By: Marilyn Ringo, Speechworks, Guest Contributor
Every year around this time Forbes and Fortune publish their lists of the world’s most powerful women. Many of the successful women on these lists have made it to the top, in large part, due to their great spoken communication skills.
As a communications coach at Speechworks for over 15 years, I’m often asked by women executives who I think the best business women communicators are. And so in the tradition of lists and learning from the examples of the people on them, here’s the first annual Speechworks’ list of the Top Five Business Women Communicators.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
Sheryl Sandberg knows how to engage and move her audience. Her TED talk about how to get more women into top leadership roles is a wonderful example of focusing a message into a few key points then bringing them to life with stories. She’s also a great example of the power of practice. Her rehearsal is evident in the way she confidently moves on the stage and connects with the audience with or without a teleprompter.
Virginia Rometty, President & CEO, IBM
Virginia Rometty is the first woman president and CEO in IBM’s 100 year history. People in the know say her business savvy helped her rise through the ranks, but it was her communication skills that got her to the top. An IBM executive who has been in meetings with her told me Rometty personally connects with everyone in the room with “incredible eye contact” that makes you want to follow her lead.
Padmasree Warrior, CTO, Cisco
Padmasree Warrior communicates her ideas clearly and compellingly, no small feat for someone trained as an engineer with English as a second language. In a “Women of Vision” keynote address, Warrior talks about “putting fear aside and sharing your passion” to inspire and lead others. Her confident presence and lovely smile is testament to having conquered her fears on stage in favor of sharing her passion.
Diane Swonk, Chief Economist, Mesirow Financial
Diane is the go-to-economist for NBC News, CNN and other media because she explains complicated information in a way that is clear, simple and memorable. She is an expert at using analogies to make her point. During a recent TV news interview she explained: “This economic recovery is like a toddler, not too stable.” She’s enthusiastic and seems to genuinely enjoy spreading the economic word.
Ursula Burns, Chairman & CEO, Xerox Corporation
Burns’ communication style is like no other women on this list. She is rapid fire, direct, funny and genuine. Her communication strength lies in interaction, especially conducting Q&As. That’s where her enthusiasm and passion for her company comes through loud and clear.
I suspect that like most of us, none of these women were born presenters. It’s likely they weren’t planning on being on stage or in the limelight as they pursued their degrees in engineering, economics and business. It’s more likely they learned to be good communicators through lots of practice, good coaching, taking opportunities to speak and realizing how critical spoken communications skills are to success.
About the Author: Marilyn Ringo is a former News Anchor for CNN Headline News and an Emmy Award winning television producer and reporter. She has been a Speechworks coach helping professionals communicate successfully for over 15 years. She teaches Business Communications in the Georgia Tech MBA program. For more information, please visit www.speechworks.net or contact Marilyn at Marilyn@speechworks.net.