As most of us at the business school have already come to recognize, communication is an important tool. Whether getting you through an excruciating cold call or an agonizing interview, communication is powerful. If you’re anything like me, you are your own worst critic and communicating in a confident and articulate manner is something we all wish we could do better.
How do you capture the attention of an audience? How do you infuse humor? How do you address what the audience wants to know while still delivering the message you intended?
Suzanne Bates offers answers to these questions and more in her book, “Speak Like a CEO: Secrets to Commanding Attention and Getting Results,” which became a best seller on Amazon.com in November 2005. Suzanne began her career as a news anchor. But while quite successful in this role, she came to realize when talking with her career coach that if she continued on that path, waking up at 3:00 a.m. to deliver the morning news, she would either be physically ill, mentally ill, or both. She knew she needed to make a change.
Having studied journalism, leaving her role as an award-winning news anchor left her with little more to do in that arena. However, the most predominate skill she had developed, how to communicate effectively, could easily be transferred. She decided to apply what she had learned in her experiences to helping business people improve the way they communicate. She says she started her own company, Bates Communications, “To provide communications strategies, workshops, training, facilitation and executive coaching in communication skills.” The firm provides coaching for public speaking, networking, job interviews, business presentations, media interviews, writing and conversation.
Fortunately for the ladies of 85 Broads, a networking group for women founded by Janet Hanson in 1999, the Boston Chapter invited Suzanne Bates to speak on the topic of “The Power of Communication” on January 29. The event took place at the Charles Hotel and was well attended, primarily by Harvard University and HBS students. With the generous support of 85 Broads, approximately 50 Harvard women were able to attend Suzanne’s presentation.
Through the 85 Broads network, undergraduate women are invited to participate in the Broad2Be program and several HBS women are involved with the Broad2Broad Program for business-school students. These pipelines have proved incredibly valuable to the Broad network; undergraduate members now make up 20% of the network and business-school students make up 57% of total membership (//www.85broads.com).
The most valuable statement I took away from the event was: “You are as good as you want to be.” The presentation emphasized that being successful in communication requires preparation. Know the facts and know what you want to communicate. If you take the time to prepare, you can deliver without notes and reply to ad hoc questions. Also place a premium on thinking through what your audience wants to know. If you don’t, you will lose their attention and they will tune out your message. What they want to hear is at least as important to consider as what you want to say. It is also common to use stories to deliver a message because you capture interest and make it easier for the audience to recall key points. Finally, speak with confidence. If you don’t believe it, no one else will. The more practice you get the better you will become, so take opportunities to put yourself out there and give it a shot. The HBS Public Speaking Club is a great place to start.