Debbie Fay

Member Spotlight

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

I am an executive speech coach, presentation development specialist, speaker, trainer and author. I am currently celebrating 10 years in business. My company is BeSpeak Presentation Solutions LLC, where we provide one on one coaching, training and presentation development to companies worldwide. My book: Nail it. Create and deliver presentations that connect, compel and convince, was published in 2014.

How would you define your professional mission?

Whether one is giving a keynote or a sales pitch or advocating for an initiative internally or to a board of directors, the goal is the same: to be heard. My mission is to help speakers of all ages and vocations do just that.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

First, I believe it is critical to be a good listener - a skill necessary for any profession. In my case, I need to know about my client; his or her goals, challenges, fears. I also need to know about my client's audience; who are they, what are their goals, needs, challenges, fears? Then I need to learn the subject matter of the presentation. All of this takes lots of listening. The word "coach" is completely overused in business these days, and has been for almost as long as I've been in business. Having said that, I truly consider myself a coach: I motivate, challenge, inspire, cajole, dare, push, and reward my clients. I celebrate their successes.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

Years ago I had the opportunity to coach the VP of HR for a giant non-profit. She was preparing to speak at a big conference and was terrified of public speaking. We worked together, she went to the conference and gave the speech. She wrote me a hand-written note afterward telling me that she thought about what I'd said in our work together and her nervousness disappeared. She thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

What are some career challenges on your radar?

As a solopreneur I am always struggling with balancing working in my business with working on my business. The balance between marketing and doing my work is a tricky one. Even after 10 years I'm still figuring it out.

What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?

Probably writing and publishing my book. It took years to create, a year and a half to edit and design. By the end I was afraid to hit "send" to be published, and I never wanted to read it again. Now, years later, I am proud of its contents and proud that it's done. (And I want to decide what to write next.)

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

I never dreamed of being an entrepreneur, but I always wanted to be a public speaking coach. When I was a kid I used to 'direct' my cousins in (tortured) 'performances' of the Sound of Music (they are saints). When my own kids were little I directed a talent show at their elementary and middle schools. My work career was in corporate education. I have always loved teaching. Before i started bespeak, I taught for about 5 years at a business school. In 2006 I founded bespeak. I never had a plan B. It's not always been easy, but it's always been a dream come true.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

When I have the opportunity to change someone's life for the better, to allow them to express themselves and be heard - and enjoy doing it; when I work with a client on a critical presentation, a presentation to a board of directors, and their initiative is passed unanimously, when I help someone write a keynote that allows them to express what's in their heart and mind, when a client gets a standing ovation - these are the most rewarding parts of my job.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

Helping people be heard. Being a mother whose children can be proud of her. Being a model for women (and men) who want to make a living at their dream job.

Who are your role models?

My mother and my aunts. They were (and are) all productive successful women. My mother is a published author, her twin is a successful entrepreneur and their youngest sister is an architect and was the first woman president of the AIA. I have always looked up to them.

What does success look like to you?

Aside from my client's success; having plenty of good work with great people and having the freedom to run my own life.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Nope. My work tends to ebb and flow. Even when it's super busy I can always see a time down the road when I'll have down time. I much prefer to be busy than not.

What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?

Don't be afraid to niche yourself. Do it your way.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

When you feel at a loss about where to go or what to do, just do something (to move your business forward) for an hour or so. If you feel like continuing after an hour, great. If not, give yourself a break. Everything you can do to move your business forward is helpful.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

Do it your way. Do not expect perfection in yourself. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much of you to go around. I have met very few women who could "have it all" at the same time. Do what feels right for you.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

Thanks to Ellevate I am a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and Forbes.com. I joined in 2011- (then 85 Broads). As of late 2016 I am co-president of the Fairfield Westchester chapter. It has been a thrill to relaunch this chapter! I have met so many amazing women, of all ages and vocations.

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