Here are some tips for developing a more powerful and persuasive voice:
Learn to breathe from the diaphragm so you have some air in the sound. Exhaling more air through the vocal cords with the help of the diaphragmatic muscles will give your voice more depth, volume, and power.
Develop your ability to evaluate your voice by recording it (surreptitiously!) in presentations and then evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. Is it too high? Too nasal? Too fast or slow? Work on one of these each time you present.
Once you’ve found your best pitch and rhythm, learn how to get yourself back to that best vocal place each time before you speak. For many women this will involve finding a lower range than your usual speaking voice. There are many exercises that can help.
It’s easy to neglect how we sound, taking our voices as a given. But, spending the time to develop your voice and turning it into a more powerful attribute can be a valuable and underestimated asset in a woman’s career.
Screen Presence Voice Coach Marilyn Pittman provided the information for this post.