How to Conquer Your Biggest Business Fear: Tips for Public Speaking

How to Conquer Your Biggest Business Fear: Tips for Public Speaking

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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. 

The Female Future: Part 2

The Female Future: Part 2

This is the second of a two-part guest blog post by Heels of Success collaborator, Kaitlin Cleary. She interviewed young professional women asking the following questions:

  1. Are you optimistic about the next generation of female leaders?
  2. Where do you get your motivation and drive to succeed?
  3. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Amy Bell Hou is a 32-year-old writer, preschool teacher and mother living in Oakland, CA. She co-founded an independent poetry press in 2014. She is a collaborator on this blog.  

  1. I am optimistic. Women have come too far to go backwards, and I think we will prove ourselves as one great element of the resistance against greed, autocracy and division that the incoming president represents. But we also have to remember that 53% of white women voted for Trump. Female internalization of longstanding patriarchal values is real and needs to be addressed in our support networks and peer interactions. As women gain managerial and financial responsibilities within their organizations, we can’t forget what it felt like to be powerless. Someone has to speak for the people who are struggling under our current system; I have hope that our generation is up to the task.
  2. My motivation comes from families. I work in Early Child Development, a profession which has struggled to gain respect from policy makers but that is absolutely vital to healthy, successful, educated communities. Most families are struggling to pay for childcare; a huge portion of their income goes to centers and daycares whose staff are underpaid and struggling themselves. Creating a better landscape of care for young children and communicating their unique developmental challenges to the wider public is my goal.
  3. I’m most proud of my daughter. She’s not even two but I can still say that, right? I’m proud of the self-reflective emotional work I’ve done to be able to care for her and for the children in my classroom well. Having my daughter taught me what caregiving actually means. It is a not a series of selfless acts for another person; rather, it is a process of recognizing another’s individuality in equal measure with one’s own. It is being able to support that individuality for no other purpose than to allow that person to grow.

Kristen Knese is a 31-year-old Senior Marketing Manager at OLIN, a global landscape architecture and urban design studio. She lives in Philadelphia with her fiancé and two insane cats. 

  1. This generation of women has already overcome graduating into a recession and coming of age in a time of war. We’re the generation that elected our first Black President, we helped advocate for huge gains in LGBTQ rights, and, despite the electoral outcome, we secured the popular vote victory for the first woman presidential candidate of a major political party. We’ve proven that we have the grit to persevere and to fight for a better future.
  2. I was raised in a blended family with two brothers, a stepfather with military roots, a mother who worked full-time to rise from a nurse to hospital administrator, a father with a jet-setting career, and many other amazing role models, male and female. As a kid, I never thought there was anything I couldn’t do because I was female. In our house, there was no excuse not to give 110% on everything you set your mind to.
  3. In my first performance review at OLIN I wrote in my five-year plan that I would be head of the marketing department. My boss at the time snickered at that – that I, at 24 years old, would rise through the ranks so fast. But in 2014, at age 29, I was asked to step into the role of Senior Marketing Manger, leading our department. So I’ll say to every woman – every person – out there: writing down your goals works!

Sarah Bellamy is 32-years-old with a background in fashion retail and sales, and is an avid traveler and adventure seeker. She lives in Fishtown, Philadelphia. 

  1. The sense of support I’ve seen among females in my generation (especially after this election) has been amazingly awe-inspiring and I am hopeful for the tiny ladies that get to grow up with these powerful examples of what it means to be a woman today!
  2. My motivation comes from a sense of adventure and my desire to be a “YES” woman. I try to say yes to everything I can and love to experience new things. If it’s something that could potentially lead me to interesting people and new experiences – count me in!
  3. I’m most proud of moving to a new city alone. I really had to dig within myself and be brave to find my place in a sometimes harsh city. I had to build a support group and a new group of friends. I was able to put myself out there to meet people despite my anxieties. Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things on my own, has given me a sense of pride and accomplishment

Lauren Moreno is 31 years old and is Co-Founder of Team 624 Communications, LLC a Social Media and Digital Branding agency in Philadelphia. She lives in South Philadelphia with her boyfriend and their dog, Duke.

  1. I do feel like recent events have shown us that we as women are not quite as far along as we may think. I feel a personal responsibility to be a better feminist and to support other women in their professional and personal journeys. So yes, I’m optimistic of the future of female leaders because I’ve been forced to re-examine the kind of leader I am and where I need to fight harder.
  2. I’ve always known myself and what I want. I think it’s important to accept that you’re not always going to be liked or fit in. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be uncomfortable, and to trust myself and block out voices and messages that are not helpful in achieving my goals. I’ve also always somehow ended up working for women who inspired me, even in high school.
  3. I’m most proud of starting my own business. I’ve wanted to be my own boss for a long time, and it’s easy to be held back from making that kind of leap. There’s always a reason not to, so ignoring those reasons and by trusting that I can be successful and help other be successful through my work makes me feel like I’m being true to myself.

Kate Dooley is 30 years old, lives in Philadelphia, and is a Marketing Manager at Offit Kurman, a law firm in downtown Philadelphia.

  1. Generation after generation, women continue to persevere through hardships, achieve the unachievable and attain the impossible. In a time when we expected to break through the ultimate glass ceiling, and subsequently did not, it is more important than ever to be optimistic and confident in the next generation of female leaders to continue the path of growth, equality, success, and greatness.
  2. What really motivates me is camaraderie and a little friendly competition. When the people I respect most achieve great success it truly inspires me and ignites my own motivation to succeed. Luckily I have always surrounded myself with pretty remarkable people.
  3. Obtaining a Master of Arts in Communication while starting and thriving in a new full-time position has been my greatest accomplishment to date. As I finished grad school class by class, credit by credit, project by project, I thought to myself “that wasn’t that hard.” As I started a new job in marketing and learned my role, and made my value to the firm known I thought “that also wasn’t that hard.” When I finished my degree and soon after received a promotion at work, I thought to myself, “you know what, that was that hard and I am damn proud of myself.”

Kristen Miller is 29-year-old music and food lover that lives in Fishtown, Philadelphia. She is a Senior Tax Associate at Savran Benson, LLP and an MBA student at Temple University. 

  1. Even though our society has a long way to go in overcoming gender inequality, especially in the workplace, I am optimistic. So many women I know are either excelling in leadership positions, are filled with the courage to start their own business and are parents to the most terrific children.
  2. My peers are my role models. The strong women around me – family members, friends, colleagues, classmates, clients, members of my yoga studio and community – are a constant source of empowerment for me to continuously force myself out of my comfort zone in work, school, travel, and life.
  3. I am very proud to be financially independent enough to have purchased my first home this year. I’m also proud of my recent decision to go to grad school while working full time, which has (really!) forced myself out of my comfort zone. In my first semester, I’ve achieved a 4.0 and conquered my fear of public speaking.
The Female Future: Guest Blog by Kaitlin Cleary

The Female Future: Guest Blog by Kaitlin Cleary

Kaitlin Cleary is Co-Founder of Team 624 Communications, a Digital Branding & Social Media Agency. She is 31 years old & lives in Philadelphia with her husband Michael and their dog, Chooch.

It’s an interesting time to be a 30-something woman. This election has left me, like many others, worried over the progress we’ve made in terms of gender equality (equality in general, really). I was raised to be a feminist, though I don’t think the word was ever used to describe it. Instead, my parents led by example; showing me that mom always had 50% of the decision-making power and dad was expected to (more than that, he WANTED) a 50% role in child-rearing and household duties. In graduate school, my consciousness around issues like power structures, patriarchy and symbolism evolved and I felt a new calling to try and spread that awareness. As I’ve navigated a career path, I’ve often turned to Madeline Bell, my CEO mother-in-law, for mentorship and perspective on female experience in the workplace. Through collaborating on her blog I’ve felt both frustration and motivation; frustration at recognizing the scenarios that still exist for so many of us (I own my own business but am still greeted by some male CEO’s as “kid”), and motivation through her never-ending quest to rise higher and bring other women along with her.

So where does that leave us? I have found within my network of female friends, there is a supportiveness, a level of consciousness and ambition that doesn’t leave much room for anything other than optimism about the future. My greatest source of motivation and inspiration are my female peers that are fearless in their pursuit of success and equality. I decided to ask some of them 3 questions, in hopes that what you’ll read below will spread the optimism I so strongly feel. This will be a 2-part series, with the rest coming next week.

Are you optimistic about the next generation of female leaders?

Where do you get your motivation and drive to succeed?

What accomplishment are you most proud of?


Jessica McCarthy is a Senior Project Manager at David Stark Design and Production. She is 31 years old and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

  1. Yes, but I think generational divides are less important today. I’m optimistic for women of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities. Through technology we can seek amazing change with access to one another’s shared struggles, dreams, and successes that would have been impossible less than 30 years ago. I have hope that this ability to share will empower women in unprecedented ways and that we’ll be strongest and loudest together.
  2. My ambition comes from a desire to be at peace with myself, knowing that if I’ve given 110% and enjoyed the journey, I think (and hope) I will be satisfied with any outcome in work, and in life.
  3. I’m most proud of paving my own way, by rules I had to make up as I went along. My choice to pursue work in the events industry was surprising to my family and friends. I had always said I wanted to be a lawyer or work in foreign service, but I took a chance on doing something that inspired and excited me. My mother always said to do what you love to do, be the best you can be at it and success will find you. I believe her!

Christine Davison is 35 years old and is the Associate Director for Human Subjects Protection at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.  She holds a Master of Bioethics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is a Certified IRB Professional (CIP).

  1. I’m optimistic about the next generation of female leaders, but I’m pessimistic about society. The structural inequalities and societal expectations that have prevented many women from reaching the highest levels of leadership continue to exist. Without concrete laws and policies in place to keep women from being discriminated against in the workplace, I fear that it will be difficult for women to reach their full potential as leaders. I’m hopeful that as more and more women obtain leadership roles at their companies and institutions (including in government), these obstacles will begin to break down.
  2. I think my drive comes from my desire for continuous improvement, whether I’m improving my own skill set or making a process at the office more efficient. It’s very difficult for me to accept the status quo (no matter what the setting) when it can always be improved upon.
  3. In October I completed an Ironman triathlon, which I’m very proud of, but I’m even more proud of learning how to swim. Although it’s a physical challenge to complete an Ironman, the mental challenge of training was the most difficult part, particularly when it came to swimming. It’s a total cliché, but it really wasn’t about the race for me, but the hours and hours of training time I’d put in to gain the endurance (physical and mental) necessary to complete the race. I’m already signed up for another Ironman race next year!

KC Sledd is 30 years old and is a Senior Manager of Strategy at Atlantic Media Strategies, the digital consultancy of The Atlantic. She holds a Master’s degree in PR & Corporate Communications from Georgetown University. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two cats.

  1. It’s sometimes so tough to feel optimistic about gender parity in the workforce when you see the statistics of women in senior-level positions. But I look around at the women I work with, went to school with and who I am friends with, and I think that there is absolutely zero chance of stopping them from achieving their goals. It’s when it gets personal that I know we can defy the statistics that say “you can’t.”
  2. Even with a few crushing moments of doubt, I’ve never questioned that I can succeed. I’m a Capricorn, and I’ve internalized that I will keep climbing to the top of whatever challenge I’m looking to overcome. If you tell yourself you can’t fail enough times, you will make it your inner dialogue and it will come true. Fake it ’til you make it is so real.
  3. In one day this summer I interviewed Diane von Furstenberg in the morning and won the Washington Women in Public Relations’ Emerging Leaders Award that night. It’s going to be hard to top that.

Caitlin Campbell is 26 years old and a Senior Marketing Communications Coordinator at EMC Outdoor. She currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.

  1. I am very optimistic about the next generation of females. I believe that women encouraging other women to achieve their dreams is more prevalent than ever. Books, podcasts, blogs, peer-to-peer mentoring are all instances where I see women leaders providing a support system to foster the upcoming generations of women in almost all industries.
  2. My mother is the root of my ambition, drive and motivation to succeed. She is one of the most brilliant, hardworking, capable, strategic, caring, driven, resourceful and determined people I have ever met. She not only reached the top of her company, but did it while caring for two daughters and making it to every single extracurricular activity. I also believe my choice to attend an all-women’s college played a large role in my desire to succeed. I attended Stephens College in the heart of Missouri. In my freshman year I joined Kappa Delta Sorority and had a senior tell me she thought I would be wonderful for a VP role in the next election. It was just what I needed! I ran and became a member of Council as freshman. Success and encouragement in this role led to me earning the role of President the following year. With just a few words from a woman I respected, my outlook on what I could achieve changed dramatically.
  3. I am most proud of a very recent accomplishment at work, where I was asked to join the Operations Leadership Team; a group of forward-thinking, strategic individuals who meet to discuss how to make our company better. I’m proud that my opinion is respected enough to make top-line decisions that will steer our company toward a brighter future.

Rhea Woods is 31 years old, lives in Brooklyn, NY and is the Director of Talent Procurement at Thuzio.

  1. Yes, now more than ever women have the role models and support systems in place to dream big and achieve big as well.
  2. My mom runs a small business (a law firm) and I think having a mother who has run a successful business for her entire adult life had a huge impression on me. I’ve always known I would be self-sufficient and work hard to create the life I want through pushing myself towards success.
  3. I’m incredibly proud of a charitable event I worked on back in 2014. It all came together in three weeks and I was tasked with procuring multiple big name celebrities to attend/perform – what a crazy, amazing experience. More recently, I promised myself that in 2016 I would book a celebrity for a major commercial and I’m glad to say it’s filming today, just 3 weeks shy of my self-imposed year-end deadline.

Cassie Corey is a 32-year​-​old teacher at Mastery Charter School in South Philadelphia and ​mother ​to ​a tremendous and ferocious one-year-old daughter. 

  1. I look at my daughter and feel incredibly optimistic. I know my child will encounter obstacles because of her gender, but she’ll have much more language with which to combat it than we did and I bet she’ll have the courage to make waves. These things don’t change rapidly, but I’ve seen a difference in our time, and that’s very exciting.
  2. M​oney, status​ and ​power are non-motivators for me. Love has always propelled my biggest life choices. You don’t need to look far to find people who are marginalized and those are the people who get me out of bed each day, either to help them outright, or to raise a child who will one day be solving problems.
  3. I am most proud of my years teaching. I cared ceaselessly, and my students knew it. Our kids take anonymous surveys in which they are asked to honestly answer questions about how much they believe their individual teachers care about them. ​ My results were consistently stellar​, and that always made me damn proud. ​


Create an Elevator Speech

Create an Elevator Speech

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!

Why Are Business Women Still Called “Girls?”

Why Are Business Women Still Called “Girls?”

I often observe things in a business setting that remind me how far we still have to go. Most times, they are subconscious behaviors or comments made without negative intentions. Nevertheless, they catch my attention. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a meeting held outside of the hospital where I work. I was with a group of colleagues and we were meeting with a team of people – three women and a man, representing 4 separate companies. At the end of the business discussion, each person was asked to tell my colleagues and I a bit about their company.

The three women presented first. The third was relatively young and began by blushing and stating that her colleague who missed the meeting usually presented this information. She continued with a number of self-deprecating statements. I sat there willing her to stop criticizing herself and simply do what I believed she could do – present an overview of her company. She finally did and once she got going, her nerves settled and she was fine. Finally, the last to present was the man. He began by saying, “as you heard the girls just tell you.” I cringed and watched as the young woman who finally found the confidence to speak lowered her head and looked at the floor. Frankly, the man’s comment made me feel like I did not want to do business with him. It was a small statement but very impactful to me. Especially just after having witnessed a young woman work up the courage to participate in a meeting, only to be referred to as a “girl.” After the meeting, another man who had also observed the comment said to me, “do people really still call women girls?” Apparently they do!

Would you have spoken up? How do you think is the best way to respond if you are referred to as a “girl” in a business setting? I can only hope that as more women take leadership positions, more men will realize the defeating nature of a simple label like “girls.” I’d like to see us reach the point when women in the workplace will simply be known as colleagues.

Sue Bell Yank on Salaries, Social Capital, and Finding Your People

Sue Bell Yank on Salaries, Social Capital, and Finding Your People

SBY-site-headshotSue Bell Yank is an arts organizer and writes about social practice in contemporary art. She has worked on the Watts House Project and was formerly the Assistant Director of Academic Programs at the Hammer Museum and the Director for Online Education at the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is currently the Director of Communications and Outreach at 18th Street Arts Center in Los Angeles.

Early on in my career in the arts, I worked at a small non-profit art gallery in Culver City for minimum wage, a couple of days a week. I was going to graduate school at the time, mostly to meet more people in the city and figure out where my place could be. One of my favorite professors was a New York transplant who had decided to make a go of it out west and start one of the most ambitious non-profit gallery programs in the city.

Working for her was not always easy – life is scrappy in a tiny arts non-profit. But the close quarters (literally – we were all squeezed into about 2 cubic yards of space in the “office”) gave me a front-row seat to how an arts organization can be run, and it was the best education I could have gotten. Artists screamed, curators cried, we laughed and drank (sometimes), we gossiped, and tried our very best to produce important contemporary art exhibitions.

But what she ultimately gave me was much more valuable than the 10 dollars an hour I was making. She was connected to a web of artists, students, and arts workers, and unconditionally generous with her contacts. Seeing any possible sparks of interest and commonality, she set about inserting me into this network so I could create threads of my own. One of these introductions was to Edgar Arceneaux, who was embarking on an ambitious community-engaged art project called Watts House Project, which combined arts, social justice, and community participation. Working on that project and all of its complications allowed me to find my place in the art world (supporting the work of socially-engaged artists), my own personal mission (access to arts education for all), and my next job at the Hammer Museum.

To be clear, I wish that I had been paid more, and I always have advocated (mostly unsuccessfully) for paying interns a living wage. However, it’s a sad reality that work in the arts thrives on unpaid or minimum wage entry level positions (a reality I have been complicit in), and this prevents many people who can’t otherwise afford to work for so little from rising up. But non-profits working on incredibly tight budgets have little choice – oftentimes free intern labor means the difference between creating world-class programs and closing up shop. So we trade on cultural capital – connections, community, reputation – in order to gain more clout and opportunity later in our careers.

Cultural capital worked for me, even through those lean years, because of the privileged position I was working from. I vowed I would mentor other young people rising up, connect them, and give them as much advice as I could – but also to advocate for more equity in the arts. I got the opportunity to do that at the Hammer, where much of my job included working with UCLA students as interns and Hammer Student Association members. It’s been one of my greatest pleasures to watch former students infiltrate the rest of the art world, spreading far and wide. Much of this was due to their own ingenuity and drive, but also to the professional opportunities they got at the Hammer. I also wrote more recommendation letters than I can count.

Early on, most of the questions I got were about how to meet people in the art world, how to get connected, how to get opportunities. But recently those questions have shifted a bit. As I grow older, the women I mentor have also grown older – in their mid to late twenties rather than just out of college. And these women are much more concerned about sustainability. How can a job in the art world actually pay enough money to live? How do I balance wanting to have children with a demanding career that more often than not invades your personal life?

I’m not sure what to tell them. The truth is, arts jobs do not pay well. I’m not sure they ever will. And things are not easy for a working mother of two young children in a field where trendsetters have little regard for the need to pick up your children from daycare, feed them, and kiss them goodnight.

The wonderful thing about the arts, though, is that in LA at least, it can be a rich community. There are ways to raise concerns with key members of your community and advocate for change. Many artists and arts administrators I have worked with are caring, thoughtful, social justice-minded people who are all in this together. They wrack their brains and argue about things like education equity, community cohesion, gentrification, gift-based economies…because oftentimes, the best art is about questioning the status quo and considering questions of equity. When I worked a brief stint in the entertainment industry, I missed that. I took a large pay cut to return to the arts, and I’m so much happier amongst my people. The line from the Metric song Other Side kept running through my head:

All we want is to feel like all we got didn’t cost us everything, even if we never win.”

I traded actual capital for social capital, and there found my way again. Forming, maintaining, and sharing a strong web of relationships, finding your community and your mission, and then advocating for yourself and your family in the midst of it is key to making it all work. Another wise former boss of mine told me to “Find your people, and bring new people in.” In any world, that’s possible.