Join our vibrant and dynamic team Sales Team!

Slide13Are you a proven sales star looking for new challenges in a busy, positive and tight team environment?

We are Conferenz and we’re New Zealand’s biggest conference company. We live in the fast-paced events industry.  We’re privately owned which means no red tape and no international bull-turkey.

We have an exciting opportunity for a representative to join our telephone based Delegate Sales team.  Working 8:00am-5:00pm, Monday to Friday (or we are happy to look at part-time/school hours for the right candidate) this position will require you to sell attendance at our market leading conference and training events.  You will be managing an existing portfolio of diverse clients while also chasing new business.  This is a unique opportunity for an enthusiastic and highly motivated individual to help develop the conference sales side of the business by building on-going relationships.

We are looking for a positive and engaging professional, someone who gains pleasure out of exceeding targets and has the track record to prove it (experience in a Business to Business sales role would be a bonus).  A strong commitment to success and superb communication skills are essential for this role – you must love the telephone and be confident engaging with people at all levels of an organisation.  In return you will be joining a small and friendly sales team with a manager that is passionate about your growth and success.

We offer:

  • A switched-on and dynamic company
  • Base salary and uncapped commission
  • Continual support and development

If this sounds great, then apply today.  You will be joining a great company, a busy team and working with fantastic products.

Apply online including your CV and most important: a covering letter convincing us you’re the real deal!.

Applications close 5:00pm, Friday, 26 February 2016.


Top 10 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

4926088644_226da4a963_n                                             Picture Courtesy:

Keeping cool, calm and collected when dealing with difficult people is easier said than done. It is no wonder then that Bright*Star’s recent networking event on the topic of “I Can’t Work with that Idiot” booked out in a matter of hours.

We all have that one person that comes to mind every time the topic of “dealing with difficult people” is discussed. There’s just something about them that touches our wounds and brings out the worst in us — our pain, irritation, impatience, anger or even hostility.

In the workplace, difficult people range from those who don’t turn their work in as promised, don’t show up for meetings, push back on work that they’re responsible for, question everything you do, and try to belittle you – and more.

It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. But when walking away or avoiding the person isn’t an option you need the skills to deal with them.

For the last 15 years, Bright*Star Training has delivered the popular two-day programme on Dealing with Difficult People and Different Personalities. A lot has changed in that time but not the fundamental principles of how to deal with those challenging behaviours nor the practical psychology skills on which the course is built.

Our facilitator, Keith McGregor, an experienced organisational psychologist, knows just how badly a working relationship can disintegrate due to conflicting personalities. Over the years he has worked with thousands of individuals to try to rectify the situation, giving them invaluable tips and techniques that has allowed them to handle the conflict in a much more positive and constructive manner.

Without breaking the confidentiality of the course participants, Keith has shared some of the common threads of these stories with the Bright*Star team. We felt that his insights were so useful that we combined them with other research into the topic to give you our Top 10 Tips on how to deal with difficult people who push your buttons.

Tip 1: Be calm.

The first rule in the face of an unreasonable person is to maintain your composure. The less reactive you are, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation. When you feel offended by someone’s words or deeds, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting.

What makes a person difficult to deal with? The surprising answer is that it really depends on you and your emotional triggers. We all have different personalities and communication preferences and that is what determines who you find it easy to get on with – and who you don’t!

To enhance your personal power in conflict situations you need to examine the way you think and react to difficult people and different personalities. As much as we would like to, the reality is that we cannot directly change other people. We can only change ourselves.

“While we can blame others for the things they say or do, we cannot blame them for the way we feel.” Keith McGregor

Tip 2: Listen.

Let difficult people know you’ve heard them and understood their point: People often become difficult if they feel their message isn’t getting through. To capture our attention, they might resort to strong language, shouting, exaggerating or getting ‘in our face’. If we attend to them, really listen and show we’re listening with our body language and our responses, people are less likely to become difficult in the first place.

To figure out what they want try asking questions such as:

  • “Tell me more”
  • “What does that mean for you?”
  • “How do you feel about?”
  • “What is your perspective on…?”
  • “What would be the best way to build on that?”

Tip 3: Don’t make it personal.

When we avoid personalising other people’s behaviours, we can separate the person from the issue. Make it clear that you do not have a problem with that person and you are simply trying to solve the very same problem that the difficult person is so mad about. This will allow you to preserve your relationship with this person without being perceived as weak when it comes to dealing with the issue at hand.

“Resolve the difficult person’s behaviour, don’t try to fix their personality.”

Tip 4: Make it about them.

Difficult people often refuses to accept responsibility for their actions and are great at playing the blame game. Typically, they’re quick to point out there’s something not right with you or the way you do things. In these situations, you need to tactfully shift the focus on them. Don’t let them make you feel uncomfortable or inadequate – and don’t get defensive. Simply use Tip #3 above and keep the focus squarely on the issue at hand and how you can solve it together.

Tip 5: Use careful questioning to get to the real issue.

Very often criticisms are vague or poorly worded. Before responding it is important to gain a clear understanding of the specifics so we know whether it’s genuine (we have actually done something wrong) or if it is manipulative (someone is trying to wind us up).

If someone says you’ve angered or offended them, Keith’s advice would be to:

  • Ask – ‘What specifically did I say or do that has upset you?’
  • Listen carefully and let them ‘get it all out.’
  • Tell them you appreciate their telling you.
  • Ask – ‘What can I do to make it right, right now?’

Tip 6: Pick your battles.
Problematic people are often confrontational. Do not give them a reason to have one. You have the power to decide if a situation is serious enough to confront. Think twice, and fight the battles that are truly worth fighting.

If you have already tried everything above and the person is still not being receptive, the best way might be to just ignore them. After all, you have already done all that you can within your means. Get on your daily tasks and interface with the person only where needed to avoid any unnecessary confrontations.

Tip 7: Avoid escalating the problem.

Don’t let your ego get in the way of dealing effectively with difficult people. Work towards a satisfactory outcome, not to get ‘one up’ on the difficult person – as tempting as that might be!

If you lose the plot and react aggressively or angrily it will only lead to a fight and this can really hurt your reputation. People will only think that two problematic individuals are having a go at each other. Instead you need to focus on a good outcome and be calm and considered in how you respond. Rather than engaging with the intention of making the other person wrong, you can consciously choose not to be an adversary.

Tip 8: Use humour.

Laughter is an especially powerful tool for managing conflict and reducing tension when emotions are running high.

Being humorous even in difficult situations around difficult people gives you a reputation of being composed. While it can be hard to get right, it can work wonders in disarming unreasonable and difficult behaviour when used correctly.

“A well-timed joke can ease a tense situation and help you resolve disagreements.”

 Tip 9: Don’t avoid conflict.

If problems are left to simmer rather than addressing them in a calm and respectful manner, they can easily escalate into nasty remarks and heated arguments which may cause irreparable damage to an otherwise salvageable relationship. This is why you want to make sure you act and speak up.

  • You don’t want difficult or aggressive people to perceive you as weak. As long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target.
  • Make sure you speak up if your opinion differs from theirs. Otherwise your silence could be interpreted as implicit agreement by everyone present.

Tip 10: Don’t put yourself down.

Don’t let the difficult person get to you or give them the power to make you feel bad, upset or angry. It really isn’t worth losing sleep over chronically difficult people. Some people are just plain difficult and there’s nothing you can do about it.

When coping with difficult people, use the “reasonable person” test.

  • Ask yourself “is this the behavior of a mature adult?”.
  • If not, what emotional age is the person indicating?
  • Then shape your response to how you would normally handle a person of that age.

You may also like to get someone else’s perspective. Most likely, your colleagues, managers and friends will have experienced similar situations. They will be able to see things from a different angle and offer a different take on the situation. Seek them out, share your story and listen to what they have to say.

If you wish to gain real practical skills in applying the 10 tips, we encourage you to attend “Dealing with Difficult People and Different Personalities” which runs in key centres across New Zealand throughout the year. Watch the interview with Keith McGregor to find out how participants benefit from the course.

Written by Lone Tapp

loneLone leads Bright*Star training’s ever growing portfolio of professional development programmes that includes over 165 public courses and customised in-house training courses each year. Before joining the team at Conferenz in 2003, Lone worked at the Trade Commission of Denmark in Auckland. Originally from Denmark, Lone has spent the past decade designing and delivering Conferenz & Bright*Star’s professional development training initiatives across New Zealand.

Changing results with learning

Blog written by Anna Kingston and republished from her Linkedin profile

Anna is facilitating a course on Instructional Design for Bright*Star this year. 

BS 2016 Website-EventBanners44I’ve always been fascinated by how we turn our ‘training sessions’ into new habits which get actually get remembered and used on the job by the people we interact with.  Because this is why we’re employed really isn’t it – to create improvements in business results?

As we know, Remembering = Learning – Forgetting.  And forgetting is easy, though remembering something requires those neural pathways in our brain to be strengthened and accessed many times.  Think about something you learnt, like riding a bike, before you jumped on that bike you believed you needed to ride (maybe so you could hang out with your friends) or someone important to you (e.g. your friends or parents) convinced you it was important.  Then you practised a lot (and hopefully not on a main road).

First we’ve got to believe what we’re learning is important and then we’ve got to get some practice in applying it on the job.  Simon Sinek popularised a concept which is key to learning in his TED talk “start with why”.  First we must get buy-in by sharing why this new skill is important (known affectionately in the training field as W.I.I.F.M. – what’s in it for me). Next, repetition and practice in a safe (and fun) environment, within training sessions (either online or face to face), starts to build that skill.

The most missed part of creating long term learning is that once the learning session is over, we need to keep that buy in and on job application up.  I was inspired to write this post by a blog “Crush the Forgetting Curve: How to Drive Sustainability in Your T&D Initiatives”, because it encapsulates my beliefs too (and I paraphrase key points below).  How we can encourage transfer and use of learning:

  1. Use your marketing skills.
    Yes, we need to create (and follow) a communications plan
  2. Measure those results
  3. Provide on job support.  Another favourite article of mine explores this further in “are you meeting all 5 moments of learning need
  4. Engage managers

I believe this last one is the one of the most important for long term learning, as we know immediate managers drive our engagement at work and every day performance.  If we can help our learner’s managers understand the ‘why’ and feel successful, as well as the learner’s, then the learning will be used and improved, no doubt about it.

Of course, we don’t have all the time in the world to do these things, so we need to make it easy for us (and the learner’s plus managers).  So how do we do that?  More tips and ideas on engaging managers in my next article….  I’d love to hear your ideas too.

anna kingston 
Anna has worked in the Learning and Development industry for over 12 years both at a strategic and a hands-on level, as a Learning and Development Manager, Instructional Designer, Coach, and Facilitator. Anna is passionate about creating immediately applicable, practical, learner-centred and useful learning solutions, developing buy-in from both earners and stakeholders.

From stressed to relaxed: The power of Mindfulness

Our facilitator Chantal Hofstee, shares some great insights on how to utilise mindfulness to ease the stress of the season. Learn more about Chantal Hofstee’s Mindfulness in Business course:


Your brain is your most complex body part and science still does not fully understand how it works. Your perceptions, thoughts and emotions are equally complex. They are constantly changing and interacting and consist of many different layers. Some are part of your conscious mind while others are part of your subconscious mind.

At any given moment, if you peel away all the different layers of thought and emotion, all the way down to the bottom of our subconscious mind there are only two options: you either feel safe or unsafe. All of your thoughts, feelings and actions in that moment, will come from either the safe or unsafe brain state.

The red brain: a state of stress

There are various levels of safe or unsafe – you can see this as a spectrum with extremely safe at one end of the spectrum and extremely unsafe at the other end. Where you are on the spectrum depends on the situation, your personality, core beliefs and current thoughts. The unsafe brain, also called the red brain, can be triggered when there is no actual physical threat. Your brain reacts to how safe or unsafe you perceive a situation to be. Your thoughts are the most important factor in determining how your brain assesses a situation. For example: if you fear public speaking and would say to yourself ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘this will be a disaster’ your brain perceives the situation as unsafe and the stress response is activated.

The red brain state triggers the stress response also known as the ‘fight or flight response’. When this happens your brain and body are in the best possible state to deal with a threat – hence ensuring the best chance of survival. In this state the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, creating the following effects:

Physical effects

  • Tunnel vision
  • Stopped or slowed digestion
  • Increased blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Increased heart rate
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Tensed muscles

Psychological effects

  • Judgmental thinking (black and white)
  • Suppressing emotions
  • Narrow/ fixed point view
  • Unkind manner
  • Stressed
  • Disconnection from others

Having the option of the fight or flight modus available is essential for you to be able to cope with extreme situations. However, spending too much time in this state of stress does damage to both your brain and your body.  You risk negative physical consequences such as high blood pressure and heart failure and of psychological problems like burn out, anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you want to live a healthy and balanced live the stress state does not have to be eliminated but should be reserved for emergencies only.

The green brain: a state of calm

The safe brain state is also referred to as the green brain state; or as I like to call it ‘calm and present’. In this brain state the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin are reduced and the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin is released stimulating the following responses:

Physical effects:

  • Wide vision and flexible attention
  • Optimal digestion
  • Reduced blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Active immune system
  • Relaxed muscles

Psychological effects:

  • Non judgmental thinking
  • Processing emotions
  • Seeing the bigger picture
  • Kind
  • Calm
  • Connecting with others

The green brain is the state in which relaxation and processing of events and emotions happen. When the brain feels safe, the guards come down and all the resources in your brain become available to you. Creativity and flexibility are unlocked and you can see the bigger picture. It is in this brain state that you can make good decisions and be truly effective and productive. On top of that, the release of oxytocin immediately increases compassion, empathy and the desire to connect with others. This hormone is the fuel for our relationships and essential for wellbeing.

shutterstock_148116878The power of worries

Worries and judgments are perceived threats because they communicate to your brain that something is not right. Underneath all the rational thinking the brain understands this as ‘something is not safe’ and the stress state is activated.

For example; if you worry about your finances you may have the thought ‘I don’t have enough money’. Your brain sees this thought as a signal for a potential threat and the red brain state is activated. Your thoughts keep coming back to the perceived lack of money (fixed point view) and you loose sight of the bigger picture of your financial situation. You cannot come up with creative solutions or prioritize. On a physical level you might loose your appetite (slowed down digestion), your breathing becomes shallow and your heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar go up. Your brain and body are getting ready for fight or flight even though there is no physical threat to run from. Your worries about money have then activated the stress state, making you much less able to effectively deal with any issues you might have!

The power of Mindfulness

Mindfulness practice activates the green brain through kind and non judgmental thoughts which signal to the brain that the situation is safe. By focusing on the here and now you are taking the focus away from worries about the past or the future that could trigger the stress state. By having a mindful attitude towards what is in the here and now, you are further reducing the stress state and activating your optimal brainstate.

With mindful attention and attitude in place you are activating the safe brain more and more. This will not only make you healthier but also happier and more successful.

“In this life you’ll find some trouble, if you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy” Bobby McFerrin

Written by Chantal Hofstee, Clinical Psychologist

Chantal is a Clinical Psychologist who specialises in practical Mindfulness training. She is registered with the New Zealand Psychologists Board and has worked in the private and corporate field in both the Netherlands and New Zealand as well as for the New Zealand government.

NEW research – the Three Keys to Executive Presence

Written by Bright*Star Facilitator Sally Mabelle

If you’d like to develop your ‘leadership presence’, join Sally’s new Bright*Star course in 2016:

‘Building Your Executive Voice and Presence’19th August in Wellington or in Auckland on 11th May.

What would you say if you were asked to name the most important attribute of Executive Presence (EP)?

According to research cited in the 2014 book ‘Executive Presence’ by Sylvia Hewlett, CEO of the Centre for Talent Innovation (CTI), EP turns out to be a dynamic mix of three things according to a survey of 4000 university-educated professionals including 268 senior executives surveyed:

The way you act (Gravitas)

The way you speak (Communication)

The way you look (Appearance)

It turns out that these three attributes were not at all considered equally important.  The survey determined to crack the code on EP found that 67% of the senior executives cited gravitas as the most important factor, followed by 28% voting on communication skills as the most important, and 5% voting on appearance as the most important EP factors.

Here’s a quick checklist of these Executive Presence attributes. Which ones do you have and which ones do you need to work on?


  1. Confidence and ‘grace under fire’
  2. Decisiveness & ‘showing teeth’
  3. Integrity & ‘speaking truth to power’
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. Reputation & standing
  6. Vision/ Charisma


  1. Superior speaking skills
  2. Ability to command a room
  3. Forcefulness and assertiveness
  4. Ability to read a client/ a boss/ a room
  5. Sense of humour/ ability to banter
  6. Body language/ posture


  1. Being polished and groomed
  2. Physically attractive, fit
  3. Simple, stylish clothes that position you for the next job
  4. Being tall (fortunately only 6% of the appearance mix!)
  5. Being youthful and vigorous

Here’s a tip to help your confidence or ‘gravitas’ when you’re in a challenging situation. Breathe out and in deeply and slowly while you remind yourself internally of this message: that “Who I am at the core, my essential Self with a capital ‘S’,  cannot be helped or harmed by any external events.”  Sit up or stand up with a tall spine, and proceed to communicate with dignity, humility, and empathy as your breath continues to calmly move in and out deeply and slowly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about  ‘Executive Presence’. What do you think are the most challenging aspects to master? Anything to add?

Sally Mabelle, M.Ed, B.A hons, has 20+ years’ experience as a ‘Voice of Leadership’ specialist. She combines her professional background in Communication, Education, and Psychology with her extensive stage experience in her courses. She has honed essential skills in voice projection, emotional connection and physical presence and is an award-winning inspirational speaker.


Survival or Self-Worth, What Would You Pick?

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore”.

André Gide‘s 1925 novel The Counterfeiters Freebird_June 2014_Istanbul_PR

“You cannot sit like a jewel waiting to be discovered, you should have told me what you wanted,” these were the words of my former boss and Editor in Chief of India’s leading broadcast news network, as I announced my decision to quit my job. Following a rigorous couple of years in a highly competitive and volatile workspace, I had made peace with the fact that I wasn’t assertive enough to climb the news chain at that early stage in my career.  “List down what you want on a piece of paper and we can talk about it”, he said temptingly.

Life would have indeed been very different had I caved in and continued oiling the television news machine. It would have earned me recognition, good amounts of money, a plush life, pretty much anything one could dream of. Alas, I would still be holed up negotiating for survival each day rather than feel good about what I was doing. Now, nearly a decade since transitioning from journalism to international development, I have amassed enough life experience to realize that grabbing career opportunities is one thing but building self-worth is another.

Working as a journalist was a tremendous learning experience for me in my formative years but it was also a time where I needed to find some acknowledgement from within, something I would have never found had I negotiated my way up the leadership chain. It does takes a great deal of assertiveness to say ‘No’ in order to stand up for what really matters to you.

Which begs the question, how many times have you felt the urge to say ‘No’, be it to your supervisors, colleagues, family or even yourself and just couldn’t get yourself to do it? “At the heart of the difficulty in saying No is the tension between exercising your power and tending to your relationship,” writes William Ury, in his book, ‘The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No & Still Get to Yes’. He elucidates that this tension makes us slip into what he calls the Three-A trap:

  • Accommodation (we say yes when we really want to say No)
  • Attacking (we respond with aggression and frustration)
  • Avoiding (we simple take the escape mode and do nothing at all).

Ury seems to suggest that the way to free yourself from the aforementioned situational traps is to learn to say ‘No’ amicably, something worth reflecting. We are constantly battling for approval and fear that saying ‘No’ would hurt our image. At the end of the day everyone has their own moral compass and it does take guts to stick to it in order to sustain your self-worth.

5 ways to be an Authentic Influencer- The power of ‘No’

  • Stick with Your Gut: Only you know what’s in your best interests. If it doesn’t feel right, be assertive and free yourself from an unhappy situation.
  • Take Ownership: Snap out of the blame game. Take ownership of the decisions you make and accept that making mistakes are part of the learning curve. Failure can provide inspiration.
  • Engage in Healthy Competition: Be mindful that opportunities that come your way don’t come at the cost of intentionally supressing someone else’s. The path to becoming a great influencer is to ensure you act in the best interests of everyone concerned.
  • Set an Example: Remember that you are not alone, there is always someone looking for inspiration out there. Think about the ripple affect you can create as an influencer.
  • Build Credibility: Ultimately your values will determine what is right for you. What legacy will you leave behind?  Don’t let your ambition hurt your integrity.

Saying yes in a survival mode will take you up the ladder for sure. Eventually though, sustaining self-worth is what will keep you on a strong footing up there.


Blog by Pavitra Ramaswamy

Programme Manager, Conferenz & Bright*Star Training, New Zealand

A former journalist, Pavitra established herself as an international leadership and development consultant through her work with the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, USA. From India to America and now to New Zealand, she continues to work closely with leaders and organizations to build educated communities, something she is deeply committed to. She is currently the programme manager at Bright*Star training and engaged in executing professional development programs across New Zealand and beyond.

Interested in building Assertiveness?

Let Bright*Star help you expand your influence:



Are you tuned into your ‘X Factor’?

x factor

When you consider your behaviour at work, would you say you have a strong ‘executive presence’ or the ‘x factor’?  How would you rate yourself in terms of how you project a sense of authority, confidence, authenticity, and poise in your daily interactions?

One of the ways to assess your ‘x factor’ is to observe how often tuned into the present moment or preoccupied with future or past events.  Are you typically aware or unaware of what you’re feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and intuiting?  As a leader, you do have ‘big picture’ responsibilities.  Future planning is often critical for success, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your leadership presence.  Presence is that quality of being awake and aware sensorially in each moment.  Presence gives you a quality of aliveness and vitality which is magnetic and supports you in being more influential and effective in all your interactions.

With practice, you can develop your ‘x factor’ or ‘executive presence’. You can cultivate your sensory awareness in such a way that you exude a sense of vitality and energy.  With intentional practice, you will also begin to notice an increase in clarity, focus, improved memory, creativity and a greater ease in negotiating and resolving conflicts.

Here’s a simple exercise to begin cultivating your presence today as you go about your regular activities: At each of your meals and/or tea breaks (or whatever times are convenient for you to remember) , ask yourself, these sensorial questions:

What am I seeing now?  Notice around you colours, shapes, objects, people, etc.

What sounds am I hearing now?  Notice the whirr of a computer, traffic noises, telephone ringing, etc.

What do I feel now physically?  Notice the chair beneath you, the temperature of the room, your feet on the floor, your breath, heartbeat, etc.

What do you smell now?  Notice any smells around you, e.g. coffee, toothpaste, breath mint, food, etc.

What’s my intuition telling me now?  Notice what your ‘sixth sense’ is telling you. Do you have a sense of ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ about a particular situation, agreement, plan, etc.?

As you continue this practice,  even for just a few times a day,  you may notice a sense of peace and clarity coming into your awareness more frequently. By activating your ‘presence’ or six senses,  you are developing your ‘x factor’, that power which transcends your rational, logical mind.

Leadership presence is not an inborn gift for everyone.   It can be cultivated through practising a set of learnable skills and habits.  If you’d like to dive deeper into developing your ‘x factor’ this year, I invite you to contact me to discuss the possibility of  designing a program for you or your team.  There are various options ranging from private coaching to group training to keynote presentations.

Here’s to your growth and development in 2016!

Written by Bright*Star Facilitator Sally Mabelle

If you’d like to develop your ‘leadership presence’, join Sally’s new Bright*Star course in 2016:

‘Building Your Executive Voice and Presence’

29th February or 19 August in Wellington or in Auckland on 11th May.

Sally Mabelle, M.Ed, B.A hons, has 20+ years’ experience as a ‘Voice of Leadership’ specialist. She combines her professional background in Communication, Education, and Psychology with her extensive stage experience in her courses. She has honed essential skills in voice projection, emotional connection and physical presence and is an award-winning inspirational speaker.

Do You Have The Leadership Presence You’ll Need in 2016?

As you wind down, wrap up and reflect on your year, how have you fared in the intangible ‘x factor’ department?  In other words, how have you developed and expressed your  ‘leadership presence’?

Leadership presence is that quality of poise and perspective which supports you to be more awake, aware, and influential and includes a type of ‘stage presence’ and ‘voice of authority’ which allows you to command attention whenever you speak.  Psychological Science Journal  published a pioneering study this year on a key aspect of leadership presence: your voice.  The study found that when you feel more powerful,  your voice changes in predictable ways.   It becomes more dynamic in loudness, less variable in pitch and has more intensity.   This study supports the fact that you can dramatically improve your confidence, personal impact,  and influence through voice coaching.

Many business and political leaders are well aware of the benefits of presence and voice coaching.  Here’s a short video clip of Margaret Thatcher’s  voice ‘before’ and ‘after’ coaching – the difference in her authoritative presentation is dramatic. You can see that she slows down her speech and speaks with more articulation and definitiveness.  Leadership presence is not an inborn gift for most of us.   It is cultivated through coaching and involves a set of learnable skills.

If you’d like to develop your ‘leadership presence’, I invite you to join me on the new Bright*Star course in 2016:

‘Building Your Executive Voice and Presence’

29th February or 19 August in Wellington or in Auckland on 11th May.

Blog written for Bright*Star Training by Sally Mabelle

Sally Mabelle, M.Ed, B.A hons, has 20+ years’ experience as a ‘Voice of Leadership’ specialist. She combines her professional background in Communication, Education, and Psychology with her extensive stage experience in her courses. She has honed essential skills in voice projection, emotional connection and physical presence and is an award-winning inspirational speaker.

What I look for in AAPNZ Award applications

Earlier this year I was honoured to be asked to judge the Administration Professional of the Year Awards at the AAPNZ conference in Christchurch. It was a real privilege to get to know the three finalists and to learn about their journeys. What talented women!

With so many amazing applicants, whose stories I was fascinated to read, it was hard enough to get down to just three finalists, so imagine the difficulties in choosing the winner.

What made Rebeka Adamson stand out in my eyes was that her passion for the profession really shone through, she was extremely well prepared, and she was very clear on where she was headed in her career.

Since July I have been thinking about what advice I would give to other administration professionals looking to enter next year’s Awards. What would help them stand out and possibly get to the next stage? Here are my top five tips:

  1. Let your personality and passions shine through in your application and in the interview
  2. Don’t be shy to talk about yourself and what you have achieved (please give examples)
  3. Talk about yourself and your role rather than about your organisation
  4. Be clear about what your goals are, how you plan to achieve them and how winning the Award can help you do that
  5. Make sure you follow the format and instructions given in the application form


I strongly encourage all Administration professionals in New Zealand to consider entering the 2016 Awards. This is your chance to step out from “behind the scenes” and share your story and your experiences with your peers. Don’t be daunted by the process – I promise you that you will not regret entering. We need to celebrate the amazing diversity of roles, skills, and career opportunities that are available to administration professionals and continue to raise the profile of the profession. Your stories should be heard. Your contributions recognised. Imagine how amazing it would feel to win!


If you can answer yes to the following three questions, then you should apply.

  • Would you like to take stock of how far you have come in your career?
  • Would you like your boss put down in writing just how outstanding you are?
  • Would you like to be recognised within your profession?


These are just three of the many reasons cited by previous applicants as to why they find it so rewarding to put themselves forward for this award. Whether you win or not, everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that it is hugely beneficial and eye-opening to go through the process. It builds their confidence, allows them to reflect on their accomplishments, and makes them consider what’s next in their role or career.

I have met some absolutely inspiring administration professionals over the last decade, both through AAPNZ and through my work on training courses and events for EA/PAs through Bright*Star and Conferenz. What these women have achieved, the responsibilities and huge workloads they seem to carry with such grace, it really does humble you. What then surprises me is that almost every single one of them feel that they don’t have what it takes to be considered for the AAPNZ award. Digging a bit deeper, what I’ve found is that the main two things holding them back are:

  • They don’t feel confident enough to put themselves forward
  • The prospect of having to do a short speech in front of their peers terrifies them


I understand where they are coming from. I have struggled with those two areas myself but in the end found that the only way to overcome my fears was to tackle them head-on. Both are simply skills that can be learned. Once you pick up a few techniques and start practising on a regular basis, the fear goes away. Personally, I joined Toastmasters and went through an assertiveness training programme. There are many options available to you so if you start now you will be ready for when nominations open for the 2016 AAPNZ Awards. If you want any advice on options, I would be more than happy to help you. Contact me directly on 099123610 or