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Best Public Speakers: Studying Mellody Hobson's Executive Presentation Skills

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

We included Mellody Hobson on our “Best Public Speakers” list because of her endearing presence and creative, direct, and organized way she responds to questions. Mellody is President and Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, and the chairwoman of Starbucks Corporation.

by Stephanie Bickel

executive presentation skills

We reviewed her best public speakers interview where she discusses her rise from financial uncertainty to the top of a $13 billion investment firm, and the lessons in courage she’s learned along the way.

Mellody’s greatest executive presentation skills:

  1. Directly answers questions: When asked about what money means to her, Mellody answers with a simple response, “security”, and then she follows with more detail. This demonstrates how organized she is with her thoughts before speaks. (:38 - :54)

  2. Storytelling ability and painting a clear picture for her listeners: She expands on the hardships she had as a child and what it looked like day-to-day, so the audience can understand her pain. This experience is what drove her to want to understand money. It also led her to a career in the investment industry. (:49 - 1:40)

  3. Endearing smile: When Mellody talks about the advice she received from her mother, a big smile forms on her face. Her supportive facial expressions emphasize the importance and positive impact this had on her. This is in contrast to the more serious demeanor she has when she talks about challenges. (1:58 - 2:10)

  4. Creatively answers questions using quotes from others: When answering the question about paying dues, she begins with a quote from Jessie Jackson about freedom never really being free. This drove her philosophy to pay early and often, so later she had more control over decision making. (2:30 - 3:12)

  5. Incorporating vocal variety to match messages: When she talks about facing fear, Mellody slows down and uses a softer approach with lower volume and few gestures. We call this a consultative vocal style, similar to that of a therapist. (3:15 - 4:00)

What Mellody could do to improve her executive presentation skills:

  1. Begin with direct eye contact: It was hard to find something lacking in Mellody’s executive presence and communication skills. She does an excellent job throughout, connecting with the listener through engaging eye contact. However, when first answering the interviewer’s question, she looks away several times which could convey uncertainty or avoiding the question. (:42 - :56)

  2. Consistently use strong word choice: Her language was very polished, however, there were a few times when her word choice was slightly distracting. In the first segment (:58-1:20), she repeated the word “really”. “ly” words are considered filler. She also uses “like”, “um”, and “things like that” in this next segment. (2:35-3:05)


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