Analysis of Optus CEO’s response to cyber attack

 In Body language, Delivery, Environment, Facial expression, Luminary, Media, Meetings, Message creation, Mindset, News, Q&A, The Winning Voice, Virtual communication, What not to do

First, let me acknowledge, that with last week’s cyber attack on Optus, Chief Executive Officer, Kelly Bayer-Rosmarin faced an unprecedented, extremely difficult event.

I do not discount the nature of the event.

Against the benchmark of a credible, believable, self-assured CEO of a major enterprise presenting to the media regarding a significant crisis – conveyed through their affect, body language, speech and language – I scored Bayer-Rosmarin’s performance in her 23:55 minute, 23 September press conference as: 6/10.

Overall, the affect of Bayer-Rosmarin’s presentation of herself and communication of her ideas was disengaged, lacking presence and lacking customer empathy.

Below is further analysis:

Positive areas included:

  • Answers to questions were brief.
  • Responding to certain questions by using the questioner’s name.

Areas for improvement include the following:

  • First impressions are important. People are first known by their countenance.** At the start of the conference, Bayer-Rosmarin (BR) seemed unaware of what her facial expressions were signalling. Her upward gazes prior to starting her presentation conveyed distraction. Her pressed lips indicated disapproval.
  • BR’s reading a prepared statement seemed a form of self-protection – as if BR didn’t want to misspeak. BR would have made a more credible impact by using talking points as her speaking guide, rather than reading a script – and by delivering her opening remarks looking directly at the camera.
  • There was a self-serving, deflective quality in BR’s presentation, conveyed by describing Optus’s response to the event as transparent, and by praising Optus. There was no mention of the gravity of the event. There was a lack of empathy with, and undivided attention to, the customer. That is, what the event would mean to customers. From a customer perspective, they most likely would want to hear, after an initial apology, practical information about steps to take to protect their own position.
  • Consistent with such critical event a CEO should have a measured speaking cadence, especially at the start of a presentation. A measured delivery signals that a speaker views his/her remarks, with gravity. A measured cadence at the opening of the presentation was absent.
  • Regarding video set-up, in virtual communication a camera should be positioned at eye level and the speaker should look at the camera when speaking. BR’s downward gaze could be perceived as ‘looking down’ upon the audience.
  • During the Q&A session BR at times conveyed – through her facial expressions, upward eye gazes, speaking cadence and brief answers – that she was displeased at having to give answers to questions she had previously answered. Akin to a teacher being unhappy at having to answer repetitive student questions. One question – at the 11:35 minute mark of the conference – received a patronising response from BR, transmitted through her facial expression and vocal tone. ie: “Of course we have been in communication with SingTel”.

** (Even a split second glance of a person’s face tell us their gender, race, age, mood and direction of attention.)

The clip of the press conference is below and here is a LINK to the conference.

Own the Conversation

If you are a CEO/senior executive:

  1. Review the above analysis points and identify areas where you are competent in publicly responding to a crisis, and areas where you need improvement in responding publicly to a crisis.
  2. Periodically, design and conduct mock, crisis scenario practice sessions – that are video recorded – where you deliver an initial presentation and then, in order to stress-test your answers, are grilled with questions.
  3. Aim to improve your performance at successive sessions.
  4. Regularly review video footage of the most recent sessions.


p.s. For a no obligation review of how you present, simply respond to this email. I will give you fresh feedback on what you’re doing well, and make suggestions for improvement.

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