Hi Lies, thank you for joining us! Tell me, how did you start out as a speaker?

Lies Martens

Lies Martens

I first started out at the academy of performing arts. Thanks to my studies at the academy, I got some assignments as a presenter. After that, I started working for the Belgian television, where I worked for more than a decade.

Since then, I have combined being a presenter and a public speaking coach. One of my trainings is to teach other people how to speak in front of an audience. And even though I’ve been a public speaking coach for a while, I’m still learning new things from presenting myself!

As a public speaking coach, what are the topics you cover during your speeches and workshops?

I help people to overcome their glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. One of the things that I teach them is to capture the attention of their audience from the moment they step onto the stage.

Because I have over a decade of experience working with media, I also coach people in dealing with the press. One of the techniques I use in this coaching is to keep control of the situation at all times while you’re talking with the press.

I also talk a lot about productivity in my time management classes. I focus on how people can keep focus and win time in the process. This class is special since the audience learns to know more about themselves, which helps them to achieve the change they’re looking for in those classes.

So those are the topics that you can talk about for hours?

Yes, I can talk hours about speaking in front of an audience and in front of the media, although I also talk a lot about time management too, I must say. Oh, and about my kitchen garden too!

That sounds lovely! As someone who is an expert in public speaking: which qualities are imperative for a good public speaker?

A good public speaker should be, or at least appear, confident from the start of his or her presentation. That’s the only way for your audience to really relate with your story. But, confidence is not the only thing that’s important.

The speaker should also have an interesting story to tell. Pretty obvious, right? But a lot of people are still reading from boring powerpoint slides. That’s really a no go! I mean, even the ancient Greeks knew how to tell a story to an audience in a compelling way. So why shouldn’t we know how to do that?

I can imagine that public speakers that are starting out have difficulties with this. What would your advice be for those speakers?

Try to tell your story out loud to yourself, even before you have written down a single letter. Use the spare time you have when you’re driving your car for example.

You should also test your story on other people than yourself! If you’re afraid of speaking in front of an audience: ask for help.  Anyone can learn how to speak in front of a public, that’s something I firmly believe.

TED-talks are also a good way to learn how to speak in front of an audience. There you have to tell your story in 10 minutes, without having to rely on their PowerPoint or on a teleprompter: that’s how you should be speaking in front of an audience!

So, preparation is key for a public speaker?

Yes, there is no magical solution. To become a successful speaker, you should practice a lot! You can become a professional public speaker, but not without a decent preparation.

You should also be able to watch yourself talk from time to time. Ask a friend to film you during your speech and re-watch your presentation. Okay, the first time you’ll cringe, but the information you get out of watching that tape is very valuable and a good learning technique!

Can you give an indication of how much time you spend preparing for a talk or workshop?

It really depends. First, I build the story from the ground up, even before I get to the writing. And when I’m done with the writing, I decide if I make a PowerPoint presentation or not.

I also rehearse my speeches out loud. I go at least three times through the whole presentation, so you can imagine the hours I spend preparing my speeches and workshops!

If there’s one speaker that all professional speakers should have seen before he/she retires: who is it and why?

Barack Obama, for sure! It’s a pleasure to watch him speak. You really have to listen to what he’s saying and how he’s saying it. The way he creates those little pauses in his sentences, … A wonderful way of speaking!

Looking back at your years of experience as a public speaker. What is your biggest accomplishment?

Recently, I did a presentation at an event which I hosted 10 years ago. After my presentation, a lot of people came to me saying that I had improved a lot in the past decade. For me, this is ultimate proof that I kept growing as a public speaker in those years.

I think of every public speaking opportunity as a new challenge: you have to raise the bar as high as possible for each presentation. Is the royal family sitting in the front row? Are you presenting in 3 or 4 languages? Is your presentation about the future of nuclear technology? That’s all fine by me: as long as I can get the most out of my performance and the most out of myself! That’s how it’s supposed to be.

Thank you for your time, Lies!

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