Early in the year, Kelly opened a personalized life coaching business, Make Your Own Heat, where she teaches professional presentation and pitch skills to a wide variety of clients, from budding entrepreneurs to retirees who don’t want to stay retired.
She has specialized instruction formats for student and veteran groups as well, both of which need special help translating their skill sets into corporate speaking.
The name of her firm, says Kelly, comes from a lesson she learned early on in her acting career.
“In acting, we know that no matter how many agents, how many casting directors and publicists like you, you have to ‘make your own heat,’” she said.
The truth is, “eventually, if you have a great idea, you have to pitch it,” Kelly recently told the students of her month-long Borough of Manhattan Community College adult education class. “People have great ideas and they’re very passionate, but they can’t get past their faces. Eighty-five percent are more scared of public speaking than death itself.”
She believes with her wide array of experience, she can help her clients safely navigate this fear, as well as their three other worst enemies in public presentation: Technical difficulties, Q&A sessions and short audience attention spans. According to Kelly, the human attention span of 8 seconds is shorter than a goldfish’s by a full second.
Kelly’s on-the-job experience comes from her work as a manager for a dinner theater in Tuscon, Arizona, a job she accepted fresh out of college and worked at for two years before moving to New York City.
Once here, she directed off-Broadway shows and worked for some time as a technical writer. Apart from her work at BMCC, Kelly has led instruction at SUNY Farmingdale, CW Post and LIU South Hampton, the last of which being the place where she met her husband.
The best advice Kelly has for anyone seeking employment or preparing to pitch an idea to a company or investor, she says, is to be ready to improvise when things don’t go as planned (because they probably won’t).
“If you go in thinking everything’s going to be fine like Michael Bay reading from a teleprompter, you’re toast,” says Kelly, referring to Bay’s embarrassing walk-off at CES, adding, “a Q&A that’s a train wreck will be all that the people remember.”
Even though it can feel like a lot of pressure to stand in front of a crowd and pitch a personal idea or a business that is close to one’s heart, says Kelly, it’s important to remember that in the end, the person pitching is not the most important in the equation.
“It isn’t about you; it’s about your audience and what you want them to walk away with,” she says.