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How to have impact on stage

How to have impact on a stage

 On Monday 19thNovember, I attended the CBI Annual Conference in London. It was the first time I’d experienced this event which brought over 1500 business leaders from across the UK together.

It was a brilliant event and what I particularly loved was hearing both Theresa May speak as well as the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. There were a host of different business leaders on stage from a wide cross section of industry.

But I wanted to focus on today were the learnings and insights I gleaned from watching various women leaders on stage.  Because of course, the higher up the organisation we go, the more and more we are expected to deliver and have impact on stage.

Firstly let’s review the strategies Theresa May deployed on stage. I wasn’t sure what to expect – especially with the recent press coverage and the pressure she must be under right now with Brexit negotiations. However, within a few minutes of listening to her I was captivated. She was incredibly compelling. So what was it that she did? There were many things, but I wanted to highlight three key things that enabled her to have such an impact on stage:

  1. Her Physical Stance. She stood firmly, squarely with her shoulders back. It was almost as though she took up twice the space by the way she was holding herself. If you have ever watched Amy Cuddy’s TEDx talk, then you will get an idea of what a ‘power pose’ means. (You can watch it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are).
  2. Her Voice Projection. All too often we women speak too softly and either trail our voice off in our sentences or raise them into a question. This is a problem! Theresa May was a little like Margaret Thatcher in that she lowered the volume of her point to get her message over. It’s a very subtle shift, but one that is so important.
  3. The Clarity of Her Message.The third area is in how she constructed her talk. It was easy to understand, it was clear. She used analogies and short sentences. She told us what she was going to tell us, she then told us and then repeated it once more. Just yesterday I was with a client and we talked about this very issue. She admitted that she rambled on in her talks, she didn’t prepare (ever) and she would always run over time. As senior women leaders, you can’t do that! You have to carefully plan your message and what you want the audience to leave with. And of all the speeches I heard, Theresa May’s was the clearest by way of messaging.

Another business leader, who I was eager to hear, was Liv Garfield. Liv is one of only six female CEO’s in the FTSE 100. She was captivating. Liv did not provide a speech. Instead she was interviewed by a media journalist. Here’s how Liv created impact:

  1. She Looked the Part. She had obviously taken time and attention to what she needed to wear. She was incredibly feminine and looked warm and engaging as she took her seat. A very good friend of mine, Rosie Huckle, is a style and image consultant and does brilliant work around aligning how you look with your personal brand. Please check her out here: https://rosiehuckle.com
  2. Liv Smiled and Laughed. She seemed to wear a permanent beam on her face throughout the whole interview and laughed at herself, several times. She appeared incredibly comfortable with the situation. How many of us allow our inner self talk to critique, to make us nervous, to forget what’s important? It was almost as though nothing could throw her off course.
  3. Her Answering of Questions. Liv was brilliant at answering the question with the information she wanted to put across. She weaved her way through the discussion by showcasing her passion – which was obviously people. In every answer she talked about how important leadership is, how important her engineers are and how she was committed to becoming a best in place workplace for all of her staff. It was impressive

And there were more. The Director General of the CBI, Carolyn Fairburn, was also passionate and articulate. Jessi Baker, the young CEO of Provenance, is an incredible inspiration for how to follow your dreams and do good on a global scale.

There were a ton of lessons I took away. It was refreshing to see many female role models having impact on stage. I will remember these women for a very long time. And I’d encourage you to think about opportunities you may have to get on stage and then have impact when you are there. You may well inspire a generation of other women to step forward too.

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