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Best Public Speakers: Studying Zahira Gonzalvo's Effective Leadership Communication Strategies

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

By Regina Leslie

We included Zahira Gonzalvo on our “Best Public Speakers” list because of her open and clear messaging, assertive vocal style, and confident mindset. Zahira is SVP, Division Manager / Head - Financial and Operational Risk, at Popular Bank. She founded the Diversity and Inclusion function for the Bank in 2018 and remains a member of the D&I Executive Advisory Council.

effective leadership communication strategies

We reviewed Zahira’s interview in the Woman in Cyber podcast series on CISO street, “Women in Cyber: A conversation with Zahira Gonzalvo”, where she shares her journey from technology risk and audit to cyber risk, and to the chief information security role at the Bank.

Zahira’s most effective leadership communication strategies:

  1. Clear and Compelling Messaging: Throughout the interview, Zahira is clear in her communications. She is well prepared for a range of topics, which indicates that she organized her communication goals and messaging in advance of the discussion. She minimizes the number of ideas she is communicating in each answer, focusing on 1 to 2 main ideas. This helps her message stay clear and concise. She then pauses, which allows for the audience to keep pace and stay engaged. And while the topic of cybersecurity can be complex and technical, she is able to get her points across using plain and direct language. (0:55-2:01)

  2. Confident Mindset: Zahira is demonstrating a confident mindset. She cares about her audience, which can be seen through her calm and warm delivery. She is in control of the discussion and believes she is an expert. She also is speaking with the belief that she can affect change today. We see this in the weight of her voice during her response to the rapidly changing landscape of cybersecurity. We see these beliefs through her bold, focused, and positive message style, which draws in the audience. (5.01-6:02)

  3. Assertive Vocal Style: Zahira is using an assertive vocal style to convey her message. Her vocal presence is bound and direct and demonstrates her strong knowledge and command of the facts. She conveys energy and passion when delivering her message. (28:20-29:50)

  4. Visual Cues: Zahira is in a virtual setting during the interview and has excellent eye contact with the camera (her audience), which helps build a real human connection. In a virtual format, the camera is your listener. Sometimes eye contact can feel strange when virtual. If you are looking at the people on your computer screen, then you are not looking at the camera. If you are looking at the camera, then it can feel as if you are not looking at your audience. She is showing good balance during her interview and is speaking directly to the camera when answering questions. It feels like she is talking directly to her audience.

  5. Logical Persuasion: Zahira uses logical persuasion when discussing the percentage of women in cybersecurity today. She states that 32% of cybersecurity professionals nationally are women, which is fairly high. And, makes a strong case that this is an area that will continue to grow over time. The use of logical persuasion influences the audience with facts to convince others. (33:10-34:00)

What Zahira could do to include more effective leadership communication strategies:

  1. Incorporate a variety of gestures: To amplify her message, Zahira could have added a mixture of gestures with her messaging. Some favorite gestures to consider are the karate chop, which shows focus and reads as authoritative and commending, or the open palm, which invites your audience to engage generously.

  2. Increase Vocal Variety: Zahira could have added a bit more contrast to her vocal presence, such as changing her pitch and volume or mixing up her cadence at the end of sentences. This can create interest and help the speaker have more influence over the audience.

  3. Remove Filler Words: There was some use of filler words, “um” and “ah”, throughout the interview, which can distract and lower trust with the audience. As a speaker, we want to be flawless in our communications. To eliminate filler words, slow down your pace of speech and use the pause. Collect your thoughts without stating the filler, and then move on to the next message.


Great leaders and speakers start with Speak by Design. Learn the techniques and build the skills with us. Speak by Design University is the only leadership communication program in the world that gives you access to self-paced learning, group coaching and training and, most importantly, private one-on-one coaching. Learn more and register.


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