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Bespoken’s Cringe-Free Guide to Networking

Bespoken’s Cringe-Free Guide to Networking

Networking is a word that makes even the best of us cringe. There’s something about putting ourselves out there that feels… Invasive? Fake?

Bespoken co-founder Leah Bonvissuto
Bespoken co-founder Leah Bonvissuto

This necessary evil becomes more unavoidable every day. We assume everyone is better at it than we are. We are hard on ourselves for being unable to have “fun” in an environment supposedly designed for just that. We go to networking events, we stand on the sidelines and it doesn’t seem to get any better.

No matter your reason for avoiding it, networking is a professional development skill that we can all get better at when taken one step at a time. At Bespoken, we give people tools to network on their own terms, training people 1×1 or in small group settings (if you’re in NYC, join us on April 12th at Spark Labs for our networking masterclass—early bird discount available through April 5thclick here to register). 

Here are some actionable techniques to implement the next time you walk into a room:

Reframe the experience

Walking into a networking event can produce feelings of stress and anxiety, especially if you’ve had bad experiences in the past. Give yourself an intention that has nothing to do with the word “networking”. Make a connection, or make it a goal to help other people, not yourself. Reframing the experience will help you feel ownership over it as you build your own strategy going forward.

Go outside In

Give yourself a physical task—something you can commit to 100% in the moment. Force a smile (it works!) or choose to stand with your arms at your sides instead of crossed (body language is a powerful tool when used effectively). Changing up your physicality limits negative past associations and gets you out of your head.

Make eye contact

Practice eye contact in a safe space and with people you know so that it’s there for you when you need it. It helps to decrease stress and can aid in making a connection.

Initiate—but not too much

Talk to a few people—but no more than that. Make someone on the sidelines feel more comfortable, or compliment someone on their business card, their shoes, anything! Giving yourself little victories will help you feel ownership over this skillset!

Reward yourself

It sounds cheesy but giving yourself something to look forward to can alleviate a ton of pressure from the experience of networking. Treat yourself to dessert on the way home or bookend the event with fun plans (temptation bundling is a thing and it works!).

Let us know how these techniques work for you and join us on April 12th at Spark Labs for our networking masterclassclick here to register

Networking with Bespoken


Bespoken is a coaching firm based in New York City that is dedicated to helping people speak with conviction and communicate with confidence. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate powerfully and purposefully. The story of Bespoken began when two friends, Leah Bonvissuto and Jackie Miller, decided to channel years of professional theater experience into helping people be better, bolder communicators. Offering 1×1 coaching and small group masterclasses, Bespoken training is customized, on-your-feet and interactive. Rooted in powerful yet practical theater techniques, our work is designed to help you harness your innate ability to communicate effectively in any situation.
Be the Change You Wish to See in 2016

Be the Change You Wish to See in 2016

Bespoken’s Guide to Making (Lasting) Change in the New Year

You may be hoping that the New Year brings a New You—but we all know it’s never quite that easy. Change is scary. At least that’s how it can feel. Change takes time and is also constant—but it’s the big changes that shake us up and move us out of our comfort zones. And here’s the thing—change is hard, but it doesn’t have to be! Bespoken invites you to #BEthechange you wish to see in 2016 with these steps:

Acknowledge it

“Step out of your comfort zone,” is a phrase we often hear.  Turn and face the strange ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.  And yes, it is going to be uncomfortable.  Acknowledge the excitement, anxiety and fear that naturally come when you do something completely new and unfamiliar. The simple act of embracing these feelings will not only give you strength to persevere, but also empower you to ask for support when you need it.

Look back to go forward

It’s not about the New You—it’s about the You that got you to where you are today. Replace judgment with curiosity and a sense of humor as you take a trip down the memory lane of 2015. You need to know where you’ve been to know where you want to go.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Maya Angelou

Set an intention

For many of us, resolutions can become a list of semi-vague do’s and don’ts—eat better, drink less, wake up earlier, watch less TV—leading to inevitable (and destructive) disappointment and self-beratement. Instead, set an intention for yourself and for the year. It should be universal and specific at the same time. Make it positive and affirmative. It should feel silly, exciting and new—but most importantly it should speak to you on a deeply personal level!

Make a plan

You know where you’re going, but getting there may be unclear and overwhelming. Put a plan in place to help you succeed, led by the intention you set for yourself. You can write it down, throw it away and start again as many times as you want. Do a practice run over a weekend to anticipate roadblocks and challenges. Refine it. Make it work for you. Include a fail-safe to ensure you know how to pick yourself back up when you (inevitably) fall down.

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. George Bernard Shaw

Change your mindset

There is no right or wrong when you are venturing into the unknown. Let fear turn to curiosity as you observe your own reactions to change. This is a new and exciting experiment! Listen to yourself and observe what happens to your body in new situations. If you have a tendency to retreat, structure in alone time at the end of the day. If you have physical signs of anxiety, remind yourself that it is your body’s natural reaction to the strenuous process of change.

Share your experience

Start a blog. Share on social media. Acknowledge what you’re going through in conversations. Meditate alone or in a group (Headspace is a great way to start). Be a source of strength and support for someone going through something similar. The more you share your experience, the less alone you will feel. Slowly but surely you will realize that your experience is, in many ways, a shared one.

How can you know what you’re capable of if you don’t embrace the unknown? Esmeralda Santiago

Shake up your routine

As creatures of habit, it can feel like a shock to integrate big changes all at once. Start impossibly small. Wake up half an hour early. Set one goal for each morning and complete it. Think of one thing you’ve always told yourself you could not do and do it. Take yourself on a date. Surprise yourself. And don’t forget to fail—it’s the only surefire way to move forward.

Go outside-in

Making a physical change literally alters the way the world sees you which in turn alters the way you see the world. It doesn’t have to be drastic or big—dye your hair! buy a new hat! change your glasses!—but it should feel monumental to you. And remember to stay active—physical activity gets you out of your head and into your body.

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. John F. Kennedy

Be your own best friend

We all do it. We apologize. We beat ourselves up. Sometimes our internal critic is so vocal and self-assured that it can take quite some time to unravel the habit of believing every word it says to be true. #UNapologize yourself. Literally take care of yourself—that means not beating yourself up for beating yourself up either. Defend yourself the way you would your best friend. When you tell yourself you can’t do something, refuse to take it as a given. Practice sticking up for yourself, whenever you get the chance.

Change it up

Treat your process as a living document rather than a rule book with consequences. Be a willing participant in your journey. Make changes constantly. Make it work for you—not for anyone else. Remember that you are in control of the expectations you set for yourself! Work in little victories. Celebrate each win. Return to your intention. And if you fall, which you will, get back up again and keep moving forward.


Bespoken is a coaching firm based in New York dedicated to empowering professionals and entrepreneurs to speak with conviction and communicate with confidence through customized 1×1 and small group coaching. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate purposefully and powerfully. www.bespokenpartners.com.

Go Pitch Yourself at LMHQ on November 3rd

Go Pitch Yourself at LMHQ on November 3rd

DATE: 11/03/2015
TIME: 6:30 PM

FEE: $40

“You cannot think and hit at the same time.” – Yogi Berra

Communication is a skill. Have you honed it? Your expertise and enthusiasm for what you do make you uniquely qualified to speak about your work and your company.

Go Pitch Yourself is an interactive, on-your-feet masterclass where participants hone how to persuasively talk about what they do with potential stakeholders – think: lunch with an Angel Investor or coffee with the Director of Annual Giving at that huge foundation which actually read your LOI.

You’ll practice vocal and physical techniques that will help you make the impression you intended even in the toughest conversations. Together we’ll help you own your ideas and speak from the heart.

Given the interactive format of this event attendance is limited to 15 participants.

Register to Attend

We are Bespoken

We are Bespoken

We’ve walked you through our process. We’ve shared our methodology. In the final part of the series, find out how we use acting techniques to help you own the room and speak with confidence and conviction.

There is a common misconception that the best actors have perfected lying or pretending when actually the opposite is true. Actors train for years to learn how to be truthful in the most unrealistic environment of all–the stage: stakes are high, lights are bright and there are strangers watching their every move.

Actors learn how to speak from a place of truth, clarity and distinction and develop their bodies to be open and responsive. Actors know that the stage acts as a magnifying glass: their words and gestures and the ideas they share must be clear–otherwise, they risk detracting from the story and confusing their audience. Actors spend countless hours in the rehearsal room dissecting the choices they will make onstage in order to consistently connect to the truth of each moment in the play, no matter what is thrown their way. This is called technique.

We believe that these technical skills can be taught to anyone speaking to an audience of any kind.

We trained at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in a method that encourages each actor to use their unique vision to imagine the world of the play so completely that they are not acting at all but merely existing in a set of given circumstances defined by the playwright. Stella Adler believed that the growth of the actor is synonymous with the growth of the human being: “The play is not in the words, it’s in you.” Stella also believed that drama depends on doing, not feeling; feeling is a by-product of doing. Her approach to acting depends on connecting strongly to each other by way of actions and creating dramatic events that take place between “I and thou,” not between “me and myself.”

Like Stella, we believe that you are at the center of your most passionate ideas and that it is essential to optimize your unique perspective in order to connect with your audience. This cannot come through “feeling” but instead must come through doing; physically implementing active tools for communicating effectively.

In addition to training at Stella Adler, we have trained in a wide range of performance techniques—Commedia dell‘arte, Shakespearean performance, clowning, Viewpoints, improvisation, voice and speech and many forms of movement–each aimed at stripping away destructive habits and improving physical awareness in order to engage an audience. We thrive on working with people from all backgrounds and experiences, adapting techniques and tools to fit each person.

At Bespoken, we believe that great public speakers are made, not born. Get in touch to find out how we can help you tell your story and speak from the heart.

What it Means to Bespoken

What it Means to Bespoken

“The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice” – George Eliot.

At Bespoken, we help you get out of your head and into your body—because we believe you can’t connect the two without speaking from the heart. Last month, we gave you an inside look into our process. Read on to find out how our methodology helps people speak powerfully and purposefully through customized, on-your-feet coaching.

Our approach focuses on how to use your voice (command) and body (presence) to get what you want (intention).

We believe that everyone has an innate ability to communicate.

We believe that everyone communicates in his or her own unique way.

We do not believe that there are inherently good speakers or bad speakers.

We do believe that one bad past experience may lead you to believe you are unable to speak well in front of an audience.

We believe that the more you understand how to control your body and voice in high-pressure situations, the better you will be at communicating your story.

We teach you techniques that will show you how to gain control of your own ability to command a room in high-pressure situations.

We help you get comfortable with the discomfort that’s standing in the way of you being your best in the moments that matter most.

How to Bespoken

How to Bespoken

At Bespoken, we help people across all industries speak powerfully, particularly in high-pressure situations. Our work is interactive and collaborative, but also highly personalized, which can make describing what we do challenging. We’re excited to be tackling the art of making human connection–possibly the most gratifying experience there is–and each connection we forge teaches us more about the work ourselves. In the first part of this series, we describe our process in order to give you an inside look into the way we work.

Our Mission

We help you speak powerfully and purposefully through customized coaching designed to harness your unique ability to communicate in any situation. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate when given the tools to do so. We employ proactive and practical theater techniques to help you optimize the connection you make with your audience and to give you more control over the impression you make.

Our Clients

We work across many different industries but our clients have one thing in common–they each have something to communicate in a verbal context, whether that’s presenting, pitching, networking, interviewing, etc. We help them be better communicators internally with colleagues and externally with clients.

We’ve worked with entrepreneurs looking to hone a presentation; filmmakers pitching a grant maker for additional funds to finish a project; executive directors looking to improve leadership and communication skills; members of the healthcare sector  imparting sensitive information telephonically; and freelancers at a co-working space seeking tips for networking in high-pressure situations.

Our Structure

When working one-on-one, we meet over multiple sessions to identify and hone a specific communication challenge. Goals are usually achieved in three-to-five 1-hour sessions.

In our masterclasses, a small group (i.e., freelancers at a co-working space) gets a Bespoken primer. Masterclasses usually run 1.5-to-3 hours and can accommodate up to 12 participants. We also collaborate with organizations to meet their specific needs through customized internal workshops.

Host a masterclass at your organization
Host a masterclass at your organization

Regardless of the structure, you leave with a conversational narrative that’s authentic, tools to help you relax when speaking in front of a crowd, control over the way you present yourself, confidence in your communication style and command of your vocal and physical choices. We help you articulate your unique perspective. We help you find your literal and metaphorical voice. We give you more control over the way you present yourself and your ideas. We teach you how to be your best self in the moments that matter most.

Our Process

At Bespoken, we first help you dissect, organize and shape your ideas. We then train you to make powerful verbal and physical choices to support those ideas and together we develop and ingrain personalized techniques, tips and tricks to help you commit to those choices in high-pressure situations.

We begin with an intake meeting to discuss challenges, goals and logistics and to make sure the process and purpose of the work is understood. Guided by the fundamental creative process of making theater, we work through three phases:

  1. Craft It – Together, we identify the audience and craft a distinctive message that articulates your vision.
  2. Work It – On your feet, you learn how to use your voice and body to engage your audience.
  3. Own It – Through rehearsal and situational role-play, techniques are refined and ingrained.

Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you own the room, speak from the heart and free your mind!

Own the Room at SoTechie Spaces on August 3rd

Own the Room at SoTechie Spaces on August 3rd

What happens to you before making a pitch? Sweaty hands? Shaky voice? Inability to connect your thoughts to your words? In our Own the Room master class, we give participants customized, immediate feedback to beat nerves and confidently pitch your work authentically and powerfully.

Join us on August 3rd at SoTechie Spaces for our Own the Room Master Class. Harness what makes you uniquely qualified to pitch your work in a way no one else can. Our Own the Room master class will teach you practical and proactive techniques to improve your vocal command and presence. Participants act as each other’s audience as we give you personalized, in-the-moment feedback to help you craft the impression you want to make, no matter the stakes. Click here to register to reserve your spot — there are only a few spots left. See you on the third!



What makes a great leader? It has something to do with a unique ability to see the world outside of yourself — to seek feedback, collaborate with those around you and see the bigger picture. Molly Reynolds is a great leader — we first met Molly when Bespoken co-founder Leah Bonvissuto directed a reading of her musical in NYMF. She is sharp, super smart, and a truly genuine voice. We were thrilled to contribute our tips on how great leaders own the room to this article Molly wrote on Inc.com. Here’s our tips for beating nerves and owning the room when speaking in public:

Do some self-sleuthing

Identify what makes your leadership style unique and acknowledge what throws you off your game: are you confident in front of large crowds, but shrink in front of smaller groups? Dissect negative past experiences as well as positive ones–take notes, dig for clues and seek feedback from trusted sources.

Embrace your #onlyness

What is that thing that only you can bring to the table? Flesh out not only why you do what you do, but also what you do differently than anyone else. Create a shortlist of words to pull from on-the-go that authentically represent your vision.

Find your voice

Anyone can learn to speak powerfully and purposefully–actors have been practicing how to speak with clarity and distinction for thousands of years. Take a class or work with a coach to learn how to be open and responsive, especially when the stakes are high.

Go back to your roots

Combat nerves in the moment by breathing deep and focusing on the physical–especially your feet. Your shoes should make you feel grounded. If those ballet flats aren’t making you feel powerful it might be time for some retail market research!

Embrace discomfort

Seek out opportunities to practice being uncomfortable–think of it as a muscle. Rehearse your speech while maintaining direct eye contact with a trusted friend. It may feel scary at first (so start small and in a safe environment!) but with practice and patience you can improve your discomfort tolerance.

And speaking of practice…

If you only run through it in hushed tones in your office, imagine how different it will feel when you need to fill that 500-seat hall. Seize any opportunity to practice full out (or in the actual space if possible) to minimize the unexpected and unfamiliar.

Keep it conversational

No one can follow your lead if they don’t know where you’re going. Establish communication that is direct, clear and compassionate. Even presentations can be framed in a conversational tone.

Seek feedback constantly

Understand the impression you’re making. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. Asking “Is that clear?” for example, will show that you are open and proactive, and it will make your team feel validated and heard.

Connect with your audience

Picture someone who will be in the room and think: How do I want to make them feel? The simple act of putting yourself in their shoes takes you out of your own head and into the space around you, helping you form more meaningful connections.

A matter of time

Owning the room doesn’t come easy or overnight. Be patient with yourself and practice in a safe space to build your confidence before venturing into the outside world.

Public Speaking Announcement: Make a Connection

Public Speaking Announcement: Make a Connection

Many people believe that actors are great liars when, in fact, the opposite is true. Actors practice — they rehearse — to one end only: to be truthful. They spend countless hours in the rehearsal room connecting the dots. Dissecting the emotional life of the play until it makes sense to them. Not in their heads but in their bones. So that when they get onstage they can connect in the most truthful and unobstructed way possible. They practice and perfect authenticity. That is what they call technique.

We believe that these techniques can help anyone be more confident when speaking in any forum (networking, interviewing, pitching, presenting). But when the stakes are high, some of us have trouble connecting not only to others but also to ourselves. Nerves, bad past experiences and racing thoughts take over and we know — in our bones — that we are not being our most authentic, best selves. And that prevents us from connecting (it’s a pretty viscious cycle) when speaking in public. So, how can we learn from actors, who have been practicing and perfecting authenticity and connection in high pressure situations for thousands of years?

The performer-audience connection is unique and powerful.  Actors know that the stage is a magnifying glass — ideas delivered through words and movement must be precise, concise and clear.  Actors train in the least realistic environment of all — the stage — where the stakes are high, the lights are hot, and hundreds of strangers are watching you. Actors tirelessly develop their muscles — voice, body and mind — so that they can speak from a place of truth, clarity and distinction and train their bodies to be open and responsive.

A8GGx78CAAMUPHFWe studied at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in a method that encourages each actor to use their unique perspective to imagine the world of the play so completely that they are not acting at all but merely existing in a set of circumstances given to them by the playwright. Stella Adler believed that drama depends on doing, not feeling; feeling is a by-product of doing. You can’t do anything with a feeling — that’s why those feelings of nervousness, anxiety and tension can only hold us back when speaking in public. Stella’s approach relied on connecting strongly to each other by way of actions and creating a connection between “I and thou,” not between “me and myself.” In other words, we develop, practice and ingrain physical, practical techniques to jumpstart a connection between ourselves, the actors, and our audience.

But here’s the thing — an actor has to do the work to manifest an emotional connection to words and feelings that aren’t his but you don’t have to do that. You feel the connection. You know the words. It’s your story. You just need to tell it better. Clarify your intention. Articulate your ideas. Shape your message. Find your voice. Harness your strengths. Get out of your own way. Make a connection. Leave an impression. Own the room. 

Host a Communication Workshop

Host a Communication Workshop

Here at Bespoken, we help people speak powerfully and purposefully through individual and small group coaching. Modeled off our one-on-one process, we offer communication workshops to organizations of all kinds.

We can create a customized internal communication workshop for your organization to give your team the tools it needs to maximize output while fostering individuality and help you build a cohesive and collaborative environment. If you’re an accelerator or incubator, we give startup founders the tools they need to articulate their vision boldly and clearly while inspiring confidence in every interaction.  In our small group workshops at co-working spaces freelancers learn how to harness their singularity while presenting themselves boldly and confidently.

Each masterclass is customized from start to finish according to the needs of your specific team.

Click here for a short video about how we work. We work one-on-one or in small groups. Click here for examples of workshops we’ve customized for industries of all kinds. Each masterclass is 2-3 hours long and can accommodate 6-10 participants at a time.

Every story is unique. Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you tell yours.