Many Charlotteans knew Anne Boyd in autumn 1999 by the mere sound of her voice, because they woke up with it every morning. Boyd was news director on radio station “Lite” 102.9 WLYT, and prior to that on public radio station WFAE. Her resonant on-air sound during drive-time was nearly as distinctive as that of her father, Ty Boyd, the legendary personality heard for years on WBT and WBTV.
But Anne’s calm and controlled voice belied the many challenges she faced in her day-to-day life. She was a single parent of two daughters. Her job required her to get up at 3:30 a.m. so she could be at the studio by 5:00 a.m., and on the air soon after. Her sister Molly, a fellow marathon runner and psychology graduate from Queens University, lived with her to make sure the girls got safely to school. Every night, Anne went to bed about 9:00 p.m. to make the grueling schedule possible. She knew it couldn’t last.
About the same time, her parents’ company, Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems, was growing and expanding. The company provides presentation skills and public speaking training primarily to executives from Fortune 1000 companies such as Georgia Pacific, Pfizer, Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson, Duke Energy, Lash Corporation, Harper Corporation, Charlotte Pipe, Wachovia, and Compass Group. They conduct individual coaching as well as three-day Excellence in Speaking Institute (ESI) courses for small groups of executives to dramatically improve their communication skills. Not only did the company need more faculty to teach in the United States, it was also adding clients overseas. Anne’s parents, Ty and Pat, invited Anne to work with them full-time.
It was the opportunity Anne didn’t even know she had been waiting for. She felt overjoyed and apprehensive. “I admit, there was a little fear about joining a family business,” she says. She would also lose the heady satisfaction of being on the radio every morning. But she determined, “If I didn’t at least give it a go, I might be missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Though she continued doing a public affairs program for the radio station, she resigned her position as news director. Anne had previously taught an occasional ESI course with her parents, but now she had to learn how to lead them on her own. Two years later, Molly joined the company, too.
Together, parents and children had to discover how to avoid all the pitfalls of a family business, from respecting each others’ turf to not letting the company take over their family life. And the sisters had to figure out a way to make their name in a business where their father was already famous.
Working for the Master of Influence
During his 17 years as a Charlotte radio and television broadcaster, Ty Boyd had always felt a responsibility to meet as many of his listeners and viewers as he could. Typically he made about 150 speaking engagements a year throughout the region and also served as a master of ceremonies and speaker for national conferences and other events. With his breadth of speaking experience, it was understandable why executives from Apple Computer and Aetna Insurance asked him in 1980 to teach speaking skills to their employees.
At first, Ty wasn’t crazy about the idea of being a teacher. Ty recounts, “But I had time in my schedule, so I figured, ‘Why not?’” He was more than a little gratified as he watched the people in his classes walk away feeling more capable and powerful because they were learning how to communicate more effectively with others and not just talk at them.
It was his wife, Patricia Boyd, who realized that these engagements could be made into a business. Pat succeeded in her own communication challenge – raising six children – and along with three friends, developed Charlotte Visitours. This group organized and conducted tours of hometown Charlotte, primarily for spouses of corporate executives. After five years, she decided to devote herself full-time to ESI. She brought a unique perspective on being a speaker.
As a young woman, Pat Boyd had been named National Maid of Cotton. She was employed to represent the cotton industry. Speaking about the industry on radio, TV and on stage was a major part of her responsibility in the US, Canada and Europe.
“But I had little substance to share about the cotton industry, and I knew it,” Pat says. “I learned under fire how to overcome that feeling of inadequacy.” Speaking as often as five times a day, she learned how to connect with her audience no matter how nervous she might be. She learned how to research her field and practice enough to speak with authority, to smile and look people in the eye. “I didn’t know it at the time, but I was learning the secrets of powerful communication,” she says. “This is absolutely the best place for me,” she says. “I’m here to help executives – and all kinds of business people – fine-tune their innate skills.”
As Ty and Pat began their new venture, Ty continued giving speeches and accruing awards. He is one of the few speakers worldwide to receive the speaking industry’s three highest honors, including the Oscar of the National Speakers Association, The Cavett. Last year, the association named Ty the 2005 Master of Influence. Others who have won that prestigious designation include Ken Blanchard, Zig Ziglar, Jack Kemp, Lou Holtz, and Art Linkletter. The award is presented to those who have made a positive global impact through the spoken word, significantly influencing generations, and whose distinguished careers have brought honor and recognition to the speaking profession.
Ty and Pat had set the bar high for their daughters.
Developing their own styles
With her years of radio experience along with occasional TV appearances, Anne could draw upon her innate sense of what makes a strong communicator for her role as an ESI trainer. She enjoyed teaching executives who were moving up in their industries and required more speaking polish. Eventually she began taking more daunting assignments, from a CEO who needed media training before rolling out a global product launch, to a NASCAR driver who wanted to enhance his speaking skills.
Anne, herself an avid runner, is “much like a coach for a professional athlete,” says Cory Honold with Pfizer Animal Health in Columbus, Nebraska. “Even though these people have the skills, they’re always looking to become a little better at what they do and gain an edge. Anne does a great job of focusing on teaching how to make your presentations come alive.”
Anne saw talents in herself come alive that set her apart from her other family members. Clients such as Bank of America and Fox Network began approaching her to train employees on etiquette, image and communication skills. She had a knack for working with younger people as well, coaching high school students interviewing for college and college grads interviewing for their first professional jobs.
Molly Boyd Hunt, who joined the company in 2001 and the executive faculty in 2003, showed herself to be a challenging but supportive trainer in ESI classes. She combined encouragement, optimism, and joie de vivre, a mix particularly beneficial for executives who get uneasy at even the thought of speaking in front of a crowd. “On the first day, some people don’t want to be here because they’re intimidated,” Molly says. “By the last day, they don’t want to leave.”
Molly also began working one-on-one with clients, sometimes helping them rehearse at the site of their presentations. “Molly’s coaching was a turning point for me,” says Mark Peres, editor of Charlotte ViewPoint. “It made a dramatic difference in my ability to have a conversation in front of large groups with confidence and authenticity.”
Like Anne, Molly has had to work at keeping business and family roles separate. “Oftentimes, they blend,” Molly admits. “It’s a good thing we love each other as much as we do.” She has worked to create her own vision of the job, balancing her parents’ expectations with her sense of how things should be done. The Boyds have lived the message they preach: In any business, good communication is essential.
As much as the company is a family affair, it wouldn’t have reached its twenty-fifth anniversary last year without help from outsiders. Key among those is ESI faculty member Dave Reinhardt, who specializes in teaching executives to use the tools of an actor to make their presentations more energetic and persuasive. He has experience with the most challenging of audiences: he has acted and taught at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and played a fifteenth-century peasant at the Carolina Renaissance Festival.
Today, Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems counts graduates from more than 40 countries. Anne and Molly recently completed coaching assignments in Toronto and Paris, leading the company’s work abroad. The support team is led by Sheila Adams, registrar and administrative office manager, and videographer Michael Furr (Ccorporate Communications Video). Though Ty and Pat are nowhere near ready to retire, they feel they have the staff and product in place should they ever wish to do so.
Peyton Howell, president of The Lash Group in Charlotte, is one of those who has seen the Boyds’ results. She has sent more than 100 of her group managers and other employees to the Excellence in Speaking Institute. “I’ve had several of our associates contact me after they completed training,” she says, “and tell me that it was truly a life-changing experience. Some say they found their voice through ESI.”
Try these tips from Excellence in Speaking Institute coaches Anne Boyd and Molly Boyd Hunt to make your next presentation shine.
Give it all your passion. If you are genuinely energetic (but not manic), your audience will be, too. A strong voice, eye contact, and powerful gestures all demonstrate energy and passion.
Make your eye contact count. Effective eye contact isn’t the same as scanning your audience or looking up from your notes every once in a while. Choose one member of the audience and speak directly to that person for several seconds. Let your gaze linger. Then choose another and do the same. This creates what we call “intimacy.” Your audience will find you personable and authoritative.
Use vocal variety. Nothing is worse than a speech given in a monotone. Shout and whisper. Go high and low. Practice beforehand by reading a book or newspaper out loud, injecting as much vocal color as you can.
Reach out. Step out from behind the lecturn whenever you can, or don’t use one at all.
Know your audience. The typical member of your audience is worrying about the pile of e-mails back at the office, the unanswered calls, and the report due next week. He walks into your presentation wondering, “What’s in this for me?” You are much more likely to engage his interest by researching and understanding his needs before your presentation. Make sure your content really addresses your audience’s concerns and helps listeners solve their challenges.
Be authentic. Some people are tempted to put on a phony facade when they speak, thinking it will give them more power. But that tactic seldom succeeds. You will be your most powerful when you are real. Bring the passion of your life to your task.
Practice more than you think you need to. When Bill Schultz, president of the European Consumer Products business for Georgia Pacific, gave a presentation to his board, he created a one-page prompt sheet for himself but hoped to use it as little as possible. Ideally, he would not use a lecturn or even a microphone. To achieve that, Schultz handwrites his notes, then types them, then practices them numerous times. The process helps him remember exactly what he wants to say and be far more effective than reading a speech.
Develop confidence through practice. Real confidence comes when we have solid preparation and content in our speeches, remember your good experiences in the past and build on those, and realize audience members don’t see our nerves. Remember, this presentation isn’t about you. It’s about your audience.
End with vigor. It’s common for high-level managers to end their presentations with a question-and-answer session. A masterful presentation can end with a whimper, even off-topic, because of Q&A. We recommend doing the Q&A as required, then conclude with summary remarks that bring your presentation back to your critical themes.
Use a coach. Find a colleague in your company or a non-competing industry who can be your coach. Look for someone you can rehearse with and have honest, helpful exchanges.
Get trained. Even natural speakers can benefit greatly from training, particularly training that includes videotaping. You might realize you need to make wardrobe updates, or be more aware of your posture, or make more vigorous gestures.
Don’t try to be perfect. Be your best. Trying to be perfect is an irrational objective. It will paralyze you and make you fail every time. So strive to be better than your last presentation. Be your very best. That can be powerful.