Rachel Cossar is a leader in the field of nonverbal communication and leadership presence facilitation. Her most recent venture is Virtual Sapiens - a machine learning SaaS platform that helps clients master communication skills over the video, just like a personal virtual coach. It provides you with individualized and consistent coaching prompts in real-time. But before all of that happened, Rachel was a nationally ranked athlete! And then a professional ballet dancer! She now loves exploring some of the parallels between those activities and the business world.

Rachel’s thought leadership has been featured on the TEDx Northeastern stage, Harvard Business Review, The Boston Globe, Psychology Today, and more. Moreover, she has worked with leaders from GE, BCG, Pfizer, Accenture, McKinsey, HBS, and more.

In this episode with her, you can hear about performance techniques for high-pressure scenarios from her sports experience, presence in public speaking, presenting virtually, and more on using AI in presentations and how Virtual Sapiens does it.

From national athlete to the CEO of Virtual Sapiens

Rachel revealed how she made this pretty drastic shift from an athlete to a professional ballet dancer and then to the CEO of an AI tech startup. For her, her evolution makes sense in that the mindset of an athlete is that of a performer. As an athlete, you learn to communicate with your audience nonverbally. And this is a skill that transfers straight into one of the key competencies that each business leader is expected to possess.

What is Virtual Sapiens

Virtual Sapiens is helping people have relevant business interactions on video. It gives a personal communication coach who can advise you not to slouch or if you start touching your face excessively, for example. It also motivates you when you accomplish a good job. Not only that, but it analyzes and gives you recommendations in real-time so that you can course-correct yourself.

This more consistent access to personalized feedback is priceless because you build awareness and can improve faster. Listen to the complete podcast to learn more about how it employs AI and why having a coach in real-time meetings is beneficial.

Performance techniques for high-pressure scenarios

Rachel is no stranger to pressure and stress, having come from the athletics world, so she presented some tactics for managing and dealing with high pressure in the context of presentations and public speaking.

One wrong belief she debunked is that people often think that professional athletes or performers do not get nervous leading up to a competition or performance. No, they do, and it is also something that they often have one chance to execute right.

Rachel’s first piece of advice was to give yourself the space and time to practice. Not only should you read your script, but you should also practice running through it all. The second piece of advice she gave was a concept she called physical anchoring, which many athletes and performers use to bring themselves to the present moment and reconnect with their bodies.

Listen to the entire episode to discover more about high-pressure performance tactics, presence, and public speaking.


Check out Virtual Sapiens here. You can connect with Rachel Cossar on LinkedIn here.

Listen to the full episode!