The Career Whisperer

How AH Action helps leaders to find their voice

The Career Whisperer

Former ITV presenter Arti Halai, can turn even the most camera shy business leader into a dynamic speaker and boardroom battler. She tells Elite Business about her unique approach to media training…

“Ultimately we know success comes down to these three things: confidence, clarity and communication.” 

So says Arti Halai, former ITV presenter and founder of elite coaching firm AH Action. For more than 30 years, Arti has empowered leaders in FTSE 100 companies, SMEs, entrepreneurs, educational institutions, charities, professional services, sports, financial sectors and many more, through tailored executive coaching and dynamic training in media, presentation, and crisis communications.

Her numerous clients have gained both self-assurance and a tactical skillset that enables them to communicate authentically, strategically and effectively as decision makers.

She explains how her firm’s customised programmes accelerate transformation for ambitious professionals. 

“People come to us because we have a strong track record in achieving the right results for our clients. Everything we do is bespoke and made specifically for individuals,” she says. 

“Thirty years of experience in the communications space teaches you lots of things, and gives you good insight and perspectives on problems that people face and real life solutions that work.”

Accelerated learning

By holistically assessing strengths, blind spots and objectives through questionnaires and discovery sessions, Arti matches developmental plans to the individual. 

She explains: “We use accelerated learning techniques to laser focus on what will help our clients receive maximum value during our time together.” 

Her goal for each engagement is clear: “Above all else, we ensure everybody who works with us has a good time and leaves with a new found confidence to use their skills straight away.”

A common challenge Arti notes amongst even accomplished clients is how anxiety can inhibit even the smartest business minds, especially surrounding high stakes communications. 

“Everybody is different but there are recurring themes especially when it comes to presentation skills or media training. Often confidence comes very high up on the list as most people are anxious or fear being judged when it comes to presenting, in any number of situations.”

Arti cites work she did with a lawyer who had been promoted to manage her law firm team and was nervous about public speaking. 

“She had been to a top university and had performed as a concert pianist. Her fear was irrational and she was aware of this,” explains Arti.

By reprogramming thought patterns, building communication capacity through practice and instilling perspective, “She hit the ground running in her new role and I have her thank you card to this day!”

Such rapid breakthroughs typify Arti’s executive coaching approach. Another client, who had been appointed to board level for the first time also benefited from her methods.

“She was surprised at the way the board operated and was open to learning and experimenting with her communication style,” Arti explains. 

“We explored her feelings, background and experience so she could understand herself better before coming up with some practical things she could implement in the board meetings.”

Crisis response coaching

Crisis response is also central to the AH Action curriculum. Arti recalls media training she gave to a client which helped him snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, turning a potential PR disaster into a win.

When a retail chain found itself under the spotlight and scrutiny, intensive interview preparation enabled a triumphant TV appearance on the BBC’s flagship consumer rights programme, Watchdog.

 “He proved bad news can be turned around into good when you care about your business and are willing to prepare and engage with the media properly,” she says. 

“After his interview opposite Anne Robinson on the programme, sales in their business went up by 20 per cent!”

Such outcomes demonstrate why organisations should fund leadership communication despite tight budgets, Arti argues. 

“When times are hard, marketing and training budgets are still likely to be the first to be cut in businesses. Individuals are more open to investing in their futures,” she notes. 

Since executives recognise personal poise and persuasion as premium skills, they readily self-finance coaching.

For entrepreneurs specifically, Arti highlights storytelling to inspire teams, active listening for trust and clear speech to avoid misunderstandings as the baseline skills that are often lacking. 

“All entrepreneurs should know their story and share that story with their employees at least once a year,” she advises. 

“This helps employees understand the roots of the business and ensures they feel part of the business journey.” 

Arti adds that for founders, asking questions is also of paramount importance along with clear communication to minimise conflict.

At higher levels, Arti says leaders seek counsel on stakeholder engagement, organisational positioning and effectively responding to crises or negative publicity. 

“Leaders at the top end of business are looking to work with experts to enhance their communication skills, understand the more strategic aspects of their role, navigate challenges, engage stakeholders and contribute to the overall success of their business,” she says.

Social media impact

While social media has reshaped communications and made nearly everyone a presenter or amateur journalist, Arti says certain  fundamentals like eye contact, gestures and vocal control are still important on camera for connection. 

“Maintaining eye contact with the camera, expressive gestures and modulating your vocals are vital when communicating through the screen,” she says.

“Positioning yourself properly on the screen seems like the simplest thing to do and yet so many people don’t get it right. Sit up straight, with your bottom in the middle of the seat and check your position using the camera on your laptop before taking part in a meeting or doing anything online.

“Keep meetings on screen to a minimum time – if you schedule something in for an hour, cut the time by half. On screen presenting requires high levels of energy and it is tough to maintain that for long periods of time. 

“The fundamentals of good presenting remain the same whether done online or in person – prepare and practice, have a good structure, keep the content clear and engaging, use your vocals and body language effectively.”

But she acknowledges that while there is huge potential for getting it wrong, it is also an undeniably great way to promote people and brands.

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“News can spread much faster and wider – a dangerous product recall can be done quickly and effectively. The ability to immediately engage directly with news outlets and journalists can also help with getting stories to air that we may never previously have been privy to.” 

Still, the overload of information minus vital context threatens balanced discourse. 

“Many people fail to seek clarification or a more balanced view. Headlines and short stories don’t provide context and many people will just keep scrolling through these without understanding the story properly.”

By specialising each curriculum while accelerating the development of core skills, Arti aims to empower leaders at all stages to communicate with authenticity, clarity and confidence. 

She says her deepest professional fulfilment comes from witnessing client transformations first-hand. “It is a joy to see clients I have worked with overcoming their fear of presenting.”

Through insight, practice and personal breakthroughs, Arti Halai and her firm AH Action have spent years transforming natural introverts into engaging public speakers and dynamic business leaders.

With bespoke coaching fine-tuned to the individual, Arti unlocks the potential of tomorrow’s leaders, their careers and their companies.

Arti will be speaking at Elite Business Live 2024, bringing her communications expertise to the Optimising PR and Marketing to Generate Sales keynote and panel session. Join Arti to uncover the techniques she has employed to achieve great success for both herself and her clients: Click here to find out more.

Ronnie Dungan
Ronnie Dungan

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