Where is the dividing line between passion that conveys gravitas and passion that results in a loss of credibility?
One night out of desperation, I said, "God, I surrender. Whatever you want me to do, I'll do. Just get me out of here."
Last month I had the good fortune to hear Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank speak at a networking event. Unlike typical celebrity events, this venue was intimate, allowing contact with Mr O’Leary and even a photo opp. After drinks and hors d’oeuvres, we gathered into a small theater-like room to hear him speak. His speaking approach surprised me and I found it refreshing. Instead of the usual PowerPoint, or main stage podium presentation, Mr O’Leary entered the room in an unassuming manner yet strongly communicated executive presence. After being introduced, he stood next to a leather chair, his only prop a wine glass in hand as he told his story.
He began by telling us about his mother’s influence on how he thinks about his investments today and took us on a journey from his early, hungry years, the “tough love” lessons from his mother, and how he is raising his children based on his own upbringing. He discussed the issue of how to stay grounded after acquiring riches, his decisions and relationships on Shark Tank, his current enterprises, and advice for today’s entrepreneurs. His decisions to do business with partners isn’t contingent on liking them and he was clear about separating personal feelings from business.
Politics was not part of the presentation until the last questioner asked for his opinion on the Presidential election which he answered directly. Ever the salesman, he ended with a call to action. He let the audience know that he owned a vineyard and we could buy his $60 red wine for $10 on QVC.
Mr. O’Leary didn’t miss a beat. He spoke fluently, conversationally, and matter-of-factly, as he wove sage advice through his stories. This was not a speech but a conversation. And the audience loved it! It was interesting how much of the presentation I retained because he made the message memorable.
What I learned was this: The best public speakers stay true to themselves. Kevin O’Leary has a quiet style but was no less captivating than a Tony Robbins. He told his personal story and made a connection with the audience. By sharing business successes and an inside view of SharkTank, he provided real value to an audience of entrepreneurs. He didn’t waffle when asked a political question. He put a stake in the ground. And of course, he told us how to get a discount on his wine. The audience was captivated. And that’s why he’s called Mr.Wonderful.
It doesn't matter whether it's a raise, a promotion, or a large capital expenditure. Public speaking pays. Are you losing money every time you speak? Do you know why? You can be dressed to the nines, but a Brooks Brothers suit won't help if your presentation doesn't match your million dollar look. I remember the first time I met Cathy (not her real name). Her manager, a Vice-President, called me in to coach her. Cathy was having difficulty getting promoted.
When I met Cathy, I was surprised. She could have been on the cover of Forbes magazine. Cathy exuded executive presence visually. The challenge was when she presented her ideas to senior management, she immediately lost credibility. By not presenting a strong recommendation, and using uptalk and wimpy words, Cathy's value was diminished. As a result of my coaching, she learned to speak powerfully and was promoted to VP. Now that's a return on investment.
Another client of mine was a CEO of a multi national healthcare company. His challenge was to convince management to invest in a $300 million facility in Europe. It would take 5 years from beginning construction to licensed facility. Clinical trials for a vaccine were 3 years away. This was an investment with high risk. He didn't even know if the vaccine would work. The CEO's presentation had to be clear, understandable, and effective in persuading management that the risk was worth it. The CEO got the funding. The facility was built. The product sold over $1 billion per year.
He said, “Without that presentation and convincing the executive committee to invest, we wouldn’t have the product.” That's MAJOR ROI!
Speaking leads to influence and influence leads to success. It's about how you articulate your value. How much money is left on the table due to a weak presentation? A family member worked for a doctor's office handling insurance claims. She wanted a raise but wasn't having success. She realized the claims were being denied because they contained the wrong codes.
So she diligently nudged the doctors to apply the correct codes and helped them to do just that. The result was that fewer claims were being rejected. I howled, "You mean to tell me they are collecting on more claims because of you? You're directly impacting their bottom line! You're increasing their cash flow! Tell them that." She did, and she got her raise. Again, there is an ROI from effective presentations.
It doesn't matter whether you seek a raise, a promotion, or approval on a large capital expenditure: public speaking pays. The payoffs for you, the speaker, are increasing sales, earning a raise, getting a promotion, receiving investor capital, and more. And when you have excellent presentation skills you may even be paid to speak. Ka Ching Ka Ching.
Are you in the middle of a merger? Are you launching a new product? Do you have to give a presentation to your sales force? You won't have a second chance. When your presentation is make or break, contact DiResta Communications, Inc.
Love Story was a popular move in 1970. It starred Ryan O'Neill and Ali McGraw. In one scene they have a fight and go their separate ways. O'Neill finds McGraw after he cools off and apologizes for the fight. She stops him and says through her tears, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." I don't know if most people in conflict would agree with that. What people may agree with is the overuse of the word "Sorry" in the workplace. This is especially prevalent among women. When I speak to organizations about executive presence and confidence, I advise women to avoid weak speak or what I call wimpy words. Certain modifiers such as "only," or "just" weaken conviction. That is, the speaker negates everything that follows the words "only" or "just". For example, "This is just an idea," is less powerful than saying "This is an idea."
Related to these two modifiers is the word "sorry". To use the word "sorry" in emails and spoken language is to the detriment of women. An apologetic communication style sabotages leadership and authority. Leaders are perceived as decisive and willing to take a risk. Saying "sorry' too frequently is a way to avoid taking a stand and not be taken seriously.
The word "sorry" is also used as a substitute for "excuse me". Instead of asking the speaker to clarify or repeat, some women will say "Sorry?" rather than use the more effective phrase, "Excuse me?".
There's an app for that
How can women rid this undermining word from their vocabulary? The first step is awareness. Technology to the rescue! Now there is an app that identifies wimpy words when they are used in emails.
The Just Not Sorry extension for Chrome is downloadable at the Chrome app store. The app identifies wimpy words in Gmail by underlining them in red and providing explanations of how the word weakens the message in the email. Whether the reason for using wimpy words is a subconscious lack of confidence or simply a bad habit, this tool can create conscious awareness for women so that they can become more successful leaders and communicators.
After all, success means never having to say you're sorry.
Is public speaking the key to winning an election? At the beginning of the debate 40% of the people didn't know Carly Fiorina. According to the google heat map, 82% googled her after her public speaking success. Whether you like her or not, clearly, she gave a stellar performance. She was a stand out among her peers, exuding executive presence and gravitas. What does that mean? If you define gravitas as decisiveness, poise under pressure, assertiveness, and confidence, Carly had it in spades.
Her presentation was clear, focused, and direct. Her tone was confident and not overly emotional. When questioned, she didn't miss a beat. Carly's speech was devoid of hesitations and fillers yet she did not sound canned. Her responses were well thought out and when pressed, she responded with explanations, not defensiveness. Contrasted to Donald Trump, who responded with anger, Carly appeared in control and presidential. Granted, she was not questioned by Megyn Kelly. But the mark of a true leader is to deflect hostile questions and bridge to the message points. Based on her performance in the first debate, there's a good chance she'd be able to handle tougher questioning. As a result of her presentation, she increased her name recognition.
Public speaking is the new competitive advantage. What sets you apart from the competition is your presentation. This was evident when watching some of the other candidates. Although they may have had greater name recognition and a resume of accomplishments, a few candidates came across as flat or nervous. Others were confrontational. Can public speaking be the key to winning an election? Probably not when politics are at play. But the best leaders are great communicators. In politics and in business, excellent presentation skills will make you memorable, extend your brand, and build confidence in your leadership.
What is the equal opportunity communication that favors no gender? In every presentation skills seminar and in each initial executive speech coaching session, I spend time demonstrating the business handshake. Why discuss something so basic that we do every day? Because business can be lost due to an ineffective handshake. Just like two dogs sniffing each other, a handshake is the first point of contact. And many people don't realize the handshake is a presentation. To learn how to shake hands and use gestures for maximum impact, watch this TEDx video by Allan Pease.
Speaking is the new competitive advantage. At least that's what I told my audiences until last week. I was excited to attend a wellness conference during the weekend in New York City. The keynote speaker was a celebrity I admired. But what was more exciting were the topics. Most of the speakers were doctors, dentists, and health professionals. The presenters spoke for 20 minutes as in a TED talk format and the presentations continued non-stop throughout the day.
Some of the research was cutting edge and I was eager to learn from the presenters. My enthusiasm quickly turned to boredom after sitting through the first few presentations. Clearly, the presenters were subject matter experts with impressive credentials. But they quickly sacrificed their credibility when they stepped up to the platform. What a lost opportunity! Here are three mistakes that were consistent among the speakers.
1. Using the Microphone Ineffectively
Almost every speaker held the microphone at chest level or too far away from their mouth. When the audience can't hear, they tune out. It also makes the subject matter expert look like an amateur. A microphone should be held no further than four inches below the mouth. My recommendation to the event planner was to provide an attached microphone or require a rehearsal with the hand held mic.
2. Being Speaker-Centered
This is all too common in business. I've experienced it in every kind of speaking situation including sales presentations. There was one woman in particular who spent most of the time telling her story. Not only was it too long; it was all about me, myself, and I. Here's the 411 on the audience. They don't care about you! They're interested in what you and your information can do for them. Yes, tell your story. We want to know you on a personal level. But keep it brief and move on to provide value.
It's not difficult to be listener-centered. I've demonstrated in one minute or less how to take any subject and create a listener-centered opening that speaks to the listener's self interest. It's not about you. It's about them! Chapter 7 in Knockout Presentations reveals the process of Listener-Centered Communication. It's powerful.
3. Bad Timing
Both the presenter and the coordinator are culpable when time commitments are not kept. The reason speakers run out of time is a) they have too much material b) they didn't rehearse out loud. One speaker was telling an interesting story and realized she had two minutes left. She stopped in the middle of the story and quickly flipped through to the end of the PowerPoint slides. The presentation lost impact. And this was a subject I really wanted to hear. At this point, my friend leaned over and whispered, "Diane, this is a real opportunity for you." (Not a good sign).
Were there other mistakes? Yes. But these were the most common errors. Were there any good presenters? Yes. I can think of two, maybe three. The celebrity keynote was excellent. It was obvious that she had a lot of public speaking experience. What is the lesson here? Poor presentation skills do not motivate an audience to action. I didn't approach any of the speakers after hearing them present on stage.
There was a silver lining, though. I won the grand prize - a Vitamix blender! So all was not lost - except the opportunity for the presenters to build their brand and increase their business.
We've heard about managing by walking around. We've heard about leading by storytelling. But can you laugh your way to leadership? It turns out that laughter is an important leadership and presentation skill. But when it comes to humor in the workplace men are more skilled than women.
Judith Baxter, professor of applied linguistics at Aston University in the U.K, studied how men and women use language. She observed men and women who were leading high level meetings. Baxter found women to be less at ease using humor. 80% failed when attempting to be humorous and sometimes derailed as a result. In contrast, Professor Baxter observed that 90% of men's humor got a laugh. This reminds me of the numerous times women have told me that their ideas aren't taken seriously. Yet, when a man presents the same idea minutes later, it's enthusiastically embraced.
Are men naturally funnier than women? Baxter didn't answer that question, postulating instead, that culture plays a role. We expect men to be funny but don't have the same expectation of women. Teasing and one-upmanship resulted in laughter from men, but it was risky for women to use the same tactics. When I speak to women leaders, it's been my experience that women don't take enough credit for their accomplishments and speak in more self deprecating terms. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins contrasted the male one-upmanship communication style with the female pattern, which he dubbed 'one-downmanship'.
In addition to cultural expectations, Baxter cited minority status as another reason for this difference in effective use of humor. She observed an 80/20 male-to-female ratio in the meetings she attended. Being in the minority made some women defensive and less relaxed. An interesting turn of events occurred in meetings with middle managers. When the meetings were more gender balanced or contained more women, the women got more laughs.
So could lack of female confidence once again be at the core of this gender difference in humor? Is this one of the reasons women get stuck in middle management? Is humor the missing key to leadership advancement? Speaking may be the new competitive advantage but humor may be the leadership edge.
What's been your experience? Should women leaders study stand-up comedy?
Do you freeze up when you have to speak to senior management? Do you wonder how you can gain their attention and establish your credibility? Well, here's advice direct from the C-Suite. Jeff Hayzlett, author of Running the Gauntlet and producer of C-Suite, the best selling Bloomberg television show, was the keynote speaker at the New York chapter of National Speakers Association. As the former Chief Marketing Officer of Kodak, he knows what's important to C- level executives.
From my experience as an executive speech coach, I know first hand that clients freeze up when they present to senior management. Whether you're speaking to the C-suite or speaking to the board of directors, it's important to adjust the presentation to the needs and style of these kinds of audiences.
Hear what Jeff has to say about speaking to senior management in this brief video interview:
I co-hosted my first event with 85 Broads, and it was a smashing success. The topic, Get Your Executive Presence On, received rave reviews. The event was sponsored by CHANEL and Saks Fifth Avenue, and held at CHANEL's education center on East 57th St in New York City.
The evening began with networking and fall makeovers. Each woman received a makeup application and instruction. When everybody looked beautiful, we gathered to hear my presentation about 8 keys to Executive Presence for women. The audience learned ways that women can be heard, look like leaders, and own the room.
CHANEL provided a special ambiance, with lighting, wine and delicious hors d'oeuvres. They provided a skincare station and a fragrance and chocolate pairing station. The networking continued as CHANEL was cleaning up - people didn't want to leave.
Here's what some attendees had to say:
I didn't think I would learn anything new, but I did. Diane is incredible. The things she shared with people are life-changing." -Judy
This, for me, is one of the best events I've attended." -Sophie
Diane gave examples and insights that had the whole audience captivated." -Alison
I've been to so many seminars and trainings on leadership and thought I'd heard everything about how to be an effective public speaker. But Diane's presentation gave me tips I never heard before." - Carrie
For immediate release
DiResta will Speak about Executive Presence and Presentation
Fall networking event - for subscribing Power Circle and Investor level members of:
New York, NY (September 23, 2013) – At this 85 Broads fall networking event (link for members), Power Circle member Diane DiResta, Founder of DiResta Communications and author of Knockout Presentations, will present her work on executive presence, and top make-up artists at the Chanel Salon will show you the new color trends for Fall.
DiResta works with emerging leaders and executives to develop executive presence and gravitas. DiResta says, “At a certain level, it’s not what you know, it’s your leadership and ability to influence. Executive presence is difficult to define; it involves good presentation skills, speaking with conviction, decisiveness, self-confidence and a polished image.”
What is executive presence? And why does it matter? You know it when you see it. But it's difficult to describe. At some point a career will be stalled because the person doesn't look, speak, or act like a leader. That's when a company will call me to work on the leader's executive presence. Executive presence is the tipping point for getting promoted. How do you get it? Watch this video to learn more.
For Immediate Release
DiResta Teaches Women How to Amp Up Their Executive Presence
New York, NY (Dec 12, 2012) -- Diane DiResta, CEO of DiResta Communications and author of Knockout Presentations, co-hosted a holiday event for executive women sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue. The title of the event was, Get Your Executive Presence On, and included a short presentation from DiResta, a preview of Tahari's elegant winter line, and free Chanel makeovers for the women in attendance.
DiResta works with emerging leaders and executives to develop executive presence and gravitas. DiResta says, "At a certain level, it's not what you know, it's your leadership and ability to influence. Executive presence is difficult to define; it involves good presentation skills, speaking with conviction, decisiveness, self-confidence and a polished image."
June is effective communication month. To increase your influence and executive presence, your message must grab and keep attention. I make sure that all my coaching clients know the secrets of speaking with impact. Here are 5 quick tips to be a knockout communicator.
When a speaker or presenter leaves out a sound or a syllable, they are guilty of omissions. Otherwise known as deletions, these speech mistakes can cause the speaker to sound uneducated or unprofessional. Often, these deletions are a type of regionalism and frequently, the presenter has no idea that they omit certain sounds. I was recently asked to coach someone because her regional speech patterns were impacting her executive presence and opportunities for advancement. We discovered that omissions were one of her issues. Listen to the video to see if you're guilty of using any of these deletions.
Diction is an important part of public speaking. Mispronounced words become a distraction and your message can get lost. Effective presenters are mindful of their pronunciation. Certain regionalisms become part of the vernacular, but that doesn't mean it's correct. Inappropriate diction or sloppy speech can rob you of executive presence and impact your professional success.
Listen carefully as you watch this video to see if you make this verbal faux pas:
In honor of Women's History Month, I thought I'd explore this issue of women speaking powerfully. It's been established that men and women communicate differently. The question is, do women need to speak more powerfully than men to be heard? Whether it's a speech, pitching an idea, or a one-on-one meeting, it appears that women need to work harder to have their ideas heard. According to New York Women in Communications, women make up 3% of CEOs and occupy around 16% of board seats at the nation's Fortune 500 companies, and 15.2% of the directors at the largest companies are women.
A female professor at NYU received a request for a testimonial from a former student. The letter was over the top. So much so, she had to tone it down so it would sound realistic. It was no surprise to her that this communication came from a male. She realized that males tend to exaggerate their abilities, while women downplay their accomplishments and speak with less conviction.
I can corroborate this from my own experience coaching women leaders. Women have a more difficult time taking a strong position, speaking with authority, and promoting their own ideas. While coaching one executive woman, it was apparent that her area was the most profitable in the business, but her influence was a well-kept secret. We immediately got to work increasing her visibility: getting her name in trade publications, networking internally and externally, and booking speaking engagements.
Public speaking levels the playing field for women.
Here are some ways women can speak more powerfully:
- Lower their pitch.
- Put a stake in the ground.
- Use specific, definitive language.
- Negotiate with confidence.
- Work with a coach.
So I ask you, in your experience, do women need to speak more powerfully than men? Can they best learn to speak powerfully from a male or a female role model?
If employees want to advance in their careers they will need to speak the business language of success. Is Uptalk here to stay? Will it become acceptable in the workplace? Who knows? But for now, if you want to move up, talk down.