07 Feb What’s your signature speaking style? This Chevy Chase business guides executives to it.
Originally published on Washington Business Journal
About the business: Speaking with Impact is a Chevy Chase-based communications coaching consultancy founded by Denise Harrington and led by Denise and her daughter Nia. The duo provide speaker and executive coaching and presentation skills training course to executives and corporations of all sizes, from coast to coast.
How it started: Denise Harrington, a native Washingtonian, studied voice in college. As she says, “I was going to be on stage one way or the other.”
She relocated from Greater Washington to San Francisco three decades ago to work for a communications consultant, but shortly after, her gut told her to go out on her own. So she moved to Portland, Oregon and launched her business, landing Kaiser Permanente as her very first client — then Portland-based Nike, with daughter Nia just days away from birth.
“We just became a part of the fabric of Nike,” Denise said. “In the beginning days Nike was really not able to communicate their brand. They were really just athletes just running around with shoes.”
Speaking with Impact helps C-suite executives and major brands “communicate who they are on many levels,” she said, from media to crisis, keynote addresses to major product launches. They teach the basic skills of communication, then help guide their clients “to their signature style,” said Nia, who joined the company full-time in 2018 and now serves as its senior director of operations.
“Presenting on any level is stressful,” Nia said. “Those experiences are stressful. How do you manage them? You teach them the basic skills and then how to apply them.”
Denise relocated her business to Greater Washington 12 years ago and they’ve been working ever since to grow the client roster with more traditional D.C.-area businesses.
“We can bring so much more to the Washington, D.C. area,” Denise said. “We can do so much more because we’ve become experts in how you communicate virtually.”
The pandemic effect: In the first week of March 2020, Speaking with Impact was working with a client in Las Vegas. Covid-19 was a topic of conversation, even if it hadn’t taken the world by storm.
“It was so new,” Denise said. “We went home, and that same client called us and said, can you do it online, can you do it virtually? We said yes, just like we say every time. We put something together that week for them.”
They haven’t taught a face-to-face class since.
“Our clients are more concerned about how to be really good virtually,” Nia said.
The pandemic pivot: “Our clients have always expected us to pivot on a dime,” Denise said. “Be agile, to expand, to innovate. They expect that of us.”
As Covid-19 spread, Speaking with Impact took its training and moved it online, addressing the same basic communication skills they had taught for three decades as a woman and minority-owned business, but now in a virtual or hybrid environment.
And business boomed. While the duo declined to address revenue, they said news of their virtual training spread by word by mouth, and they picked up new clients who they can train virtually, anywhere at any time. “We had to scale really quickly because of all the requests we were getting,” Nia said.
“Most of our clients that have been good at communicating their brand embraced virtual communication,” Denise said. “We had our best year. It’s been very good for our business.”
The challenge: “Sales is always something you have your eye on. Not only take care of the clients you have, but expand. We now have a program where we can scale. Our biggest challenge is getting our name out there and letting them know what we do.”
What’s next: While the details are still being worked out, in the next year or so, Speaking with Impact said it hopes to roll out a new offering — a self-taught version of its core program, with delivery, content building, visual aids and optional access to one-on-one coaching.