C-Suite Network

Laura Sicola

C-Suite Leader Since:

Growth, Management, Culture, Human Resources, Best Practices, Women In Business, Health and Wellness


Dads: Raise Your Daughters to be CEOS

Father’s Day is coming up, so in the spirit of honoring the male role models in our lives, I’d like to share a special note with all the dads and other men (and women) out there about how to raise your daughters to be a successful, confident and happy future executive.


Over the years, I’ve spoken in front of myriad professional women’s groups, and coached women at every level and in every industry imaginable, and one factor regularly surfaces as having a major influence on their current levels of confidence and self-efficacy: their relationship with their fathers.


I often get asked how I’ve developed my confidence and sense of self, and more and more I realize how much of the credit goes to my father (and mother) for setting this foundation in me in all these ways and more.


Dad (a music teacher) encouraged me to audition for all-state band (I played the alto sax), which I did all four years of high school, even though I only made it once. After each audition, we’d talk about what went right and wrong and how to do better next time.


He pushed me to take honors classes but didn’t flinch when I agreed to take AP history and Spanish but not calculus (thank goodness!)


(I’ll probably get flack for this, but I’m going to mention it anyway.) He also always told me I was pretty, even when my ever-fluctuating adolescent weight was on the top end of the yo-yo curve. To a teenage girl’s self-esteem, it mattered. A lot.


When I decided to go for my PhD instead of getting a “regular job” he asked probing questions so we could discuss the pros and cons and the best way to make it work.


And he never once gave me a guilt trip about my biological clock or his (undeniable) desire for grandchildren even though I was 40 before I finally met my husband.


He let me know that he recognized my efforts and intentions, trusted my judgment and respected my decision, even when we didn’t see eye to eye.


Most importantly, even when I had genuinely messed up, even though he was really upset with me in the moment, he never belittled me or called me names, and he made it clear that he still loved me.


So for all you parents, here are four strategies for how to communicate with your daughters in a way that builds her confidence and empowers her with the skills and perspective to be a successful leader:


  • Talk to your daughter. Don’t be afraid to initiate conversations, and ask tough and sometimes personal questions to help her think through things, then be prepared to listen. Listen to truly understand her motivations rather than to identify the holes in her argument and formulate your rebuttal.
  • Challenge her to try new things, and set ambitious but attainable goals. Celebrate victories, acknowledge and praise progress and efforts. Recognize the difference between when to say, “it’s okay, you can’t win ‘em all” and “I don’t think you really gave it your best. What happened?”
  • Invite her to initiate difficult conversations with you instead of hiding her true feelings.
  • Even when she does make a mistake or otherwise does something you don’t approve of, make it clear that the you think the decision or action was dumb, not that she is stupid. Then – possibly an hour or so later after you’ve cooled off – remind her that you love her and are proud of her no matter what.


If you can fine-tune your objectivity regarding this aspect of your relationship with your daughters now – no matter what their age or family or professional status – that sets a foundation for success that no fancy MBA can match!


Do you have questions or comments about the issues in today’s post, want to know how to apply them, or how to help others with them? If so, contact me at laura@vocalimpactproductions.com or click here to schedule a 20-minute focus call to discuss them with me personally!

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Think Your Voice Sounds Weird? Here’s Why.

If you’re like most people, when you hear yourself on a recording, your first thought is, “Oh my gosh, that’s not really what I sound like, is it?” The short answer is: yup, that’s you! Here’s a bit of insight as to why, and a few tips to make sure you sound your best, no matter what kind of voice you have.

When you are listening to someone else, the “input” goes in your ear, hits the ear drum, and sends vibrations through the inner ear canal, which the auditory nerve takes up to the brain for interpretation. This is also how it works when you’re listening to yourself on a recording, which is like listening to another person.

On the flip side, when you speak, of course your own words come out your mouth and the sound goes into your ear for the same process we just discussed, but that’s only half of the input.

The other half is that when you speak, air comes up from your lungs through your throat and vibrates through your vocal cords, the “source” of your voice. But then those vibrations also ricochet off the muscles in your throat and mouth, in your nasal cavity, and create residual vibrations that hit the bones in your neck and head as well, sending their own pulses to the brain.

In essence, when you listen to someone else or a recording of yourself, you’re listening in “mono-sound,” or single track. But when you listen to yourself while you’re speaking, you’re listening in “stereo” or “surround-sound,” with a much fuller, richer sound.

So how can you ensure that everyone hears your best, most melodic voice? Here’s three quick tips that will help them hear your ideal sound.

First, hydrate. Make sure you drink enough water, because a dry throat, dry mouth and tired throat muscles don’t allow sound to flow easily. The “fine print” to this is that it also means you should limit caffeine (*gasp!*) prior to an important speaking opportunity, because caffeine is a diuretic that makes the problem worse.

Second, limit dairy. Dairy produces mucous, and mucous gives you that sensation of perpetually needing to clear your throat as well, which is an annoying habit to hear time and again in any speech, presentation or conversation.

Lastly, breathe! The way you breathe will directly affect the quality of your voice. Start with your posture. If you’re slouched in your chair, you limit the amount of air you can take in, which is the fuel for your voice. And as you run out of air, it “fries out,” with a frog-like, croaky sound. Some people also ramble on and on without taking a breath for fear that if they do, someone will jump in during that split second and cut them off. Once the air is mostly gone, if you keep on talking, that same vocal “fry” will creep in again.

Why does this matter? Because not only is it unpleasant and even annoying to listen to, but it sounds insecure, timid, and hesitant, which is a combo that connotes anything but leadership.

So remember: Drink water, limit caffeine and dairy before speaking, and remember to take enough breaths while you’re speaking. This allows you to maximize the fullness of your tone, so the voice you hear in your head more accurately reflects the voice that everyone else hears when they listen to you… and that’s a voice the projects confidence, control, poise and power.

Who doesn’t like the sound of that?


Do you have questions or comments about the issues in today’s post, want to know how to apply them, or how to help others with them? If so, contact me at laura@vocalimpactproductions.com or click here to instantly schedule a 20-minute focus call to discuss it with me personally!

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Executive Story Telling Lessons from Pixar


When I’m working with clients on their public speaking and presentation skills, one of the more common questions I get is, “I keep hearing that I’m supposed to tell stories, but where do you get your stories? I’m not a storyteller. How do you find them, and how do you know when to use them?”

There are lots of places where a well-timed, well-honed anecdote will be far more compelling than a dry, technical explanation. But what story should you use? That’s often the sticking question for many people. If only it was as easy as taking ideas from movies, but we can’t do that… or can we?
Pixar – the movie giant of Toy Story fame – has teamed up with Kahn Academy to create a program called “Pixar in a Box,” offering a range of different creative virtual training programs, and the newest series is “The Art of Storytelling.” While their short, interactive videos, transcripts, lesson plan and activity sequences are typically aiming for those in more entertainment-oriented industries, the exercises are great mind-openers to concepts and strategies that are very applicable in the corporate world. The concept of using storytelling in presentations and the like is not new, although it certainly has become more popular in recent years. Pixar’s take on it gives it a new spin, along with a step-by-step tutorial on how to build a story that has impact. While you may not be looking to create a 90-minute animated comedy feature film like Inside Out, figuring out how to use these strategies to weave compelling and persuasive anecdotes into your presentations, discussions, and other exchanges is a true skill worth developing. The key is about bringing information to life. It’s about painting pictures for the listener in a way that helps them personally relate to the topic at hand, where they can visualize what you describe, imagine smells and textures, and empathetically feel the emotions you want to evoke. If you’ve ever watched a Pixar film, you know they are the masters at this. (And if you have never seen a Pixar movie, that’s your first homework assignment this weekend! Try Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc.) Do you need to go through all of the lessons like how to do storyboarding? Maybe not, but you never know! Maybe it will give you ideas for how to direct your IT department or graphics department on what kind of visuals you want in your slide deck. Or maybe it will get your creative juices flowing to help get you unstuck by doing different kinds of pencil sketches for 30 seconds instead of trying to compose in a linear format when you don’t know where to start and the blinking cursor is just staring at you on the screen. The nice part is that you can skip any pieces you don’t feel like exploring and jump around to the parts that peak your interest. The series is currently under construction but the first couple of lessons are already available. So go ahead, at your next lunch break, take a peek, watch one of their videos (each one is just a couple of minutes long) and play with an exercise or two just to see what it stimulates in your mind and on the paper. You may just find you’re a natural storyteller after all!


Do you have questions or comments about the issues in today’s post, want to know how to apply them, or how to help others with them? If so, contact me at laura@vocalimpactproductions.com or click here to schedule a 20-minute focus call to discuss them with me personally!

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Networking with Confidence and Purpose (i.e. Why Networking Doesn’t Have to Suck)

I am constantly surprised by how often I’m working with clients and the issue of networking comes up. In all the coaching – and group training – I’ve done around this issue, I’ve noticed that, broadly, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who generally enjoy networking and those who loathe it. But there is one thing both groups have in common: most people don’t feel like they get true much out of the experience beyond a glass of wine or beer and a handful of business cards from people they’ll probably never see again.

One of the key reasons for this frustration is that most people fail to bring one thing into the networking event: a purpose.

When you attend a networking event, why do you go? Maybe you enjoy the social interaction, or you’re just following the conference schedule, or maybe a colleague dragged you along as a “wingman.” Ultimately, none of these approaches have an underlying purpose that would make networking valuable. So how can you make networking a useful and positive experience with actual ROI… and do it with comfort and confidence?

Networking with Purpose

A purpose should be specific, but can also be simple. For example, I might know that an HR exec I want to meet will be there, so my goal is to have two minutes of face time with her to be able to introduce myself in person, and get her to agree to setting up a follow-up conversation a few days later. Once I’ve accomplished that mission, everything else is gravy and I’ve networked with purpose.

If you don’t have something that laser-focused as your reason for going, here’s a simple rule of thumb: Networking is simply planting the seeds for a new relationship. It doesn’t have to result in an immediate financial transaction, but the purpose is to meet someone that you can then build a relationship with.

Ultimately, whether or not you become each other’s client is not the issue. The key is that you never know when there will be a reason for you to contact them – or for them to contact you. Maybe you’ll read an article that you think they’ll appreciate and you send them a link. Maybe you’ll look through their contact list on LinkedIn and see someone you’d like them to introduce you to. Or maybe they are chatting with someone else at another networking event a month later who just so happens to need your services, and they can make the introduction.

There’s a terrific book called The Go-Giver that epitomizes this perspective. It’s an easy read in parable form that you can skim in a weekend, and will clarify both how to do it and why.

Networking with Confidence

Interestingly enough, one of the biggest stumbling blocks people face is not why they should talk to someone, but simply the mechanics of how to start the conversation, much less how to sustain it.

First, it’s important to distinguish the difference between networking and small talk.
“Small talk” is simply a communication tool used to break the ice, and initiate conversation with someone new. It can be something as mundane as the weather or how slow the elevator is to a more organic offering like a compliment or asking a question about what you’re looking at on the buffet.

I’ve struck up great conversations with other women by saying, “Just wanted to tell you – I love your shoes!” With guys, tech is always an easy in-road: if he’s looking at his smartphone, try, “Hey, is that the new iPhone? What do you think, worth the upgrade?” Or, while in line at the bar, it’s an easy cause to talk about what someone drinking. “Arrogant Bastard Ale (or Cupcake Chardonnay)… that’s an interesting name! Any good?” Then it’s easy to segue with, “By the way, I’m Laura.”

Natural next-steps for the conversation include asking if it’s someone’s first time at a particular event or what prompted them to come, what they thought of the keynote speaker, what organization they’re with and what kind of work they do. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, so don’t over think it. It’s about finding common ground, and/or showing a genuine interest in knowing more about the person, and the above topics are easy and “safe” for any networking event.

Simply put, enter any networking event with purpose and the mindset of discovering some interesting new people who have the potential to create a mutually valuable relationship – of any sort. When you take this perspective, you’ll realize how valuable and easy networking can be, and you might even learn to enjoy yourself in the process!

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Homage to the Master Storyteller

Nope, it’s not Steven Spielberg, or even Dr. Seuss. It’s Hans Rosling.

Never heard of him? After today, you’ll not only have heard of him, but you’ll wish you’d done so years ago.

The late, great Dr. Hans Rosling passed away on February 9, 2017. A professor of public health, he was the master of taking arguably mundane data – and lots of it – and one of the most boring forms of visual presentation – the graph – and transforming them into a mesmerizing story that made you forget you were learning.

So for anyone out there who uses the excuse that the information you have to share “isn’t all that exciting” to defend why their presentations are uninspiring, after reading this post, that excuse no longer exists.

See for yourself in this BBC video where he analyzes the life-expectancy-to-income ratio of 200 countries over 200 years… in about four minutes. As you watch, you’ll be amazed at not only how much he accomplished in those four minutes, but at how much you actually learned… not to mention how much you enjoyed the experience in the process.

The key lesson for our purposes here is something he states in the first few seconds of the video: “I know that having the data isn’t enough. I have to show it in ways people both enjoy and understand.”

Talk about a one-two punch; let’s face it, most people are satisfied if they can get people to understand their data. The idea of combining that with having the audience actually enjoy hearing about it… that seems almost as likely as finding a unicorn.

There is huge differentiator that most people fail to grasp: the amount of information you present in no way naturally correlates to the amount of information the audience absorbs. That part is 100% up to you to make the information both comprehendible and ideally interesting, so it’s not just that the audience can understand what you’re saying, but they actively want to understand it, and then ask for more.

That’s why Professor Rosling was the master. For most of us, we’ll claim that of course global public health is important to us on a general level, but it’s not something we’ll go out of our way to learn about. But from the moment he starts talking, we are practically compelled to keep watching, genuinely curious to see where he goes next.

So what’s the secret sauce to being this good?

I’ve worked with a lot of people in this area, and there are some really important commonalities regarding the challenges that they face, and where Professor Rosling excels. Let’s break down the ingredients into three categories: Visual, Verbal and Vocal.

First: Visual. This one’s easy. As the adage says, “A picture is worth 1000 words.” When graphs or other visual aids are easy to see and understand, the audience just “gets it,” allowing you to share more information much more efficiently. His body language also flows with the picture, and matches his level of enthusiasm as he speaks, which makes it all feel very natural, and draws you in.

Second: Verbal. He’s a globally-renowned expert, but he doesn’t try to prove this by using lots of technical terms or speaking over the viewers’ heads. He uses language everyone can understand, and breaks his points down into distinct sentences with a clear beginning and end. It’s not a rambling stream of consciousness as he figures out what he wants to say. He is crystal-clear on what each point needs to be, and he delivers them on a silver platter, one by one, making it easily digestible for the audience.

Third: Vocal. Without looking at his script, how can you tell where sentences (and points) start and end? Because you can hear it. At the end of his sentences, you can hear where there is a period or exclamation point based on the intonation changes in his voice: there is a low drop for periods, and the sentence or last word may rise in pitch until the very last second and then quickly fall to indicate excitement, i.e. the exclamation point. Where a phrase is not the end of a sentence, his pitch often goes up to indicate a comma, and then the rest of the sentence follows, culminating in the voice-drop. And at the end of his sentences, there is a brief pause, which allows you to process what he just said, and prepares you for the next nugget to come.

(For those of you who need to hear/see some examples of these vocal concepts and the ones that follow, check this short little video here.)

Intonation contrasts – otherwise known as tonality, i.e. where you put the high and low pitch points in your speech – have an additional value beyond implying punctuation and grammar: they are chiefly responsible for conveying interest. He “punches” important key words with higher pitch and draws them out a bit in a way that sounds more enthusiastic. It captures the audience’s interest, and even makes it easier for them to cognitively process the key points, aiding in comprehension.

Plus, the audience will feed off the speaker’s energy before they process what they heard. Dr. Rosling genuinely loves his subject, and his passion for it comes through with each fact he shares, and it’s contagious.

As a point of contrast, reflect back on actor Ben Stein’s most infamous character, the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, who epitomized the world’s most boring teacher. While that was funny in the movie, the sad truth is that he more accurately reflects the typical speech style of people at your average office meeting or presentation than Professor Rosling.

The good news is that the typical standard of mediocrity in how people share data can be raised, and I challenge you to do it. While you may not have all the fancy computer graphics at your disposal, you can use these simple verbal, vocal and visual strategies to tell the story of your data rather than just plod through your statistics one by one.

Better yet, you can also use his software to bring your data to life if you so choose. At Dr. Rosling’s site, Gapminder.org, he gives it to you for free through open licensing, and even shows you how to use it.

So thanks, Dr. Rosling, for inspiring the world in two ways: with all that you have done in the world of public health, and for modeling how to make even the most “boring” data compelling through the art of storytelling.


Do you have questions or comments about the issues in today’s post, want to know how to apply them, or how to help others with them? If so, contact me at laura@vocalimpactproductions.com or click here to schedule a 20-minute focus call to discuss them with me personally!

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Looking Confident – Even When You’re Not


Over the last several posts, I’ve been sharing strategies on delivering a great performance in front of the camera – and by extension, when in front of a live audience even without a camera. If you haven’t seen them yet, here’s the link to my series of video shorts, “Capturing Your Confidence on Camera.”

This time, I want to share a couple of other great resources for delivering a confident, compelling, engaging performance, as both demonstrated and explained in two of my favorite TED Talks.

The first is more likely to appeal to the part of your brain that likes to read inspiring self-help psychology related books that explain why you do what you do and how to control your own destiny.

It’s your friendly neighborhood Harvard psychologist, Dr. Amy Cuddy, in her TED talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”

This video had two big take-aways. First are the very-real effects that your posture has on your hormonal balance, which subsequently can influence your psyche and sense of self-efficacy and confidence. If you knew that taking two minutes to yourself to hold a certain pose before giving a presentation or speaking on camera could change the quality of your delivery, you’d do it, wouldn’t you?

Second, her story of needing to project confidence at a time when she didn’t feel it, suffering from what some might call “the imposter syndrome,” (long before she was “THE” Amy Cuddy,) is something everyone can relate to. The way she managed to perform despite that fear, until she had beaten it, is inspiring..

It’s also humbling. After realizing everything she was up against – including severe cognitive damage from a car accident – you have to admit: if she can overcome that, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to overcome your fears too, and learn to speak with true confidence.

In contrast, the second video will appeal to the other side of your brain. The part that doesn’t want to have think too hard. Actually, it kind of reminds me of a Seinfeld episode. Why? Because it’s a whole talk about nothing.

It’s a talk about what academics might call “meta-strategies”… but we won’t call it that, because that sort of sucks all the fun out of it, which shouldn’t be allowed to happen after a perfectly good Seinfeld nod.

In “How to sound smart in your TEDx Talk,” Will Stephen steals the show at TEDxNewYork. He paces the stage and talks as if giving a real talk on some specific topic, all the while really just pointing out all the of his own little gestures, mannerisms, and vocal modulations as he does them, explaining why they make his talk engaging… or at least why they would if his talk actually had a more specific point.

It’s six minutes you’ll need to watch twice. The first time you’ll follow along with each point nodding, smiling, and thinking “oh my gosh, that’s so true!” Then at the end, you’ll realize, “oh my gosh, that IS true… wait a minute, I need to look at that again…”

As he uses each little gesture, and explains its value and its likely effect on you right at that moment, take note. The strategies are so simple, but each one engages, endears, and compels. His talk is entertaining and semi-facetious, but every one of his points is relevant, and easily applicable in any presentation preparation and delivery.

Ultimately, just remember that in any situation, you have control over much more than you realize, including how confident you feel, and how confident you look. Strike your pose. Emulate the characteristics you wish you had (i.e. “fake it ‘til you make it”.) Consider the little gestures and vocal cues that connect with the audience in different ways, and deliver them like you mean it.

Once you put it all together, the confidence will flow outward, and when you see how the audience responds to it, you’ll feed off that response and the confidence will become genuine. And there’s no better feeling than that!

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Navigating the On-Camera Interview

You’ve been invited to be interviewed on camera for TV, a video podcast or other virtual event. Does the voice inside your head say:

A: “Woohoo, this is a great chance to get some major publicity, I can’t wait!”

B: “I think I’m going to throw up.”

Most people get nervous when being interviewed, and even more people get nervous at the idea of being on camera. Put the two together and you have a combo that makes the fight-or-flight reflex kick into overdrive.

Aside from checking to make sure there’s no spinach between your teeth, you need to have a strategy to get the result you want. Check out this quick video for some proactive measures you can take in advance to direct the interview where YOU want it to go.

On the one hand, there are all of the delivery details I’ve discussed in other videos in this series like body language, voice, and how to calm your nerves when on camera.

But for interviews, it’s all about having a game plan.

Creating Your Interview Game Plan

First, who is conducting the interview, and what is their agenda? Do they showcase leaders whose story will serve as an inspiration for others? Or are they more likely to try to shoot holes in your theory?

There’s a huge difference between being a guest on a weekday morning television talk show and an evening television news program. The daytime interviews tend to be friendly and just want an interesting story that their listeners will enjoy. Evening news programs are more interested in getting “the scoop.” They enjoy conflict and putting people on the spot, particularly if you espouse a principle that their following tends to disagree with economically or politically.

Knowing what their intention is in advance can help you determine your own goal.

• Do you want people to pull out their smartphones and order your product or sign a petition right then and there?
• Do you want to educate more people about a growing problem – and solutions?
• Do you need to debunk some myths?

Depending on your desired outcome, you will decide in advance what stories to tell, what evidence to share, and how explicitly or implicitly you want to invite others to act.

If the interviewer is more likely to play a little hardball and ask a few tough questions, prepare your answers in advance. At this point in your career, you know what objections and challenges people tend to raise, so be prepared with how you want to respond.

Most importantly, remember that an interview is a conversation.
• DON’T just go on a monologue of statistics.

• DO take a conversational approach

• DO engage the interviewer by using his or her name once in a while, and

• DO give short, clear answers to allow the interviewer to volley back and forth with you without having to cut you off to get a word in edgewise.

Of course, that’s only half the battle.

It’s Not (Just) What You Say…

Once you have a sense of what information you want to share, you need to practice how you say it. I strongly recommend writing down a few questions – tough ones and lob balls – and practice answering them, but video record yourself while you do it!

The recording serves several purposes. First it lets you see how you look when you’re answering it. Are you squirming or poised? Do you smile at appropriate times, laugh nervously, or never even crack a smile?

Second, it lets you see how you sound when answering the questions. When you listen to the recording, you’ll realize when you’re rambling, when you’ve left out an important detail, or when you’ve given a great, laser-focused answer. Do you say “Actually” in every sentence (what I call the educated person’s “um”), stutter your way through an answer when you aren’t sure what to say, or mumble so quietly that you have to turn the volume all the way up on your ear buds to even hear what you’re saying?

Ideally, you should record your practice several times until you have figured out what information you want to include or leave out, and can answer the easy AND the hard questions smoothly and confidently.

When you are a good conversationalist with engaging examples and confident delivery, that’s when the wider audience will give you points for acing the interview and taking home the win.

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What does Your Body Language Say?

“A blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts … the body language of a man wishing urgently to be elsewhere.” – Edward R. Murrow

You may know your content backwards and forwards, inside and out, and be completely confident in your subject, but is your non-verbal communication – i.e. your body language – undermining your authority in spite of your knowledge?

A little while ago, I was working with a client who didn’t realize that he was a “fidgeter.” After a first practice recording, he watched his video, and before offering any feedback, I asked him what he thought about his performance. He paused, and was quiet for a moment before very matter-of-factly declaring: “I’m going to cut off my hands.”

Running his fingers through his hair, folding and unfolding his arms, touching his face, hands in and out of the pockets, scratching his neck, lacing and unlacing his fingers… Not only did it distract the viewer from listening to the message, but more importantly, the “antsy-ness” (as my mother would call it) practically screamed of insecurity and discomfort, and this completely undermined his efforts to establish himself as a confident, competent leader.

What’s most important to realize is that before you even open your mouth to speak, your body has already communicated very specific messages to the audience, and those messages have one of only two possible effects: If aligned with your words, they strengthen your image and reputation; otherwise, they weaken it. That’s it.

The Importance of Alignment

This binary result is because when your words and body language are aligned or congruent, they reinforce each other, which is much more convincing to the audience. But when they are not in alignment – where perhaps your “script” seems confident but the delivery is not, or your words claim that you are caring and want to hear from people but you never smile and your voice is flat – it makes the audience question why, and this casts doubt.

When working with entrepreneurs preparing to pitch in front of investors, I always say, “Before anyone will buy your product or service, they have to buy into you.” Regardless of how well-composed the content of the pitch is, if the delivery isn’t in alignment, this will never happen.

Ultimately, alignment between verbal and non-verbal communication is the foundation of credibility. Lack of alignment destroys that foundation. Let’s look at ways to ensure that you are in alignment, in order to maximize your credibility.
Body Language – Do’s and Don’ts

Just about everyone gets nervous when speaking on camera (or in public without a camera), and in an earlier post I offered some strategies for calming your nerves ( insert hyperlink later). But that nervousness can come across as uncontrolled fidgeting and bad habits like touching your face or waving your arms around without realizing it, or on the flip side, you might come across as stiff, robotic and unfeeling.

In this video on body language, you’ll get a quick checklist with examples of non-verbal cues to watch for when speaking in public or on camera. I use the easy acronym P.E.G.S., which stands for Posture, Eye contact, Gestures and Smile.

Take a look at the examples for each category in the video to see how many of them you’re guilty of doing… then ask yourself how that might influence the success of the video’s overall objective.

In case there’s still a part of you that wants to argue that your position and experience speak for themselves, and your body language shouldn’t make a difference, I leave you with the immortal words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”

When the way you deliver meets up with the words you say you are speaking in unison. That is when your intended message is reinforced and your credibility shines through.

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Is Your Voice Camera-Ready?


Raise your hand if you hate the sound of your voice when you hear it on a video… I bet if we were in a room asking that question everyone would have their hand raised. But here’s the thing: It’s not actually your voice that’s the problem: it’s what you do with your voice that makes it hard to listen to, and undermines your authority and charisma.

Now that we’ve acknowledged the elephant in the room, let’s look at why it happens, and what you can do about it.

One common goal of any appearance on camera is to come across as a confident and charismatic leader, representing your organization, company, or industry. You want to draw people in and connect with the audience… all of which is much easier said than done.

With all that pressure, knowing your performance will be immortalized on video, most people get nervous on camera; that’s totally normal, even when you’re comfortable with your content. And we all know about putting on a “poker face,” i.e. not letting your facial expressions show your true feelings to the world. But your face isn’t the only thing that can put our feelings on display.

Your voice will tattle on you faster than a kindergartener.

So let’s look at some ways to project a strong, clear, compelling vocal delivery. (You can jump to the end and click the photo with the video link if you want to hear demonstrations of these concepts.)

Sounding Confident

You know how they say dogs can smell fear? Well, people can hear fear. So what does fear sound like?

There are two key factors that will either create or destroy a confident voice.

The first is breath support. When you’re nervous, you subconsciously tense up and breathe shallowly from your shoulders. This pinches your voice, and makes you run out of air too fast, resulting in what’s referred to as “vocal fry.”

Vocal fry also happens when you’re hesitant, maybe because you’re afraid of making a mistake, or just feeling self-conscious. When your brain is holding back, your voice will too.

Of course, if you truly admire the way the Kardashians speak (read: irony) and want to emulate them as modern-day leaders, then keep doing what you’re doing, and fry-away.

But when you take a nice deep breath from your belly and open your throat to let your voice flow freely, it resonates in your chest cavity and head and takes on a full, rich sound.

The second is tonality, or intonation patterns, where you put your high and low pitches in your speech.

On the one hand, there are those of you who are so focused on your getting your content right and sounding smart, that there’s very little tonal variation in your voice, so you come across as robotic. That stiffness comes across as awkward and uncomfortable. It can also make you sound more like the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off than someone who is really passionate about her topic.

On the other hand, another common pattern is referred to as “up-speak” or “up-talk,” which is that lilting pattern that sounds like you’re constantly inflecting “Right?” “Okay?” and “You know?” at every turn, and asking questions rather than making statements. This also sounds insecure, as those implied questions are persistently begging for validation: You’re right! Yes! Okay! I hear you – now stop asking questions!

And contrary to the examples in that last video link and popular stereotypes, men do this just as much as women, older and younger. There are other reasons and patterns for when this happens which I’ll have to detail in another post, or drop me a line if you’re dying for more info. But don’t assume that you’re innocent just because you’re not a recent college grad.

Strong, confident, positive intonation puts the highest pitch on the most important words for emphasis, and drops the pitch at the end of sentences, just like a “vocal period.” This declarative tone sounds confident and trustworthy.

The most engaging voice incorporates good breath support for a full, resonant voice, as well as strategically varied intonation, with the ups and downs in all the right places. Want a demo? Click on the picture below and see what you think!

Once you put all this together, you’ll realize that all those annoying habits that made you think you hate your voice have disappeared, and what you’re left with is your very best “camera-ready voice.”

Of course, it’s a lot easier to hear about different voice qualities and habits than it is to read about the sound of your voice. So if you really want to wrap your head – and your ears – around some of these ideas, here’s a quick three-minute video that demonstrates some of the major vocal pitfalls to avoid, and on the flip-side, strategies to help you sound like the confident, charismatic, persuasive leader you want to be.


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Calming your Nerves On Camera

You know the drill.

Your heart starts to race. Your palms start to sweat while your mouth goes dry. You remind yourself to smile and pray you don’t draw a blank at a critical moment.

You’re either about to meet someone on a blind date, or you’re about to speak on camera.

If you’re looking into the eyes of a blind date, sorry; you’re on your own. But if you’re looking into the eye of a camera, there ARE things you can do to calm your nerves, collect your thoughts, and knock it out of the park.

Actually, the more I think about it, some of the solutions to these problems aren’t all that different after all.

For starters, head-games are half the battle. And I’m not even talking about if someone else is playing games with you. (Remember, on a first date those games haven’t started yet.) I’m referring to the internal head-games – some people might call it head trash – that you play with yourself.

Let’s face it: You can be your own worst enemy. And you know I’m right.

You constantly set the bar higher – a good thing in business development, but not when you’re always afraid you could or should have done better, never satisfied with your result. That wrecks havoc on your confidence, which is already under siege in front of the camera.

You’re also a pro at the “what if” game:

– What if I make a mistake?
– What if I draw a blank?
– What if they ask a question I can’t answer?
– What if I forget to smile?
– What if I fidget too much?
– What if the camera really does add ten pounds? I should’ve gone on a diet…

And what does all that accomplish? It sets you on a downward spiral of sabotage and self-fulfilling prophecies.

At that point, you’re like a major league baseball player getting up to bat and saying over and over to himself: Don’t miss… Don’t miss… Just don’t miss…

At best, that’s playing to not-lose. You need to adjust your thinking so you can play to WIN.
Here’s the first trick: Your body doesn’t know the difference between when you’re nervous or excited. Adrenaline is adrenaline. So when you feel the adrenaline kick in, along with the quickened heartbeat and shaky hands, don’t send yourself on that downward spiral by repeating “Oh my gosh, I’m so nervous… I’m so nervous… I’m so nervous” over and over again, mantra-like.

That’s psyching yourself out before you even get started, making the challenge both physical and psychological.

Instead, psych yourself into success. (After all, if you can talk yourself out of something, why wouldn’t it work the other way around too?)

When that adrenaline kicks in, change gears immediately, and repeat to yourself, “I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so excited…” and get yourself pumped up!

And it’s not just empty words… you are excited. Think about it: you wouldn’t be nervous or excited if you didn’t care, and caring is good! And you probably care so much because this is a great opportunity for you to shine and get some good publicity for you and your company.
That’s what you should be focused on – and happy about!

Aligning your mind and body that way is the equivalent of getting up to bat and focusing your thoughts and efforts on knocking it out of the park.

Then SMILE as you say this to yourself – it actually has a positive psychological effect as well.

My video below, “Calming Your Nerves” from the series, “Capturing Your Confidence on Camera,” addresses this and other strategies you can use to get a grip on yourself and be calm, cool, and compelling in front of the camera.

And these strategies aren’t just for mastering camera presence. Whenever you need to capture the attention, minds and hearts of your audience, whether in an interview, giving a conference presentation, or on that first date, run through the strategy checklist in the video.

You’re sure to come across poised, charismatic and confident – and win them over!

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