Name: Stacey Shipman
Title: Founder, Engage The Room
Age: 46
Industry experience: 20-plus years  

Despite being driven by numbers and data, banking is an industry where employees are constantly forced to use their communications skills, whether it’s speaking with customers and clients, working internally with other employees or for senior management, who are frequently tasked with presenting to the bank’s board of directors. Seeing a need for bankers and other industry professionals to improve these skills, Stacey Shipman in 2006 launched the company now known as Engage The Room, a business which helps people with their communication and presentation skills.  

Shipman said she never intended to be in this particular line of business – rather it chose her. After leaving the corporate world to become an entrepreneur, Shipman knew she would have to improve her presentation and communication skills. But while working on improvement, she came into contact with many others looking to do the same. Her first work in the banking industry began when aexecutive called her seeking assistance in improving his presence and presentation skills. Then another bank reached out and things took off from there. Clients have included Rockland Trust, South Shore Bank and Eastern Bank. 

Q: How big of a component is presenting in the banking world? Why is it important for bankers to be good presenters?
A: Bankers present themselves every day in all types of settings. That can include formal presentations to employees or the board, customer interactions, attending networking events or volunteering in the community. The ability to command a room, express ideas and information clearly and to connect authentically with others is vital to success for bankers and professionals in any industry. Without strong presentation or communication skills, messages are misunderstood and the banker could lose access to clients and decision-makers, experience unnecessary stress, conflict and frustration.  

For example, a branch manager I knew who struggled to communicate well with staff because of his direct and aggressive nature couldn’t get his staff to do what he needed them to do. So, after taking a class, he realized he needed to adjust his approach, clarify his messaging and express more compassion. Though hesitant at first, he saw improvements right away. 

Q: What do you find most commonly makes bankers nervous about presenting in front of people? Are there certain topics that they feel more nervous about than others?
A: Some of the more frequent answers I’ve heard include not wanting to say the wrong thing or look foolish, forgetting what they want to say or rambling, feeling uneasy in front of people with more banking and business experience and general stage fright. Others have told me they do not liking the spotlight 

And, believe it or not, the memory of getting teased as a child can get in the way of effectively communicating with others as well.  

It’s usually not the topic that presents the problem; they are experts and know their stuff. Rather, it’s how the topic is presented. Bankers and other number-focused professionals often speak in data, dollars and bullet points. This style of speaking certainly has value; it is clear and to the point. On the flip side, though, that approach can be dry for both the presenter and the listener.  

Learning to tell stories or share human anecdotes breaks the monotony of a presentation full of numbers, relaxes people and brings the message or presentation to life. And the banker creates better connections with listeners. 

Q: What kind of anxiety do C-Suite executives get when presenting in front of their board of directors? Is there a certain time of the year that is most stressful?
A: They don’t want to look foolish or incompetent, say the wrong thing, provide the wrong information or make mistakes. If the numbers are incorrect, that’s one thing. But as humans, we make mistakes and that’s ok  just as long as the numbers are correct.  

What I mean is if you lose your train of thought, it’s a natural response in a high-stakes environment. So, instead of freaking out, pause, take a deep breath, check your notes or take a sip of water to collect your thoughts. Then keep going. No need to harp on the mistake.  

Presentations are conversations with larger groups of people. People talking to people. And I’ve worked with enough early career to executive-level professionals to know that people at all levels struggle with the same public speaking and presentation insecurities  we don’t want to be judged or seem incompetent. So, with the right amount of preparation and practice, the nerves will subside and the banker can present information in a clear, compelling and connected way. 

Q: What tips or advice do you have for bankers before going before their boards? How about just tips for bankers presenting in general?
A: Think with the end in mind. What do you want them to think, feel or do as a result of the presentation?  

Know the audience. Get inside their head and think about what they might resist or what questions they may have. Anticipate their needs and be as clear, concise and compelling as possible to ensure a smooth presentation.  

Plan and prepare. Think about how much time you have, the information you want to share, and even how the room is set up. Do the work to see the results. Add pizzazz. Presentations don’t have to be dry. Metaphors and stories are great ways to bring information and ideas to life 

Practice out loud. Too many people don’t make time to practice out loud. What you think and write may not sound as good when spoken verbally. 

Use slides creatively. Instead of showing numbers and graphs, think about how to use pictures or videos or other images to bring ideas to life. Remember, slides aren’t a presentation, they complement one.  

Lastly, believe in yourself. Often there is a disconnect between how a person thinks about him or herself and what they present. Smart, capable people are invited to the table for a reason. Believe in yourself and your information whole-heartedly so others will believe it, too. Your voice matters. 

Shipman’s Five Favorite Places to Unplug: 

  1. Costa Rica 
  2. Kripalu Center for Yoga & Wellness 
  3. Nantasket Beach 
  4. Sailing Boston Harbor 
  5. Her backyard  

Numbers Are Great, But Don’t Forget About Communication

by Bram Berkowitz time to read: 4 min