Simply Said
Simply Said
Simply Said is the essential handbook for business communication.

Panel Discussion 10

Executive Presence


To celebrate 28 years of serving our clients, Exec-Comm moderated an interactive panel discussion about what presence is, why it’s important and how to build it for yourself and for those in your organization.

"You either have it or you don't." People often say this when they describe presence. That may be a true statement in the moment, but "it" can certainly be developed. In business and in life, when you want to sell, persuade, or inspire, the power of your presence is critical.

  • Jay Sullivan

    Jay Sullivan is the Managing Partner at Exec-Comm, and leads the firm’s Law Firm Group. He is an award-winning author and columnist, as well as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law Center and Fordham University School of Law. His book, Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond, was released by John Wiley & Sons in 2016, and has since been translated into Chinese, Korean, and Russian.  As a contributing writer for, Jay brings relevant and timely advice on enhancing one’s communication skills to the business community.

    Whether working with groups or in one-on-one coaching arrangements Jay helps professionals have greater impact by teaching them to focus on the needs of their audiences. Jay works closely with the learning and development professionals at many global law firms and financial services firms to customize communication skills solutions.

    Jay joined Exec-Comm after nine years as a practicing attorney. He received his J.D. from Fordham University School of Law in 1989. That year, Jay was named among the first class of Skadden Fellows by the Skadden Foundation. As a Skadden Fellow, Jay acted as in-house legal counsel at Covenant House, a crisis shelter for runaway and homeless teenagers. Following his Fellowship, Jay spent seven years practicing insurance law on behalf of Lloyds of London.

    After graduating from Boston College in 1984, Jay spent two years in the Jesuit International Volunteer Corps, teaching English. His book about that experience, Raising Gentle Men: Lives at the Orphanage Edge, was named the 2014 Best Book by a Small Publisher by the Catholic Press Association. Jay was a featured columnist on communication skills for the New York Law Journal, and has been published in Readers Digest, Catholic Digest, Parents Magazine, The Golfer, and The New York Times.

  • Jim Sterling

    With over 25 years of experience in the field of communications, Jim coaches executives to increase their impact as leaders. With clients such as EY and National Grid, Jim enjoys working with professionals in the US and across four continents. As a partner in the firm, Jim also leads Exec-Comm's Quality and Design committee, which brings premier programs to our clients.

    Before joining Exec-Comm in 2003, Jim worked with The Center to Promote Health Care Studies as part of the NYC Health and Hospital Corporation's noted effort to improve customer service.

    Through the Exec-Comm CARES foundation, Jim supports organizations like the International Rescue Committee and Junior Achievement of New York, helping leaders and staff present, meet, and write more effectively. He is an advisory board member to St. Mary's High School, located in Nyeri, Kenya, with a mission to support room, board, and tuition costs for orphans and students at the school.

    Jim holds a bachelor's degree in Drama from Dartmouth College, where he won the Marcus Heiman Award for outstanding achievement in the arts. Mr. Sterling has a successful stage and film career and is currently a member of New York's Axis Theatre Company. He makes Manhattan his home with his wife, Ros, and two boys, Owen and David. He embraces all things NYC, especially the theater scene, so if you need a show recommendation, he's your guy.

  • Kathy Kavanagh

    Managing Director of Partner & Leadership Development at PricewaterhouseCoopers

    Kathy Kavanagh’s passion lies in unlocking human potential to achieve business results. In her current role, Kathy develops strategy and leads implementation of programs to advance the partnership toward the goal of creating a stand-apart professional services firm. With over 20 years of experience in HR, Talent and Organizational Development in industry and professional services firms, Kathy has built a reputation of extending the boundaries of traditional approaches and taking calculated risks to ensure leading-edge solutions. She believes that human capital is the soul of an organization and a key competitive advantage. To maximize this advantage, she uses her creativity and commitment to innovation to deliver high impact development experiences that engage, inspire and activate leadership.

    Her commitment to innovation and results helped contribute to PwC’s honor of being named the #1 training organization by Training magazine for the last three consecutive years.

    Some of Kathy’s passion for pushing the envelope in her professional life comes from her avid sense of adventure and participation in sporting and philanthropic activities. She hikes, skis and cycles, participating annually in the Pan Mass Challenge – a 200-mile cycling fundraiser for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Kathy graduated cum laude from Tufts University. She spends her time in Boston when she is not travelling for business and pleasure.

  • Kevin Ryan

    President and CEO, Covenant House

    Kevin Ryan serves as the President and CEO of Covenant House International, the largest privately-funded agency in the Americas, serving 70,000 homeless youth annually in 21 cities throughout the United States, Canada, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua. He forged his commitment to homeless youth as an advocate and counsel to teens in crisis through a decade of work at Covenant House in New York City’s Times Square, the South Bronx, Newark and Atlantic City from 1992 to 2002.

    Kevin Ryan has committed his life and career to serve as an advocate for youth, including several prominent government leadership positions and an extensive history protecting homeless youth. He was named New Jersey’s first Child Advocate in 2003. As New Jersey Child Advocate, Kevin Ryan’s work shed significant light on the illegal detention of children awaiting mental health care and the dangerous overcrowding of juvenile residential centers. He helped to craft some of New Jersey’s most important laws, including the New Jersey Homeless Youth Act in 1999, the New Jersey Family Care Health Coverage Act in 2000 and the creation of the New Jersey Foster Care Scholars Program in 2003. Kevin Ryan was tapped by Governor Jon Corzine in 2006 to lead a reform of the State’s child welfare system.

    He has taught in law schools in both New York and New Jersey, written extensively in the field, and served as a national expert on adolescent best practices and public system reform. He has testified before Congress and appeared in various print and television media, including 60 Minutes, the Today Show, Anderson Cooper 360, Newsnight, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Philadelphia Inquirer.  Kevin has received numerous awards and honors, including the United States Commissioner’s National Award; Harvard’s Wasserstein Fellowship and the Skadden Fellowship.

    Kevin graduated from The Catholic University of America Summa Cum Laude, received his Juris Doctor from Georgetown, and his Masters of Law from New York University. A native of New Jersey, Ryan currently resides in Fair Haven, NJ with his six children and his wife Clare, who was a member of Faith Community, Covenant House’s full-time volunteer program.

  • Martha Stark

    Professor, Baruch College; Former Commissioner, NYC Department of Finance

    Martha Stark is a Distinguished Lecturer at the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College. Previously she served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Finance, the 2,400-person tax agency responsible for collecting more than $22 billion in revenue to fund and support local services including education, police, fire, sanitation and libraries. During her tenure, Commissioner Stark was responsible for developing a performance management system that helped the agency achieve results that mattered to New Yorkers. Her many accomplishments include: administering a tax amnesty program responsible for collecting $80 million in additional revenue and removing bad debt from the city’s books and records; implementing an innovative parking program for companies making deliveries in New York City that saved the companies and the city money and reduced the need for expensive parking hearings; improving transparency by providing more access to Finance records about properties; and overseeing the management of the City’s cash flow without the need to borrow money against tax receipts. In her role as Commissioner, Stark served as a trustee on the boards of the New York City pension funds with assets of more than $100 billion, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation the organization responsible for rebuilding the World Trade Center site, and the Prospect Park Alliance.

    Ms. Stark, a lawyer, served as a White House Fellow at the United States Department of State during the Clinton Administration. Stark was a candidate to replace Comptroller Hevesi in 2007 and received 56 votes from the New York State legislature. She earned her law and undergraduate degrees from New York University.  She also received an Associate’s degree in Graphic Arts and Advertising from New York City Community College.

    Stark currently serves on the board of directors of New York University Law School and the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. She grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn and is a lifelong resident of the borough.

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