For most careers, communication skills become the anchor or the sail to their career path. If you cannot convey your ideas clearly and confidently, you will not advance. In fact, millions of professionals admit to avoiding speaking opportunities, hiding from sales roles, and being silent in meetings. Speak by Design offers private coaching, group coaching and consulting services to help individuals, teams, and organizations improve their communication skills to lead teams and accelerate personal and business growth.
Their business has been around for 20 years serving global consulting firms, investment banks, and private equity funds. They regularly onboard externally-hired CEOs and support executive leadership teams during IPO years. They coach TED talks. They are training financial advisors and tech firms on how to sell remotely. They are teaching management teams how to present their businesses to potential acquirers. They coach upcoming leaders and help them get promoted as part of their Transition Coaching services.
Thankfully, Stephanie was able to answer several questions about Speak by Design and her approach to leadership communications.
Hi Stephanie, what motivated you to start Speak by Design and when did it all begin?
Speak by Design began in 2000. I was 25 years old and had just married my college sweetheart, John Bingham. He was a consultant at Arthur Andersen. I had a business degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s degree in Musical Theatre. I met one of the Partners at Arthur Andersen at a dinner. He asked me to coach some consultants who needed better speaking skills, and the company was launched.
I never imagined I would be running a global team of consultants and working with the powerful people and businesses we support. What I treasure most about Speak by Design, is what it has taught me about myself. I let my love of helping people guide us on every decision: services, hiring, and curriculum development. Our business grows every year primarily from word of mouth. Nothing feels better than that. Our curriculum grows, too, from our curiosity to solve the new communication challenges our clients face.
What is the most common problem you see in professionals needing public speaking coaching?
Because of Covid-19, the new emerging needs are around virtual business development skills, virtual presentations, and virtual team management. We have a steady request for private leadership coaching programs. Companies need to retain and bolster their key players, and they are sponsoring programs. Some of the very specific requests we have heard lately are: (1) help me deliver more interesting perspectives to my clients, (2) help me be more confident when responding to my boss’s direct questions about my work, and (3) help me campaign for promotion virtually. We have launched a virtual series we call Lead by Design. Participants engage in eight half-day group sessions, group discussions, and receive private coaching over 5 months. The program launches in August.
How does Speak by Design differentiate itself from other communication consulting firms?
Our coaches have deep experience with so many different types of industries and roles. We have created unique exercises and approaches to develop speaking skills. However, the biggest difference is our format. We have a carefully crafted assessment that is comprised of 5 communication role plays. From those role plays, we assess visual leadership, vocal presence, message structure, and poise under pressure. We tell people what personality traits an audience would assume about them based upon their body language, word choice, pitch, rate of speech, pitch variety, emphasis, pronoun usage, messaging, and reactions. We video record extensively, and we send private feedback summaries and custom practice guides after each session. I have never found another firm that takes this personal of an approach. We care so much. We have every client explain their personal and business transformation goals, so that we can help them use strong communication to achieve these goals.
To excel in public speaking, what would you say are the three most essential things speakers need to do?
Finding the right coaching and training firm is key if you want to see measurable results in the next 3-6 months. Sometimes we see immediate results after just one session. We have helped people convert a standard sales pitch into a winning pitch in just a few hours.
If you are looking to develop exceptional speaking skills, work on your mindset, behaviors, and measurement.
- Work on your beliefs and your vision for your future self. Spot all your limiting thoughts about yourself. Decide to care more about your co-workers. Give yourself pep talks before and after conversations, meetings, and presentations. As silly as it sounds, that is very effective. Imagine yourself in the future. Go 10 years forward in your mind if you can. Journal all of this.
- Grab more speaking opportunities. Ask your boss if you can kick off a team discussion. Look for ways to teach something you know well to those in your company who do not know it. Practice your status updates out loud 5 times before you give them. You will be amazed at how good they get. Record yourself on your phone or Zoom and watch it back.
- Tell people what you are working on. Ask for feedback. This can feel vulnerable to some. If so, be selective. Try out new behaviors on friends and family to see what the impact is. This is key to measuring your success and learning how to make your communication style fit your role and your goals.
What is specifically involved in your enterprise solutions, and how do they help businesses with effective communication?
Over 20 years of working with companies and emerging leaders, we have developed depth in helping onboard C-suite leaders, support CEO communications during their IPO year, prepare management teams for presentations to potential investors, and prepare leaders for investor meetings.
We also work with deep technical experts: primarily data scientists and IT professionals. Expert presentations require a different approach. My business partner and husband, John Bingham, was a former Chief Information Security Officer at Whirlpool Corporation, Delphi Automotive, and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles. We are now working with cyber security professionals.
We also work with Learning and Development professionals to build one-of-a-kind training experiences that fit their company culture, mission, and business needs like a glove. Some companies have us design communication modules that fit every tenure to make transitions seamless. We meet them in orientation, and we help them prepare and succeed at every milestone.
What are the benefits of choosing private coaching over group-based training? What is the purpose of each method?
This is a great question. It really depends on the goal.
Private coaching is where we see the real, lasting change. It is also what accelerates promotion to the next level. Also, the more senior the leader, the more this is the obvious format.
Group training is ideal when you have a new leader or a lot of new team members. You need to build culture and accelerate building communication norms and routines. Our group trainings change culture and improve team chemistry immediately. We help your people initiate, welcome, and receive feedback with grace. We are launching a monthly coaching membership that clients can enroll in to keep their communication skills strong. Speak by Design University opens its doors on September 1, 2020. We will begin accepting registrations starting in August.