Whether sales pitches, internal meetings or appearances in front of a large audience – sooner or later everyone of us has to present something. How to successfully prepare and cut a good figure while presenting, we have discussed with Eva-Christine Bode.
Viviana: Eva, together with your sister Julia, you run a coaching company that advises, trains and supports executives and companies in pitches and lectures, while you two share the work. A few weeks ago, we already talked to your sister and asked her the same question, now we are curious about your reply: What is more important, form or content?
Eva: The first impression is visual, before anything is said. In those first seconds, the basis is laid for many things: my entire appearance, the interplay of clothing, hairstyle, posture, facial expression and style, language and voice, the way I walk or stand, has an influence on how I am perceived. Probably that’s quite easy to understand. More interestingly, and what many people disregard, is the fact that what anyone perceives (or does not perceive) about others has a lot to do with themselves, their own experience, attitude and so on. Therefore, my best advice is to be aware of the other person’s status to then use your own status purposefully. And yet I would like to emphasize very clearly: no form works without content.
Viviana: Asking you about form is even more interesting for our readers, if they know about your professional background: You completed a classical acting education at Theaterwerkstatt Mainz and were on stage as an actress for many years. How did you, as an artist, come to be training leaders in pitching? Where do you see similarities and how does your background benefit you?
Eva: Acting was one of my childhood dreams, definitely. The acting profession is like a bad lover, however. It contains a lot of addictive potential: In hardly any other profession does one experience so much esteem, consideration and admiration as in acting. At the same time, it is great to take on such different roles. But that is only half of the story: on the other hand, it is very hard to keep in mind that it is just a role. Coming back to reality; down to earth with a bump, is often very painful and lonely. Apart from the poor compatibility with general social relationships, I was disturbed at some point that my career depended very much on others. Does the director like me? What do, or don’t they see in me? At some point the idea came up of doing something together with my sister, which was no longer about me and storytelling, but about transferring the work from the stage to reality and how much we could achieve this way. And even with so few resources. It makes me happy every day to see that my work can contribute to bringing art and business closer.
Viviana: Are there stumbling blocks, or mistakes, that keep coming up repeatedly? Which is the biggest no-go in terms of presentations, lectures and pitches? Respect (or the lack thereof) is always mentioned in this context. What does respect have to do with a good pitch and why is it so essential?
Eva: That’s easy: we all have a busy schedule. Whether I have signed up for a convention to hear a talk on a particular topic, or attend an internal team meeting to present a project, or invite an agency to a pitch presentation, I spend time on it – precious time. The least I can expect is that the others are well prepared in terms of content. Again, this is analogous to the acting profession: No actor can start work, if they haven’t mastered the script. It is simply disrespectful to take up other people’s time without ensuring the content and occasion appropriately consider the challenges, desires, problems, etc. of my audience.
Viviana: Before you set up your own business, you had already been giving tips and advice to directors and young producers, and later offered job application training for job starters, so you really have gained a lot of experience. Can you sum up what this has taught you? Where is the main need for training? And what is your approach?
Eva: The topic of self-perception and perceiving others is very productive and thus almost inexhaustible. At the same time it also offers a huge “aha!” effect. This is why it is an integral part of my sessions: many adults have lost touch with their bodies over the course of their careers. Children are much more authentic. While adults have often heard: “Suck in your stomach. Just sit up.” and therefore often tense up, children worry less about how they appear. And they are so authentic. In my coaching sessions, I work a lot with the camera. First, people are usually embarrassed, as their initial self-image does not coincide with reality. Only when the situations are analyzed more precisely, can they see and accept the positive aspects and, via the overview gained by combining subjective and objective perceptions, develop natural, relaxed facial expressions, gestures, voice modulation and body language.
Viviana: I would like to conclude with something that counselors and experts disagree on again and again or are at odds in what they advise. Should one smile, or does that tend to suggest weakness?
Eva: I don’t associate weakness with the smile itself, but rather with a certain attitude or the nervously ascending tone of voice that might be combined with the smile. So, my clear answer to this question is: definitely. A smile opens every door. It just exudes a lot of positive energy. And what I signal to my interlocutor: I am burning with enthusiasm for this idea, I enjoy it. And that is what we all want.
Viviana: Thank you for your open-hearted words, Eva.
Eva-Christine Bode is a state-approved actress and trained coach. Since 2015 she successfully works with the company Weiss & Cie. and develops individual coachings, workshops and seminars that focus on presence, body, voice and improvisation.
This interview was conducted by Viviana Plasil, Head of Marketing & Communications Germany at Cushman & Wakefield since December 2017. She leads the Marketing & Communications team, has extensive knowledge in Digital Marketing and will build and expand this area at Cushman & Wakefield Germany.