Up to this day, women leaders continue to be underrated as strategic thinkers and thought leaders in their organizations. Many women may have reached the C-suite level but still have that DIY tendency and self-effacing attitude that often prevents them from having a real seat at the table. How can women unleash their true potential as strategic thinkers and thought leaders? In this conversation with Melanie Parish, sought-after speaker, strategist, podcast host and presentation skills trainer, Elizabeth Bachman shares some tips on how to present yourself as a real thought leader in your sphere and start having a real impact. Also on this episode, learn how you can try little steps over time to create incremental change plus some tips on presenting yourself and creating engagement online.
Listen to the podcast here:
How To Present Yourself As A Thought Leader With Elizabeth Bachman
I'm here with Elizabeth Bachman who's the go-to person for advanced level training and speaking presentation skills, sales and leadership. With a lifetime spent perfecting the art of presenting, she helps high-level clients master a message that brings the funding they need, the allies they want and the recognition they deserve. She's a sought-after speaker and strategist. Elizabeth works with leaders and influencers who need to become concise and compelling presenters. She helps them present a smart, down to earth, loose, friendly, even funny and still be taken seriously.
Having spent over many years directing such luminaries as Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo in many operas around the world, she brings a wealth of tools to help business professionals become respected presenters. She's fluent in five languages and brings her global experience to her clients. She is the host of the show Speakers Who Get Results, where she interviews international experts on presenting leadership, visibility and cross-cultural communication.
I am excited to be here with Elizabeth Bachman. Welcome, Elizabeth.
Thank you, Melanie.
I would love to hear what you're up to in your work and life. What's going on for you?
As a presentation skills trainer, people keep thinking, “You're going to help me with the speech.” A lot of what I do is help people with speeches, but I'm also doing a lot around how you present yourself within a company and show up as the leader you want to be perceived as. I spent a lot of time thinking about perception and working with women at high-level careers who find that they get to a certain point and then trying to get to VP or C-level, they get stuck. They're still presented as the person who could fix the problem, who was good at what they do, so you don't have to think about them. They're not thought of as a thought leader and a strategic thinker. I have a whole system for helping you present yourself as the person that they're looking for, whether it's one-on-one or in a meeting or if you're standing up and doing a speech in front of an audience, all of that works.
What do you think is the biggest shift is that women make in order to be seen differently or to be perceived as thought leaders?
The biggest shift is telling people that you're a thought leader. There's a whole strategy around how you say it without seeming like you're bragging. We've all seen the situations where a man can say something and it's considered honest and direct and a woman says it and is considered brash, bossy and arrogant. This is the same thing. It is that cultural expectations are different. It's not necessarily good or bad. It’s what people are expecting from you. I play a lot in what those people expect to see or hear when you show up. How can you not disrupt them? Do you disrupt them by getting in the door? How do you tweak and polish the way you are delivering the information to the audience so that they can take it in. Rule number one in any presentation is, it's about the listeners. It’s how you deliver your ideas, material and ask. I've been doing a lot around asking and how do you ask for things? How do you manage that ask in a way that they're ready to listen to?
I coach a lot of senior leaders in technology. I often hear that they're told they're not promotable because who would do the work? It is crazy that they hear that out loud, but it’s said when they say, “That's ridiculous,” then they're troublemakers. This is a field that's full of experimentation. How do you ask your clients? How do you help them experiment better as they try these things?
I love it that you say experiment. I call it rehearsing. What works the best is I work with people over a course of six months, whether it's an individual or a group. The whole process is, “What's the short-term and long-term problem? Whether it’s a short-term or long-term strategy, you go try it and then you come back and say, “This works,” or, “No, they didn't respond to that at all.” We said, “If that didn't work, you try something else.” It's very much like rehearsing a play or an opera, you have to see what's going to work best for you. The other part of that is also that most of the time if people are good at their job, they can't be promoted.
I get a lot of people who say, “I'm good. My division is the one that runs with no problems so people take me for granted.” A whole lot of my work is about how to get people out of the taken for granted rut and into being perceived as a strategic thinker and a thought leader. That's the long-term strategy. That's where you start speaking outside your company and you start saying, “This piece is what solves the problem.” The thought leadership piece about this is the upper level, “How do we think long-term?” You could call yourself a strategic thinker or you can say, “People think of me as the person who fixes the problem, but there's an amazing amount of strategy and let me tell you how that goes.”
The long-term part of it is speaking outside the company and then leveraging that within the company so that people say, “She's a strategic thinker because she said she was.” An easier way to talk about it is my client Jane is a C-level in an important research institute. She is one of those people who fix problems. As Director of Operations, she's good at getting stuff done, but she's also good at putting the teams together. They're asking her to do a human resources piece because she has a way of making the teams more efficient and restructuring things. She’s about to go in and fix the problem. She could see how it was going to go.
I said, “Before you do that, there were only two people above you in this company, but they do take you for granted. Why don't you line out your strategy and then talk to them and say, ‘Here's the problem. Here's how I can fix it. I'd like to run my strategic thinking by you and get your input,’ so that they are using the word strategy.” We've redone her presentation so that she can go in and ask them for their input. She could solve it all by herself, but the more they can take ownership of it and say, “This is great.” They may indeed have insights that she doesn't have, the better it will be. She's all excited because she’s like, “It never occurred to me to tell people what a strategic thinker I am. I went in and fixed it.”
That's the problem-solvers attitude. It's not just men or women. I figured it as the mom thing. It's like, “Fix it now, get it done,” instead of teaching someone else to fix it. We've all been there. It's a matter of managing the perception. The experimental part is you have to do it in little steps over a period of time. People don't change their perception about you overnight. You keep dropping little seeds and seeding ideas. At some point, you will recognize that, “They're taking me seriously now.” The hard part is you cannot change people overnight. If I could figure out how to do that, I'd be a bazillionaire. Unfortunately, it's a whole lot of little things that you polish and tweak. It does matter. It does make a difference and work but it’s not overnight.
The speaking business got hit hard with the pandemic. How are you shifting and experimenting in your own work?
I was always doing most of my stuff online. For me, I was not one of those people who got paid $100,000 to go in and keynote at a conference. That would have been lovely. I will say yes if someone wants to pay me $100,000, but most of my work is sharing ideas and tips which then gets me clients. My speaking is speaking to get clients and I do informational presentations and tell people how they can follow-up if they want to get detailed work. It didn't change that much for me. What changed is there's more of it. What changed is I'm doing a lot more of training people who used to only ever speak live, training them how to work with a camera and Zoom. I've teamed up with a style expert who does Zoom make-overs.
Her name is Shelley Golden. She does these wonderful classes online where people show up and this is where I'm usually working from. She helps waves her wand and tweaks it. Suddenly, you look more professional and it's at your house. It's a matter of moving things around. I love doing that with her because I have a good eye, but she has a way better eye for color and background. I know enough about it to know that there’s someone who sees the thing I don't see. I help people with how they express themselves and how do you use online platforms to position yourself as a speaker and how to get out there and get the right online speaking gigs.
Do you have a couple of hot tips for all of us who were online all the time?
The first thing is who needs to hear you? Who do you want to reach? It's quite possible to be online all the time in front of the wrong listeners and audiences. I've done an episode about this. It’s called How to Get Online Bookings on my podcast, which is Speakers Who Get Results. You want to find the right online room and the right audience. Do people need to hear what you want to say? Are they going to pay attention? You need to tell what's going to work for them. Whether you're live or online, the same principles apply.
You don't want to give them too much how and not enough why. You want to make sure that you're giving people information that they can take away without drowning them in all the details. Be sure to include the benefit and what's in it for them. The key is this is Sales 101. This is the first lesson of sales, which is to sell the benefits, not the features, sell the sizzle, not the steak. For those of us who are passionate about a subject and know a whole lot, it's easy to go off on a tangent or to tell everybody all the how and how you do what you do instead of why it matters to them.
It's great advice even in organizing a production meeting. Who needs to be in the room? What's in it for them? It doesn't even have to be in a sales conversation where those questions are quite powerful to ask.
In any meeting, you should tell the people who are listening, “Here's where you need to pay attention,” or “Write this down. Please answer in the chat.” Something that will make them answer because the other thing is when we're all online, it's easy to be checking your email at the same time or playing a little Solitaire in another window. The ways of keeping them engaged and saying, “Here's why this matters to this department and to that department” and, “Joe, this is going to be important for you. I want you to weigh in on it.” Techniques of engagement are twice as important now that we're online. The third tip is to make sure you look professional. Make sure that it's not a busy background behind you or that you're not backlit that the camera on the computer is picking up the light behind you and your face is dark. People automatically tune out if they can't see your face.
At the beginning of the pandemic, everybody was forgiving. I noticed in myself as time goes on, being asked to look at someone who's super backlit or someone who isn't handling the technology well. I feel like they are asking a lot of me and that's changed. The fact that they managed to get on Zoom was great. I had somebody who was typing while on their knees, while I was talking to them. It made the screen bounce and it was hard on my brain so I had to ask them to stop. I do notice the world is changing. I'm changing but I also notice my expectations of the world are changing. That's an interesting thing to notice.
I was helping to facilitate an online conference. There was a panel with four amazing and super smart women experts. I was appalled at how terrible the lighting was, how terrible their backgrounds were and all of these are super smart, amazing and incredible experts. I don't know if the organizer said, “Please, everybody has a plain white background,” but it did not flatter them at all. They looked terrible. One of them, you couldn't see her face at all. Not everybody looks good in black and white. I was horrified. I eventually get an answer back from the organizer because I wrote to the organizer saying, “What is this?” The other thing is there was one woman who was looking down at the pictures on the screen, not at her camera, which meant that all we saw was her forehead. We could see that her roots were growing out because she hadn't been to the hairdresser in a while. That is unprofessional in my book.
It's interesting to think about what you can do about that. Some of it is what it is. If I'm on a meeting with my virtual assistant, darn if I'm not going to be in sweat pants with no makeup on. If I'm going to be on camera that will be living on the internet and perpetuity, that’s a different thing. It’s fascinating to think about all of these things. I also want to dive into your own leadership. You've been leading your own organization and in the world for a long-time. What do you do for your self-care?
I have my morning breakfast ritual. I'm living in the family home with my sister and brother-in-law. She likes to be chatty in the morning and I do not. I go away and said, “This is my quiet time.” I make sure that I have my morning breakfast ritual. I take breaks and exercise but not as much as I should. Part of my intention was to get fit and lose weight. I've gotten down partway to where I figured the rest of the time, if I'm going to seriously go on a diet, I'm maintaining in a way that is fun to eat. If I'm going to seriously lose more weight, I'm going to wait until I have to go out into the world wearing hard pants again. I don't go anywhere. I’m just in the house. There are a couple of us in the house who are immune-compromised. We don't do anything that might be contagious. I go for walks, to the grocery store and then the rest of my life is online.
Do you eat the same thing for breakfast every day? What do you eat?
I love coffee. It probably would be healthier if I didn't break it, but you got to have a few vices left. I also have two rice cakes with some cheese spread. I'll prepared cheese or sometimes I'll make my own with a mix of yogurt, cream cheese, chopped up cranberries or chives out of the garden and an apple. I have apple slices, rice cakes and spread on top. I am also the person that I can do the same breakfast every day. I'm like my dad, my dad had the same breakfast every day for most of his adult life. Whereas my partner, she's the kind of person who needs variety. It makes her crazy. She looks at me having the same thing every day and she's like, “How can you do that? It's got to be different.” I said, “No. I like it to be the same.” That's what makes life interesting.
I'm the one who has something different for breakfast every day. My husband's the one that has the same thing for breakfast every day. Every now and then, I want what he's having but not every day.
Whatever satisfies you and that fills a need for me.
Where can people find you? You've got many brilliant insights and I'd love for people to be able to find you and learn more about you.
My show is called Speakers Who Get Results and you can find that on iTunes, Stitcher and everywhere. You can find my website, which is ElizabethBachman.com, you can also find the podcast there. I'm all over social media, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook.
It has been such a pleasure to have you. I have enjoyed our conversation.
Thank you. It's been a true joy.
I've been speaking with Elizabeth Bachman. One of my favorite things that she said is if you want to become more strategic as a woman leader, start telling people you're a strategic thinker and a thought leader. They don't have to come to that on their own. You can say things like, "The thought leadership piece of this is," and then you start to take up space in a new way. I love how she talks about trying things out as rehearsals. Those are the things that I might call experiments.
I love how she talks about trying little steps over time to create change. In The Experimental Leader, I talk about the experiment quota, the five questions that help you do that incremental change. Those are, what's your desired instate? What's your current reality? What are the obstacles keeping you from reaching that instate? What's obstacle is being addressed right now? You then think about your next step. When will you go and see what you've learned from trying that step? Doing those steps is a great way to find incremental leadership over time. Go experiment.
About Elizabeth Bachman
Elizabeth Bachman is THE go-to person for advanced level training in Speaking, Presentation Skills, Sales and Leadership. With a lifetime spent perfecting the art of presenting, she helps high-level clients master a message that brings the Funding they need, the Allies they want & the Recognition they deserve. A sought-after speaker and strategist, Elizabeth works with leaders and influencers who need to become concise and compelling presenters.
She helps them present as smart, down-to-earth, loose, friendly—even funny—and still be taken seriously. Having spent over 30 years directing such luminaries as Luciano Pavarotti & Placido Domingo in more than 50 operas around the world, Elizabeth brings a wealth of tools to help business professionals become respected presenters. Fluent in 5 languages, she brings her global experience to her clients. Elizabeth is the host of the podcast: Speakers Who Get Results, where she interviews international experts on presenting, leadership, visibility, and cross-cultural communication. Strategic Speaking for Results When you want to make a difference, not just a point!
A public speaker, consultant, workshop leader, author, and Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, from whom she received the Prism Award, Melanie is an expert in problem-solving, constraints management, operations, strategic hiring, and brand development.