Leading communication expert and confidence cultivator, Karen Laos, sat down with HSMAI staff to offer a preview of her closing keynote at HSMAI ROC in Toronto in June, part of HSMAI Commercial Strategy Week. HSMAI rarely hears from the same speaker twice, but we’ve invited Karen back to the main stage due to popular demand after her breakout presentation in 2022, so more people could be impacted by her message.
This talk is for anyone who communicates! It’s for those wanting tips on how to get their ideas across more effectively and close more business. It’s for those who want to build trust and credibility quickly. It’s all about the impact you want to make as a communicator. You’ll get practical tips to get more people listening, see your blind spots, and meet your career goals.
What is a common challenge people have when communicating?
Most people tend to ramble and lose focus. State your point up front and stay on track so you don’t lose your audience. Another issue is giving too much detail. If you say too many things, you’re going to confuse people. Keep it simple.
Can you share a success story?
The lesson: Start with a Story that connects to the data – don’t start by reading a spreadsheet!
I was hired by a large energy company to coach three executives on their presentations to the Board. One person stood out because he said, “What story can I possibly come up with? I’m just a numbers guy. I go up to the front of the room and talk through the Excel spreadsheet.”
I said, “We’ve got to make this more interesting!” We started talking about his interests, and then he shared how much he loves sports. Then it came to him: “I have the best idea!”
Here’s what he did that was a huge hit: he started his presentation with a question.
“What’s the first thing that you do when you walk into a sporting event? After you get your beer and your popcorn, what do you do when you get into your seat? You look at the scoreboard. That’s what we’re doing today. We’re looking at the scoreboard to show you how the company is doing.”
It took effort to get there, but anything worth doing well is worth the effort. He stood out and was remembered.
What do you want the audience to know about you?
I’m a brass-tacks person balanced with kindness. What I’m known for are my practical tips that impact how people show up because they are more confident, have the words to say and how to say them to get what they want. My core values are care, excellence, and celebration.
I believe in saying “yes” to adventure! I have been to all 50 states and have traveled to several countries. Dubai and Vienna are two of my favorite places. At 52 and in July of 2020, I left my corporate job to focus on my life’s mission: to reach ten million women to speak up and take their seat in the boardroom and beyond.
The best compliment I ever got was that my talk was so conversational that the person felt like we were in her living room, even though I was speaking to an audience of 200. I love sharing my mistakes on stage as that connects and builds trust quickly.
Is there one takeaway that you would like your audience to leave with?
How to stop rambling and get to the point. Most of us speak with too much detail, and I will show the audience how to be clear and concise. I want my audience to know that you can dramatically change your leadership influence by changing one habit at a time, and I will show them how. If everyone leaves with a new awareness of one blind spot uncovered that they act on immediately, that would be considered a success in my book.
You’ve presented to HSMAI before, can you share any feedback you’ve received from attendees?
- Your session gave me confidence in public speaking!
- Your credibility goes before you. I didn’t even make it to your session, but many people said it was the best at the conference.
- You gave me permission to self-reflect and it was amazing!
- You touch our souls by helping us find where we need to improve but in a way that is so constructive that we want more.