High pressure situations don't have to derail your presentation.
How often has this scenario played out? It could be an executive meeting, a sales, call, or a group interview. The presenter looked the part, knew the content, but it was the wrong context.
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.
Executive Presence is difficult to describe, but you know when you have it. And so it goes in the workplace. Clients call me to work on a leader’s “executive presence.” They’ll say the leader needs “polishing” or “gravitas,” but they can’t be specific.
What is clear is that the coaching candidate is stuck at a level. Without the ability to convey executive presence, they lose credibility and don’t advance further.
The myth is that executive presence is about dressing well. Attire is a visual shorthand. At first glance, your audience or stakeholders will determine if you’re a leader by the way you’re dressed. That’s part of it, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Have you ever known someone who looks like a million dollars until they opened their mouth?
Take the case of Deborah (not her real name). When I first met her, she looked like Ms. Dress for Success; however, when she presented at meetings she lost credibility with senior management. Deborah hedged, sounded hesitant and wouldn’t put a stake in the ground. Her boss couldn’t promote her to Vice-President and asked me to coach her.
What does this have to do with speaking? The answer is Confidence.
The presenter’s job is to inspire the audience's confidence that he/she is an expert (or at least qualified to speak on the subject). A speaker must have presence on the platform. Deborah discovered that leaders align visual, vocal, and verbal communication to influence. If one of these areas goes out of sync, the message is altered. Deborah learned to convey executive presence and was promoted to Vice-President.
So what exactly is executive presence? It's the missing link between merit and success. The chart above breaks down the aspects of “gravitas” so you’ll no longer say “I’ll know it when I see it.” You’ll be able to recognize and convey executive presence by knowing the components. Whether your platform is a stage or a meeting room, the boardroom or the back room, you’ll be able to assess yourself and project confidence.
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 2004 I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal about sloppy speech habits in the workplace. It hit a nerve and the reporter, Joann Lublin, wrote a follow up piece. It seems that employers favor good diction in the workplace. In honor of May being Better Speech and Hearing month, I'm posting some one minute videos to address the issue of poor diction. Even well spoken, high profile communicators express the occasional verbal faux pas or mispronunciation. Some of these diction errors are regionalisms;even so, they can undermine the speaker's credibility, executive presence, and leadership.