So often, I receive heartfelt messages from readers of this blog either thanking me for writing or telling me about a particular post they enjoyed. Recently, I heard from a CHOP employee, Julia Wicoff, who told me about how reading my blog lead her to advocate on behalf of herself. It meant so much to me to hear from her. She kindly agreed to give a testimonial with me to share with you. I hope this inspires you to take page out of Julia’s book!
“When I first heard that CHOP’s CEO, Madeline Bell, was writing a blog about elevating women in the workplace, I was interested and decided to take a look. Quickly, Heels of Success became part of my regular reading material. I feel like each post is written just for me. The topics that Madeline covers relate directly to what I am feeling and experiencing. As a result of reading the blog, I was inspired to approach the leadership in our department to indicate my commitment to a future in our organization. That conversation helped spur a promotion just a few months later. There is no doubt that without Heels of Success I wouldn’t have had the confidence to express my feelings and take the next step in my career!”
Julia Wicoff is the Director of Cause Marketing and the Children’s Miracle Network at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Prior to that, she served as the Associate Director of Events Fundraising and Community Partnerships, also at CHOP. Before CHOP, she worked for organizations such as The American Cancer Society and The Philadelphia Eagles.
Public speaking is among one of the most commonly cited fears. Even among the most confident leaders and those who consider themselves to be experts, there are many opportunities to improve. In my role as CEO, I am frequently called upon to speak in front of others. These speaking engagements can range from national forums to town hall-style meetings at my own organization. Though I’m experienced, I’ve come to appreciate what an art public speaking really is and how much skill development and PRACTICE is consistently needed to take your abilities to the next level.
Villanova Commencement Speech 2015
Until recently, my public speaking skills have been developed through simple trial and error and learning a few tips from coaches. However, to prepare for a high-profile national speaking engagement, I decided to consult with internationally acclaimed speechwriter and presentation transformation specialist, Lynda Spillane of The Persuasive Word. She’s worked with many heads of state, presidents, and CEO’s to help them improve their public speaking skills. She has helped me to really move to the next level of professionalism in my public speaking. I want to share a few tips I’ve collected over the years, both from my own experience and from experts I’ve worked with:
Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference 2017
- Be careful of reading. If you have an occasion to speak from talking points, it is important to know that what works well for reading consumption, does not work well for speaking. In other words, if something reads well it doesn’t always sound the same when you are speaking it.
- Ditch the slides. NEVER read from long, dense slides. If you use slides with lots of text, the audience will read them while you’re talking and they won’t listen to you! If you are compelled to use slides, I repeat – PLEASE don’t read each line of your slides.
- Harness your nervous energy. Don’t aim to rid yourself of all nerves before a speech; a bit of nervous energy is okay. Like other types of performances, it helps to keep you on your toes.
- Put the audience first. The most important aspect of public speaking is your relationship with the audience. It is not about you, it is about them. Don’t focus on what you think about your own performance, focus on the experience for the audience.
- Slow down. One of the most common mistakes in public speaking is that most speakers talk too quickly. Remember that the audience needs time to process what you are saying.
- Speak up. In addition to speaking too quickly, many people don’t speak loudly enough. Even if you have a microphone, take a deep breath and make sure you’re projecting your voice.
- Breath. When you get to the podium, take a deep breath, look at the audience, taking your time to look around the room. Make eye contact with them. It will help to build anticipation for what you are about to say. Once you begin, take a deep breath before each sentence so that you can complete the sentence without running out of air. This sounds easy but it actually takes some practice.
- Fake it ‘til you make it. Even if you’re as nervous as can be, there is no reason to share that with the audience. Don’t begin with a self-deprecating statement (read more about that here) and never insinuate that you don’t belong there or that you are nervous.
I highly recommend hiring a coach if public speaking is a regular part of your job. Another coach I’ve worked with is Barbara Pachter of Pachter & Associates. Where have you found helpful advice for conquering public speaking? What are some of your tips? Share them with us!
If you’d like to learn more about working with Lynda Spillane, you can visit her website here.
I recently had the opportunity to meet two very impressive women at an event (as I often do!). During the course of the conversation we began to discuss the events surrounding the Presidential election. One of the women told me that she had the opportunity to follow the family member of a Presidential candidate on the campaign trail. When I asked her how she able to do that, she responded by telling me she was a producer for a major network. I again responded with great enthusiasm and she said, “oh it’s really not a big deal. I just do it part-time…I’m really just a warm body, a hired hand.”
I was so disappointed to hear her response. I was very honest and told her that she really needed to develop an elevator speech that was not so self-deprecating. Her friend replied, “You’re right, she has won two Emmy awards for her work on national news shows! ” Clearly, this woman was accomplished and had built an impressive career. I suggested a few key points to add to her elevator speech so that in similar situations she would be more prepared to respond with a few key points highlighting her competencies and accomplishments.
I often talk to mentees about how to construct and practice their elevator speech. The speech should be about 1-2 minutes, start with a clear articulation of name, your role and a bit about the company you represent. In this story, the women I met could have said:
“I’m Sue Jones, producer at _____ network, where I have worked for ____ years covering such stories as ______. I’ve had the pleasure of being called into action when needed for some of the most interesting stories such as _____.”
Now obviously that can be tailored to feel more off-the-cuff, casual or less structured. Just please be sure to steer clear of self-deprecation or minimizing your real accomplishments, as tempting as it may be to appear humble. If you don’t have an elevator speech, write one today and practice it in the car, or even in an elevator while alone!