E&M spoke to Elizabeth Van Den Bergh a former EU communications professional on what made her found her own company to inspire and train people, especially women, in public speaking.

E&M:Hello Elizabeth, first of all thanks for speaking with us! To begin with, tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am Elizabeth Van Den Bergh a former EU communications professional turned speaker coach. I founded my company Montis Public Speaking 5 years ago.

I believe that good public speaking skills are an essential skill for everyone who calls him or herself a leader. I get my kicks out of helping ambitious professionals whether it be teams, managers or CEOs getting their ideas out there with confidence and impact. Clients come to me for coaching and training on Confidence, Content and Delivery.

A mix of kindness, professionalism and adventure is what I stand for.

E&M:How did you become interested in public speaking?

At first, I pursued a career in EU communications. That means working for an audience you never meet in person. And what I found most fascinating was how people speak and interact with each other. That’s why I shifted from EU communications to public speaking, because it is more personal.

When I was in my early career a friend in Brussels invited me to accompany her to a club for public speaking. Soon after that I became a member, because I saw and understood what an important personal and professional skill public speaking is. It comes in handy in so many occasions, especially when you get to lead a team which was my case.

E&M:How did you begin a career in public speaking?

When I started freelancing, one of the things I did was project management training and soon I was asked to also give presentations skills training. This further evolved in training and coaching in public speaking.

Since we don’t see women equally represented in conferences, debates and leading companies, I also set up my own workshop ‘Powerful Public Speaking for Women’.

Photo: Exchange Photos (Flickr); Licence: CC0 Public Domain
E&M:Why is it do you think that it is primarily women that have difficulties with public speaking?

I do see a lot of women I work with who hold back, who are careful to speak up.

E&M:Why is this? Do they really lack confidence? Or have they internalised critiques and comments from others?

Every person’s story is different of course. But more and more I believe women ultimately have no problem knowing what they are good at or speaking up.

What holds women back primarily is other people’s negative reactions when they speak up. And they might end up internalising those reactions and as a result hold themselves back.

When men speak up and show confidence and determination they are applauded. And when women speak up and show confidence they are more criticised.

Ask the Hillary Clintons and the Michelle Obamas of this world, who have gotten so much shit for speaking out, so much more than men would have the same position.

And women face a Catch 22, when they don’t speak up they are told ‘what’s wrong, don’t you have any ideas?!’, and when they do speak up they are told they’re ‘bossy’.

This being said, many women don’t hold back at all and speak up anyway. And often men in junior positions ask me as well what they can do to be heard by and get more respect from seniors.

I help them shift perspective, for example from ‘I have nothing interesting to say’ towards ‘what would my audience like to know about this?’.

E&M:How do you help women overcome these issues, and better their public speaking skills?

I help my clients get better at speaking by showing what they are very good at already. What makes them special. First the compliments and then the points for improvement. This positive approach is much appreciated and very effective.

I explain that they should define what success looks like for themselves and not have it be defined by their mum or dad, boss or colleague, or society. I ask ‘Who do you want to be?’, ‘What kind of speaker do you want to be?’.

I help them shift perspective, for example from ‘I have nothing interesting to say’ towards ‘what would my audience like to know about this?’.

And I show possibilities, I help clients see more options. We usually have one way of doing things following our own style. Most people have one presentation style they feel comfortable with. For example, one person might be an enthusiastic storyteller and another might be an analytical information provider.

Improving your own style makes you a good speaker, being able to adopt different styles makes you a smart speaker.

E&M:What value is there in bettering your public speaking skills?

Good speaking skills can make all the difference because good speaking skills show confidence, show expertise and show leadership.

The moment you get to speak to other people is your opportunity to make an impact. Imagine you have been working for months on a study or report and finally the moment to present it to a large audience comes. You’d surely want to be really inspiring.

Clients come to me to have more impact in meetings, to help prepare their keynote speeches or to give a winning pitch to potential clients or investors.

E&M:What are your top tips for young European women, and young Europeans in general to better their public speaking?

Don’t hold back. If you speak from respect, you can say anything to anyone.

Create a close circle of friends and supporters around you. Support other women to speak up.

Always ask yourself ‘Why?’. ‘Why am I speaking? Why is this important? Why are we here?’

Know your audience. Ask yourself ‘What does my audience think, feel and do with regards to my topic before I speak and what do I want them to think, feel and do with regards to my topic after I have spoken?’ In between the two answers lies the impact that you are going to make.

More tips can be found in my free ebook ‘9 tips to immediately speak with more confidence and impact’. https://montisonline.be/e-book/.

E&M:Do you have any upcoming projects or events that you’d like to highlight to our readers?

Readers can sign up for weekly tips here: https://montisonline.be/newsletter/, where I’ll be announcing my next Facebook live soon.

Later this year I will be setting up a hybrid learning trajectory mixing online learning with trainings on site.

E&M:Anything else you’d like to share with us?

You only have one life, live it with intention and purpose.

And I’ll end with a quote from Maya Angelou ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

About the interviewee

Elizabeth Van Den Bergh
A former international PR expert, Elizabeth Van Den Bergh founded her company Montis Public Speaking in 2014 to work as an international speaker coach. She believes that good public speaking skills are an essential skill for everyone who calls him or herself a leader. She gets her kicks out of helping ambitious professionals whether it be teams, managers or CEOs getting their ideas out there with confidence and impact. Clients come to her for coaching and training on Confidence, Content and Delivery. She has made it her personal mission to make women shine on the public stage and end all-male panels. That’s why she organizes her workshop: Powerful Public Speaking for Women on a regular basis.

Cover photo: Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash  

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