A video clip example of energy & certainty from IBM’s CEO.

 In Learning from Luminaries

Do you ever rush when you speak?

Let’s agree, at times we all rush. (unless you’re Barack Obama).

But how is rushing perceived by listeners?

My field work with clients reveals that,

Rushed speaking is perceived as junior behaviour.

Un-rushed speaking, as senior behaviour.

Un-rushed speaking, or ‘Owning’ time, projects certainty. We want our leaders to project a sense of certainty and, we want them to project energy.

That is the,

magical mix of a great speaking voice. Certainty and energy.

With these points in mind, below is my analysis of a 2.51 minute clip of IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty, delivering an opening to a presentation. The clip follows after the analysis.



Rometty displays an exceptional example of an engaging, senior executive. She conveys genuine certainty and enthusiasm about her topic. Everything – the face and body language, the stance, the voice, the words and the feeling tone – is all of one piece.

0- 9 second segment

  • Certainty conveyed through a quick paced sentence followed by an inhalation and pause.
  • Driving home with emphasis, the key points of ‘three’ and ‘historic’. (Note the lengthening of the ‘s’ in historic to increase emphasis).

9-25 second segment

  • Certainty conveyed through a sequence of measured thought groups culminating in the emphasised ‘three’ and ‘has never happened before’. ‘Three’ and ‘has never happened before’ are coordinated with a three fingered gesture and a sideways finger movement.
  • Intensity of emotion conveyed through facial expression, with turning of hands and whole body, up and down, movement for ‘you feel the pace of change’.

25-35 second segment

  • extended pause after ‘….technology industry’ to highlight the key point of ‘revolutionise your industry too’.

35 second mark to end of clip

  • Masterful mix of certainty and enthusiasm. Note the ‘sparkling’ eyes.
  • Rhythmically using the rhetorical device of anaphora: ‘to see, to know, to predict’.
  • Certainty conveyed through extended pauses – particularly after ‘because’ and after ‘action’.
  • Levelling gesture (horizontal karate chop) combined with ‘ . . . stop walking by problems that are really solvable’.

Rometty has a slight affect of a schoolmarm (in the mid-western USA mould) – but she doesn’t overplay this.  To get a display of this affect, stop the clip at the 19 second mark. You’ll see an upward finger pointing conveying ‘listen up’.

Here is the link for the clip.

Own the Conversation

Particularly for women readers, in the next seven days, do the following Expert modelling process:

#1 Choose a 30 second segment of the clip that most resonates with you, and learn the segment verbatim.

#2 Repeatedly, video record yourself delivering the segment, watch the playback – and compare to Rometty’s performance.

#3 Continue step #2 until your performance matches Rometty’s skill level, while putting your individual stamp on it.

p.s. Check out this recent Talking Life style radio interview (2.59 minutes) with John Stanley and Garry Linnell, where I share how to give the perfect handshake.

p.p.s. Last week I delivered a three hour workshop entitled, Own the Conversation, for 12 executives from TEC (The Executive Connection).

Some of the take-aways from the workshop shared by the participants included:

‘I learned the importance of and how to structure all communication – it’s a great corporate tool.’ 

‘Numerous take-aways . . . great strategies to communicate in one on one and in all size audiences’

Do contact me if you want to discuss how this workshop could be shaped for your organisation, direct reports etc.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to Behind the Voice

Regular insights, guidance and commentary on how communication influences business and the world around us

Thank you for subscribing