Athena Alliance executive coach Jenna Lange has identified three characteristics of strong leaders: they are connected, calm, and clear. Throughout Jenna’s more than 20 years of experience, coaching the world’s top executives on how to communicate with finesse and precision, she has seen that it’s typically the leaders with these three traits who can rise to the top — and inspire their teams to rise along with them. 

But to rise, women must first confidently know and own who they are — in the office, with their families, and even at home on the weekends. 

“I look at every leader I work with holistically. I want to know the best version of the person, and understand if this best version is showing up in the moments that matter,” Jenna said. Getting a sense of who a member is, both on a personal and professional level, is at the heart of the work Jenna does with women executives. 

How women executives discover their voice

How you behave in a high stakes communication moment can be career-defining. Jenna brings more than two decades of experience in communications and helping women discover their voice. She has worked with senior leaders at Microsoft, The Gates Foundation, North Face, Expedia, Google, YouTube, and more to stand strongly in their executive presence in critical communication moments. Her sharp business acumen, humor, and persuasive manner transforms leaders into great communicators. 

Athena members come to Jenna to improve their communications skills and ensure their messages are as impactful as possible. It could be regarding negotiation. A high-stakes presentation. A team meeting. How you show up in the boardroom. To master these key moments, women executives must acknowledge that “what got them this far, won’t get them to the next level.” Great leaders can show up and communicate in a powerful way, commanding attention, inspiring teams, and sparking action and buy-in. 

Many women executives have found it challenging to climb the corporate ladder and elevate their professional careers. Some have come to Jenna, lamenting that something must be “missing.” They make it all the way to interviews, but don’t win the board seat. They secure the big meeting with a prospect, but don’t win the deal. They feel like they lack executive presence with their own teams. The common theme in all these situations, according to Jenna: a lack of confidence. 

5 tips to get ready for your next high-stakes meeting or presentation

To overcome these challenges, Jenna believes women must step outside of their comfort zone and see themselves in a new light. Jenna’s role as coach is to help members better connect to who they authentically are and what they are capable of—and break down the barriers of what has been holding them back. 

Jenna often coaches women on how to gain confidence and prepare for their high-stakes communication moments. Here are her top five tips to get ready:

  1. Lift, Lighten & Settle. Take a deep breath in and think about something or someone that brings you joy. Slowly exhale, breathing out into the four corners of the room. This is a quick practice to calm nerves and keep you focused.
  2. Ask yourself, what’s the “So What” for my audience? Why should they care about what I’m saying? We connect by making our message relevant and delivering it in the style that is most comfortable for our audience.
  3. Ground your ideas in a communication structure. One of our favorites at Lange International is the What/Why/How/Outcome structure used for introductions. A structure will help calm nerves, keep your message clear and you on track.
  4. Think about the point(s) you want to make prior to a meeting, then plan a story to illustrate each point(s). Stories are a powerful way to make your message come alive and be memorable for your audience.
  5. Practice. Before any high-stakes meeting or presentation, pull out your phone, record and watch yourself. Repeat until you feel comfortable with what you are saying and how you say it. 

“When someone calls me and says ‘I got the job,’ ‘I won the business,’ ‘I got the board seat…’ Those calls make me happy,” she said. “That is when I know I’ve done my job.”

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