Growing up Michelle Wang Goodridge had a powerful female role model, her grandmother, who taught her to be authentic and confident. Her Ama’s (grandmother’s) advice has continued to guide her throughout her professional life. Here are Michelle’s strategies for being aware of what’s going on around you, so you can have the greatest impact.
Before a presentation, I make a concerted effort to get there early to meet my audience. I try to spend 30 minutes with them; we talk about our kids and about what’s new. When I’m on the stage, I take that personal connection and infuse it into the presentation; I make eye contact with those I’ve spoken with and share my own personal stories.
I believe you can feel the energy in the room. Are your listeners making eye contact with you, or are they distracted? Have you lost some of their attention over time? Are they looking at their iPhones instead of you? It doesn’t matter if there are 50 or 500 people—you need to make each member of your audience feel as if you’re talking to them alone.
Make it fun
It’s important to understand what’s going to get your particular group engaged. I personally believe that listening to a PowerPoint presentation for two hours will drive anyone crazy. We once did a panel with a Tour de France theme—instead of flipping through PowerPoint slides, we put the panelists on bikes. This was a 2 hour presentation, so it was a fun way to break it up and engage people.
Show the real you
Even in presentations to large audiences, I tend to use a lot of personal stories. I believe that as a leader, the more true you are to yourself the more effective you are. If you’re personable and show a little vulnerability, more people will engage with you.
Know your common goal
Before every meeting you need to know your purpose as a team. At our sales meeting, over 500 people were brought together— so what was our “north star”? We all had different roles and talents, and by establishing a common goal we were able to focus the group.
Don’t shy away from conflict
You have to know more about the people you’re addressing than just their titles; you also need to appreciate the diversity of experience and communication style in the group. Be in the moment, watch the body language of those around you, and check for conflict. Don’t be afraid if it’s there. Instead approach the individual and say, “You look really uncomfortable with where we’re headed. Let’s talk through your concerns—how are you feeling?”
What moves you forward?
I really believe we’re guided by a purpose. Every morning I wake up and run to work to fight on behalf of people struggling with mental illness. I’m driven by purpose.
What are your hobbies?
I don’t play, but I’m a great soccer/basketball mom—that’s my hobby. I love to read and really enjoyed Head, Heart and Guts: How the World’s Best Companies Develop Complete Leaders. Many women leaders are worried about using their heart, when they really should be engaging their intuition more.