4 Tricks for a Killer Presentation

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This past weekend Jonathan @jrh_graphics and I teamed up with Dani Sauter @blonde_inthedistrict and Callum from @cephotogs to do a collab styled photo shoot on 14th street in D.C. Oh what fun that was!

Dani is one of the most driven and down to earth entrepreneurs I've ever met. From first greet to goodbye hug, it was laughs, stories, and this deep down acknowledgement between us on what it's like to build a vibrant creative business in the heart of the Nation's Capital. What prompted this week's post was Dani mentioning that she has an incredible opportunity to MC an event this Fall and so I shared a couple of my best tricks and tips for rocking it. Here are my tips to share more with all of you!

Let's say, like Dani, you’ve been asked to give a presentation to the client, team, or perhaps for a big audience. You feel the nerves start to creep up as soon as you’re asked. Your palms begin to sweat, and your stomach feels like a pit of doom. All this before you’ve even begun preparing!

If you’ve felt alone in this, stop right there. I get asked all the time about the secret sauce to giving a compelling and engaging presentation. I’ve been in your shoes and I know how scary it can feel at first and how overwhelming it can be to figure out where to begin.

These are some of the most impactful tools I’ve used to create presence and successfully deliver any type of information leaving the audience engaged, educated, and entertained.

1. Memorize, Memorize, Memorize!
Have you ever seen a presentation where the speaker is reading their notes and avoiding eye contact? If you do this, it will create a lot of distance between you and the audience. The audience will feel instantly disengaged and you don’t want that.

Instead, think of a presentation as a conversation with your audience. Keep your notes tucked away and focus on the audience instead. Whether or not you are talking to a group of 3 or a group of 300, being present is a sure way to attract their attention to you and be with your presence. Having your content memorized will make it easier for you to interact with the audience instead of figuring out what page you are on in your notes.

For my favorite resource to help you remember literally ANYTHING, watch this Ted Talk by science writer, Joshua Foer. He describes the technique — called the memory palace — and shows off its most remarkable feature: anyone can learn how to use it, including him.

2. Rock Your Confidence Pose
Over 55% of what the audience will respond to will be from your body language. Believe it or not, how you stand speaks more to the audience than what you actually say.

An Executive Coach once told me that how far apart you hold your hands will be how much money you want to make. From that moment on, I got very conscious of how I presented my hands after hearing that. The closer you hold your hands, the more you contract your body towards your center, showing insecurity. Instead, spread your hands apart, align your legs with your hips, avoid bringing them together, and notice how your chest opens up and your voice will project more. You will convey greater confidence in your knowledge of the material.

3. Get Your Gestures
During your next presentation, don’t be afraid to move your hands to convey a key point that you’re trying to make. The grander the motion, the better so that it emphasizes your point more. Gestures will become more natural when you have practiced this so spread those arms and project your point as you prepare for your presentation. The audience will be more engaged with you and believe in what you’re saying.

4. Be Bold
Be bold in how you speak during the presentation. After all, 38% of your credibility is coming from how the audience is hearing you. You can use this to your advantage and match your tone with bigger body language we discussed above to project confidence. Have a bit of fun as well if your audience is open to that. Surprise them and do something unexpected.

All of these tips may feel awkward at first but remember that your audience wants to connect with you in some way. Even if they hold a straight face, don’t underestimate their enjoyment. I’ve been approached by the most stern audience members with glowing reviews after the presentation. You never know who will benefit from your messages, so keep at it!


Taking the Leap of Purpose

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Like any great story, the hero must begin their journey by mustering enough courage to leave what’s always felt safe and comfortable. Much like an adventure leading into a dark forest, your own pursuit of purpose can feel very similar. The terrain is new, it’s unexplored, and it can make you feel totally alone.

I remember a couple of key moments in my life where I felt ready to take the plunge and do something without knowing the outcome. When I first decided to go move to Boston for Graduate school, it felt like a lonesome decision to make at first. When you take on something new and exciting, it activates your primal instincts and stress levels to help protect you. When this happens, it can feel, especially when the fear sets in, that you’re the only one feeling all of the feels! Things like indecision, anxiety, anger, sadness, loss,  and pure fear about what was going to happen after you made your decision.

Luckily for us, the great stories with a hero all have a common theme of overcoming that initial fear of leaving your comfort zone. It can be hard in our modern stories to see the commonalities between us and others who have dared to pursue what they love, so here are my hero tips to help you begin step into your next adventure.

  • Look behind you: It can seem counter-intuitive to look behind you, but there’s a reason you’re standing on the edge. When you decide that where you are is not where you want to be, looking back can be a perfect reminder of the reason you are ready to move forward.
  • What’s the worst that can happen? My all time favorite question and with good reason. When we begin planning for the future (one we don’t know much about yet) we begin coming up with various scenarios and what ifs. Well, write all of those what ifs downs, AND what you can do to mitigate them.
  • Pay no mind to everyone else’s idea of the cliff: Our friends, family, co-workers all have their own experiences with the cliff and some are great, while others are scary. Remember that this cliff is yours, and yours alone. So what you experience will always be, in some part, different from everyone else’s experience.
  • Grow into your real self: The look ahead from here you are might start feeling a little narrow, like you’re heading into the thick of the forest. When you begin to only feel that fear, take a moment to remember that once you past that point, you are stepping into your own territory, where the rules are what you decide they are.

Once you’ve stepped into your first hero adventure or stepped off your purpose cliff, it will be the most rewarding and life changing experience. The minds will try and fool with us once on the edge because it knows that there is a big change coming. Don’t mistake your excitement for the adventure with the mind’s interpretation of fear. You. Got. This.



Smiling your way through No

I am standing in my office hallway, fingers are slowly turning into prunes as the nerves set in and I’m slightly sweaty. I feel my heartbeat faster, it’s almost like the moment I knock on the door, my heart could explode. I hear a faint, “Come in!”, and in I go. The mug on the table read “THE BOSS”, and I sit down for what feels like a grilling. The conversation opens with, “Lea, what can I do for you?”, and off I go.

After about 15 minutes of discussing my career and what I wanted to do, I made a bold move- I asked to begin supporting one particular policy project to help build my portfolio of skills. The look on the face of my boss was UNREADABLE. However, I heard the words that many of us hate hearing, “Lea, I don’t think this is possible”.


I put myself out there to see if I can create my happiness at work- and then THAT happened.

I remember walking out of the office feeling completely defeated, like there was this dark cloud over my shoulders for the rest of day, heck, the rest of the week.

I look back at the situation a couple of years ago now, and I laugh. I laugh a lot because I just walked out of a similar situation last week. I walked into two meetings with senior leaders, and heard NO. Yet, I felt a million times different, even EXCITED when I heard the word NO.

Here are my lessons, from then to now on how I went from REACT to RESPOND when the boss says NO!

What’s Worse?
It won’t always go your way when you approach the boss, but the worst case scenario is one where you don’t bring up your idea at all. Most of us envision the boss saying no before we even mention it. You never know what they are thinking until you talk with them about the topic. Depending on what you ask, the conversation can turn into possibilities and options rather than never asking and never receiving!

Problem versus Solution
Many times we think the conversation ends with the answer to the question, but if you’re proposing something new to the boss, frame it as the solution to a problem. If you have been lacking a challenge at work for example, explain that taking on new responsibilities would help you engage and pick up on new skills that are necessary for you to grow professionally.

Example: Hi Michael, I have noticed there is an increase in demand for breaking news stories and press releases in our communications team. To help support the team and grow my skills in the area of writing, I suggest that I spend up to 40% of my time on quick responses. I will not expect an increase of my duties for the next two weeks while I am supporting the communications team. When I stop helping them, I can support editing and briefings more effectively having worked on this skill.

Mind reading is not a skill found on most resumes
Even perfect preparation can’t help when the Boss still decides to deny your request. Whether it’s taking a training course or new challenge, bosses aren’t always thinking about where your career is going. If you find your Boss saying no to others a lot, think insightfully as to what they are thinking about when they make that decision. Some managers are simply NO people because they don’t like change, others have a specific reason to deny the request.

Defining what no means coming from your Boss is a great way to become objective to the outcome, and not take it personally.

Redefine No
The most important skill to know when you are told no is that it means it’s new, fresh, innovative, different, and those are creative ideas that are required to remain afloat today in the workplace. Navigating a constrictive environment allows you to flew your creativity muscles, to find alternative ways to make your solution happen. If you’ve been eyeing a training which has been denied by the boss, there are a number of sources you can still pursue to make sure you get what you need. Think of no as meaning Not Yet (as in the boss isn’t ready for it) or not the right avenue (if you want it bad enough you’ll find a way and prove it works).

I believe strongly that the universe gives up a multitude of possibilities and options to pursue what we desire. If you look at no as a guide, the Universe could be directing you inwards to gut check if you REALLY want what it is that you’re asking for. In cases where your WHY is strong, you WILL find the way- it doesn’t really have anything to do with the Boss anyway.

Open your outlook calendar, and set that meeting- asking gets you one step closer no matter the outcome!

Charge on Gorgeous!


Career Confidence...in your Yoga Pants

In today’s world, having the confidence to handle projects, manage people, resolve disputes requires much more than holding your hands above your head in a powerful posture (I’m not hating on that by any means, I do it often!). Building long term confidence to take on your day takes more than feeding yourself with positive thoughts. There is one aspect of our careers that comes up a lot, and it can mean the difference between a better job, higher pay, passion, and ultimately happiness, and that’s confidence.

This confidence is about how we continuously cultivate a powerful internal posture- not just the type of power that’s stereotypical for a man, but the type of ease and flow that feminine power that can create the outcomes we really want. One overlooked confidence booster is the link to physical exercise and how that can directly impact your work performance in the long run.

People acknowledge that the benefits of being healthy are numerous- but is there a connection between how we treat our bodies and our career/business success? Science says yes. Harvard Business Review wrote that our performance and management skills improve when we have time when we get in physical exercise.

Research talks about physical exercise enhancing brain functioning and how well you can focus on tasks, prioritize and remain sharp during the sometimes grinding workday, but many don’t realize how important self esteem is with confidence in your work. The type of confidence that allows you to go after more opportunities, and navigate the uncertain waters with more ease.

This is where physical exercise comes in- it’s one of the only times when we have the ability to connect with ourselves, with our humanity, and with the present. Physical exercise is also the main avenue to building your physical resilience to the demands of work. Building up your confidence is much easier when you feel physically strong. When I began coaching, I challenged a client to complete a 60 day exercise program to help her gain courage to speak up to her boss more often, and it worked. Not because she needed to get in shape necessarily, but doing resistance training and cardio gave her to grounding posture she needed to speak up.

It’s no surprise that women make up a majority of College attendees. They also tend to build their knowledge of subjects in greater detail before they present or speak up. Whether you’re proposing a new project, asking for a raise, or just trying to speak up in the weekly team meeting, many tend to shy from speaking up especially in the beginnings of their careers because of the lack of information they could have at the time of the conversation. This is a great use case for why confidence matters- and gives women the internal push they need to speak up and say what they are thinking.

If you’ve found yourself shying away from creating a consistent workout routine, try looking at it with new eyes. It isn’t just about getting fit, though it does give you a lot of great compliments, It’s also about slaying your career goals. You miss the shots you don’t take, and if exercise gives you the brain functioning power you need to kill your current projects, allow your stronger core and body to also help you find new challenges that you may not have felt confident in asking for previously. Having physical strength to hold yourself in the agonizing wheel-y chairs can prove more than just useful for relieving back pain, it can actually spur your creativity- and increase your confidence in producing new results and helping to move the needle in your career or business.

To your confidence,