Women in Entertainment: Donna Langley, Ava DuVernay, More Share Secrets to Being Heard in Any Meeting

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Donna Langley, Ava DuVernay, Kathleen Kennedy

THR asked Hollywood's top female figures for their advice. Says Netflix's Cindy Holland, "Speak the f— up."

"No tricks, just a firm believer in doing the work." — Donna Langley, chairman, Universal Pictures

"Speak the f— up." — Cindy Holland, vp original content, Netflix

"I'm in the middle of making a movie, so every meeting is about people wanting to hear my voice. That's why we need more women and people of color to be directing: You don't have to make our voice heard in the meeting — the meeting is about hearing your voice." — Ava DuVernay, director, A Wrinkle in Time

"I have a loud and somewhat surprising whistle." — Dana Walden, chairman and CEO, Fox Television Group

"Listen." — Kathleen Kennedy, president, Lucasfilm

"Learning how to read a room, read the personalities and body language and then only speaking up when it's important. The loudest voice in the room doesn't always work. I think reading a room is kind of a lost art." — Bonnie Hammer, chairman, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group

"Come prepared to have a point of view, and then follow through. The real work happens before the meeting begins." — Gail Berman, chairman and CEO, The Jackal Group

"I like to do a British accent." — Frances Berwick, president, Lifestyle Networks, NBCUniversal Cable

"I talk through a megaphone in every meeting, and I get very close to people." — Ellen DeGeneres, host and producer, The Ellen DeGeneres Show

"Fred Rogers had a wonderful trick. He would speak lower than most, causing people to lean in and listen more carefully." — Paula Kerger, president and CEO, PBS

"I don't have any tricks. I've learned that I do have a voice and I speak up — something we all have to do more often in this political climate." — Taraji P. Henson, actress, Empire and Hidden Figures

"My voice is so quiet I've long given up trying to yell over the booming stentorians. I approach speaking in meetings like acupressure. A small tap and you can move the discussion forward. It's about quality rather than quantity." — Jennifer Yuh Nelson, director, Kung Fu Panda 3

"A little humor relaxes people and helps them pay attention." — Zhang Wei, president, Alibaba Pictures

"Understand the point of view of others whether they are revealing it or not — and shape how I present my thoughts with this in mind." — Mary Parent, vice chairman of worldwide production, Legendary Entertainment

"Honesty — saying what I know everybody's thinking." — Toni Howard, partner, ICM Partners

"Listen before you speak. The best and most cogent arguments are made when you understand the perspective of the other people in the conversation." — Channing Dungey, president, ABC Entertainment Group   

"I raise my hand and clear my throat; it does work." — Bonnie Arnold, co-president, feature animation, DreamWorks Animation

"Only speak when you actually have something of value to add, and be more interested in listening than speaking. But when you do speak, don't apologize for what you say, don't be afraid to question the accepted wisdom in the room and if you have confidence in your point of view, it will be taken seriously." — Pamela Levine, president, worldwide theatrical marketing, 20th Century Fox Film 

"Have an opinion." — Sophie Watts, president, STX Entertainment

"I try to say something pithy." — Linda Lichter, partner, Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler & Feldman

"Opening my mouth usually does the trick." — Pearlena Igbokwe, president, Universal Television

"Listen with was much care as you speak, and only say something when you actually have something to say." — Nina Jacobson, producer, The People v. O.J. Simpson            

"I don't speak in a room unless I have something worthwhile to say. So, I just tend to be thoughtful, which works." — Gigi Pritzker, founder, OddLot Entertainment 

"I have an extremely loud voice — just ask anyone who sits near my office! So it's never an issue." — Courteney Monroe, CEO, National Geographic Global Networks

"I come from a big, noisy family, and being heard was an essential survival skill learned early on. The boardroom is not all that different from the Winnetka-Berner dining room. My parents put a high premium on listening. If you master that art, your own words will be far more resonant, relevant, important and impactful." — Mary Berner, CEO, Cumulus Media  

"Leave." — Jenno Topping, president of film and television, Chernin Entertainment

"Be confident in what you're saying. Be concise. Speak up first, so that your voice is the first one heard. Know your value and your bottom line. Don't take anyone's BS!" — Kris Jenner, reality star and business mogul

"I think the trick is to try to keep my ego out of it, I feel when I can focus on the matter at hand I'm most effective." — Mireille Soria, co-president, feature animation, DreamWorks Animation

"Sense of humor." — Elizabeth Gabler, president, Fox 2000      

"I try not to babble on in meetings. I wait to say something that I feel will be impactful and shake things up or move us to a conclusion. Sometimes less is more." — Nancy Utley, president, Fox Searchlight     

"I try to anticipate the difficult questions and be prepared with a Plan B." — Gale Anne Hurd, executive producer, The Walking Dead

"I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn. I don't have a problem making my voice heard. But I find that I listen to others and invite other points of view  and that tends to lend greater authority to me when I do have something to contribute." — Sandra Stern, president, Lionsgate TV

"Speak up and don't be hesitant." — Sonya Rosenfeld, co-head of TV, CAA

"Say something smart." — Frances Manfredi, president, NBCUniversal Television & New Media Distribution, U.S. & Canada

"I don't need a trick, I'm the loudest one in the room." — Cynthia Pett, co-owner and managing partner, Brillstein Entertainment

A version of this story first appeared in the 2016 Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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