Building a strong business is all about building strong relationships and at Audacia Strategies, we love to say, “it’s not ‘just business.’ It’s about people working together toward a common goal.” That’s why partnering with the best is a top priority. I’ve known many of our partners for years. They’re not just business associates, they’re people I’d sit down with for a casual dinner (and probably an adult beverage or two). I’m proud to know, partner, and collaborate with each of them.
In a previous article, we introduced you to one of the Sarahs on Audacia’s team, our Manager of Business Operations, Sarah Deming. This time, we’re introducing Sarah Gershman who is our Executive Presence Partner.
Interview with Sarah Gershman, Executive Presence Partner
At Audacia, we are all about strategic communications and strong communication is all about getting the key players within an organization to stay on message. This starts with leaders and this is where Sarah Gershman shines.
Sarah is an executive speech coach and CEO of Green Room Speakers, a communications firm based in Washington, DC. She is also an adjunct professor of communications at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, where she lectures to students from around the world.
As Audacia’s Executive Presence Partner, Sarah puts her specialization to work helping leaders deliver high-stakes and complex messages with clarity, authenticity, and conviction. Having coached executives at organizations including Microsoft, General Dynamics, Booz Allen, Lockheed Martin, Eli Lilly, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the US Department of Commerce, the US Department of Justice, and the US Department of Labor, Sarah brings a wealth of experience to the table.
Below are highlights from Sarah about the valuable contributions she makes to our team.
Q | Can you describe your role at Audacia Strategies and how you fit into the team?
As an executive speech coach, I help leaders elevate their executive presence as they grow their businesses. In practice, one of my roles at Audacia is to get to the core of what a leader needs to communicate to their target audience. When one of Audacia’s executive clients needs to be prepped for an engagement like a critical speech, townhall, investor presentation, I come in to coach them on how best to communicate key messages. So I spend a lot of time helping leaders think through mission critical messaging.
I also coach leaders through communicating big changes within the company. This can be especially challenging because there is a need to tell a coherent story that bridges the gap between the firm’s past and its future. Often, finding that story takes stepping back to look at all the current messaging and making connections that might not be immediately obvious to leaders themselves. Together with others on Audacia’s team, I provide much needed perspective.
Q | What is your favorite part about working with Audacia?
There is something so exciting about working specifically with companies in transition. Audacia’s clients are taking bold risks, making big changes, and going through high stakes transformations. As the leader of an organization experiencing rapid change, communication skills are a top priority. If you can’t get the message across, you lose buy-in from stakeholders.
I love the excitement of helping organizations in these critical moments. It lends an added pressure – in a good way – to the coaching I do.
And I love the people! Katy has put together an incredible team that attracts incredible clients. It’s a privilege to work with everyone.
Q | Can you describe a win or highlight from your time working with Audacia?
The example that comes to mind is working with a CEO in transition as he stepped into his new role. Although he had been a leader within the company with a strong reputation, he had never been a CEO, so he understandably needed guidance around executive presence.
When we first met, the CEO had a harder time commanding the room. Part of the challenge was that he was replacing a beloved CEO who was a rockstar, literally. We needed to find a way for the new CEO to tell his own story.
In just a couple of sessions, we helped him find his message, own it, and connect much more deeply with his audience. It turns out that the new CEO loves chess, so we helped him tease out what that says about leadership and his personal leadership style. Once he connected those dots, he stepped more fully into his role, quickly earning the trust of his team and investors.
Q | Are there best practices associated with your role that you’d like to share?
One of the skills that makes me successful is listening. It may seem simple, but it actually requires a lot of practice. When I’m meeting with an executive, I listen deeply, and I ask a lot of questions.
Coaching an executive to have presence, charisma, and to communicate clearly requires not just hearing what is being said, but also the unspoken message underneath. I try to discover my client’s motivations on a deeper level. When I know what makes you tick, then I can figure out how to leverage that information to help you truly engage your audience. So I’ve trained myself to listen for those things.
My goal with every executive I coach is to get them to think through their story and their messaging themselves. It’s not good enough for me to tell you what your message should be. If you don’t feel it at your core, your words won’t feel authentic to your audience.
Sarah is one of a handful of experienced and talented strategic partners I’m proud to call part of Audacia’s team. Together, she and I have over 20 years of experience working with executives and investors.
We recently put our heads together to write an article for Harvard Business Review about the three big questions investors ask themselves when evaluating a CEO. Reading it will give you insight into why our executive clients always walk away from sessions with Sarah feeling more confident and ready to own their messages.
Is your firm going through a big transition? Are you a leader who needs support as you develop your communications strategy? Our team is here to help. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation.