Presentation coach Maarten Mens

Coaching for the four-minute challenge

March 11, 2014 Behind the scenes

Q: What have you been working on with the pitchers up to now?

MM: So far Janet Anderson and I have been listening to the original ideas, breaking them down in some cases, and reworking ideas that some people have come up with. Then they’ll come back to me with their final pitch. Then we’ll simulate the situation, and they’ll do a great pitch. I’m looking forward to making it a success, because they’ve really had an impact on me.

Q: What’s struck you most about the pitches so far?

MM: I think the fact that they’re all about an apparent lack of awareness of security issues within society. They all have different ideas that bring that together. Take Pascal van Gimst, who says we need to make internet security like brushing our teeth. I’m just a normal guy on the street, and listening to these people makes me realise that there are things other people ought to be aware of too.

Q: How are you helping the pitchers meet the challenge of the four-minute format?

MM: Well, the people we’re working with are experts. The problem is that they tend to think what they’re saying is obvious. So what we’re doing is making it a logical and acceptable story for the audience. Being able to tell people in one sentence what they’re on about.

We’re also encouraging them to use visualisation – not slides necessarily but actual physical stuff they can bring along. That can strengthen a talk because it remains in people’s minds more than just words.

Q: How did you get into coaching speakers?

MM: Well, I started out being a presenter, discussion leader and moderator myself. Through that I started being asked to train people – help people get over their insecurities. So I decided to do a course in it, and that led me to become a presentation coach.

Even for an experienced speaker, standing up in front of an audience can be intimidating. So in a rehearsal we’ll get as close to the real thing, as possible. Simple things like practising walking on stage and taking the first breath.

It’s great to sit back and listen to people and let them find the solution to their problems themselves. The key thing is not to be judgmental, have fun, and show the enjoyment.

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