It’s one of the best words ever.

When a C-level executive appears comfortable while giving an important presentation, the audience gives him or her other attributes too. Leaders are comfortable; so are visionaries. Comfortable implies confidence, connectivity, warmth and approachability. It also conveys knowledge.

That’s why I was so proud when my latest speech-coaching client—the president of a $200 million company—received this feedback after his recent shareholder meeting presentation:  “You were the most comfortable I have ever seen you!”; “You presented like you were so comfortable; like speaking to a small group in your backyard.”; “I cannot believe how comfortable you were up there, so much better than I’ve ever seen you!”

Ready for his secret?

This executive may not have been comfortable at all. Since it’s what we were shooting for, however, he practiced certain body language techniques that gave him that appearance. Whatever he was feeling inside never showed on the outside. We orchestrated his hands, face, cadence, volume, pauses and movements to illicit the perception of “comfortable.”

Over many years as the personal speech-coach to dozens of A-list executives, my approach is all about letting my clients feel the way they feel on the inside. I gladly allow them those feelings. I let them own them. What’s the point of trying to take a shy person and make him/her gregarious?; or take away the nervousness from speech anxiety? It’s not productive, nor do I consider it my job.

Instead, my gift as a speech coach lies in transforming my clients on the outside; in showing them what to say and how to say it to get the results they desire. It takes practice to emphasize the right words; use the right hand movements and facial expressions, and walk the stage to exactly fit a good speech. When my clients trust me enough to do what I say, even if it takes them out of their everyday comfort zone, they can be perceived as comfortable, even when they are not always comfortable at all…especially in a packed forum of people they are charged to lead.

When my most recent client heard he looked “comfortable” during his presentation, he and I shared a small smile. We had worked hard together practicing and refining the words in his speech and movements for his presentation with language that, after all, did matter.

This client’s resulting presentation sealed the perception among his employees and board members of his leadership, confidence, vision, knowledge and personal power. It gave his employees confidence that he is the right leader at the right time in a tough market.

No doubt, this president had secretly wondered whether some of my changes to his speech or insistence on certain volume, gait, cadence, and hand movements were all really necessary. He may have doubted whether we had to practice so often, or repeat the important parts of his speech over and over again until we got it right.

Yet, when the presentation was over and the hand shaking began, the rewards for working together with an experienced speech-coach came to light. “You were amazing; so comfortable, like you were really enjoying yourself,” came the comments, one after the next.

To see my client’s eyes light up while hearing these comments was my reward. He realized at that moment that despite any nervousness or tension he might have felt on the inside; his ability to be coached to do what would achieve great results on the outside really hit the mark. And after all that work, he was comfortable with that.

*Check out Ruth Drizen-Dohs’ speech coaching web site at