Silicon Valley Insider Anthony Lee Helps Some of Tech’s Top Executives Find Their Voice
The art of coaching.
Written byDavid Needle
Photographed byHillary Jeanne
Sometimes company names can leave you scratching your head. (What’s “zillow” got to do with real estate?) Not so the aptly named Heroic Voice, a company designed to help people find their voice and better express their passion in any setting—from public speaking and small-group meetings to client sales and marketing pitches. The “hero” behind Heroic Voice is Anthony Lee, a veteran technologist who came up with the idea after a conversation with his then 5-year-old son.
How did your son lead you to create a business around coaching communications skills?
Many years ago, I brought him on a trip to London, where I was speaking to customers about digital encryption and security technology. He was playing Pokémon, and I remember him looking up and asking me, “Dad, what do you do?” And I quickly realized I couldn’t explain it to him.
From there you saw an opportunity?
Yes, I realized everyone wants to be better at explaining what they do or what they feel passionately about. Heroic Voice isn’t just for technology people; it’s for anyone, whether they’re involved in animal welfare, climate change, gender equality, whatever topic they want to be able to talk about more effectively.
I still have my technology portfolio, but my focus with Heroic Voice is to help anyone who needs to be more impactful with how they communicate—whether that’s to reach more people, make more money, or bring more quality talent into their organization.
I imagine having a tech background yourself helps you to better relate to tech clients.
Yes, I put myself in their shoes. I was selling encryption and security software and I was getting no traction. There was a missing element—an emotional piece.
How can you tell if someone is effective at speaking?
You can see from the back of the room if the speaker isn’t connecting with the audience, or the speaker doesn’t know the material. There is an element of connection you need to have. One of the reasons people don’t connect with an audience is because their story isn’t relatable or because there are 100 words on each slide.
Okay, you don’t want slides that are busy or cluttered with content. What are some other tips?
If you are standing in one place all the time, there is no meaning to that. If you’re telling a story, I want you to move to a particular place on stage or in the room when you say, “In my childhood, this happened …” Or if you are talking about, “My vision of the future …”, there’s another portion of the stage where you should be. Moving around and gesturing can really help bring your message home.
What’s next for Heroic Voice?
We’re finding evidence in the industry that group-level and collaborative learning and just-in-time learning is an executive-level trend. With the typical three-day executive training programs and workshops, they stuff you with a lot of learning, and some of the skills stick and some don’t. We’ve found with small-group training there is a lot more impact when you take the journey together. You develop more muscle memory connected to what you’ve learned.
Who is the typical client or the most popular service?
There are two categories of people who come to us. One is the executive who speaks all the time and has a high-stakes event, an interview with journalist, a board of directors meetings, etc. They need to get in the gym (metaphorically speaking) and practice.
The other is a master class for leaders. These are small-group sessions where they have regular presentations they have to make, and they learn skills they can apply right away. In the group sessions there is a lot of encouragement and a level of trust that really speeds the learning process.
You’ve worked with a lot of famous people?
That’s right. My specific role is working with next-level speakers in the green room. For instance, I’ve worked with three of the Shark Tank judges.
Robert Herjavek, Damon Jones, and Kevin O’Leary (Mr. Wonderful). This happens at national-level events at convention centers where they are the featured speakers.
I guess the lesson there is that everyone needs a coach?
It’s true—even professionals need preparation. One person I worked with found jumping on a trampoline effective for getting ready. It’s not something I would have ever advised, and I didn’t get it right away, but it works for him. Everyone needs a warm-up routine, not just athletes.