Margreet Jacobs, or as most people know her, just Maja, is a presentation coach and public speaking trainer. Ever since a young girl, Maja has been attracted to being in front of a crowd, which at 4, consisted of her dolls and Mickey, her cat. Then, 30 years later she finds great passion in her career teaching people to be better in just that. From academically specializing in journalism and Arabic languages, being a dance teacher, and acting as a sales consultant, she comes across Neuro-Linguistic Programming as well. It has been through this that she gains her obsession with learning about non-verbal communication. As friends would seek her guidance before presentations, she understood that she just hit the jackpot and that this is her calling. She then has taken the leap in starting her own company, Stage Heroes, which focuses on coaching other speakers and delivering group training sessions for large companies in The Netherlands.

In this episode, we have a great talk about storytelling, neuro-linguistic programming, the common mistakes to avoid while presenting, breaking beliefs in the corporate presentation culture, virtual presentations, and do we always need PowerPoint.

Maja and StageHeroes

You need to know your subject matter. You really, really need to know it. What’s more, you need to be able to teach it and break it down in a way that’s entertaining because if it is dry and monotonous no one will watch it and complete the course.

Mistakes to avoid while presenting

She shares with us that the most common mistake her customers commit is the idea that a presentation always equals a PowerPoint slide deck.

Maja insists that a presentation is not just bullet points on a slide deck. It is working towards the goal you want to accomplish. First and foremost, it is about the behavior or the mindset that you want to change in your audience.

She also tells us that in corporate there is this big culture of PowerPoint or Keynote. But a PowerPoint may surprisingly make you less prepared because you are relying so much on the fact that everything is already on the slides.

While presenting online, your presentation usually takes 90% of the screen. This way you become merely a voiceover and your audience looks at a static screen. And people wonder why the audience falls asleep often. You could just as well skip the presentation, this way you are freer in presenting in some situations.

So, what moving online changed for the public speaker and presenter

Margreet shares with us that online we feel like we do not have a connection because we do not know how people are responding. We feel like we are talking to a black void and struggle to keep even ourselves excited, let alone the audience excited.

Online presenting requires different skills that we need to develop as it is still an unnatural environment for us. “We need to fully redesign this online meeting etiquette,” says Maja.

The hardware bare necessities

Margreet advises companies to invest in cameras and microphones for their employees. It makes a big difference and sends a message to the audience that you take them seriously when you have good equipment.

If you do not want to improve without investing in hardware, then just invest time in delivering a good message. However, if you present online regularly you need to invest in proper equipment. The first impression still matters even more so online. People are inviting you into their home; there is nothing more intimate than that.

Also, we should focus on the things we can do online like making eye contact with a hundred people, which was not possible in real life. Take the advantages and use them to your benefit.

Talking online might not be easier, but some people feel safer, as having an online presence is not the same anxiety as speaking on a stage.

What you can do with NLP - Neuro-Linguistic Programming

You might not realize it, but a lot of what you say and how you say it can either make or break your presentation. Your audience is constantly reading between the lines to figure out how you feel about the presented topic and will inevitably judge your honesty and motivation.

Furthermore, the way we speak is heavily influenced by our subconscious mind by what is called “neuro-linguistic programming”. These are patterns of thinking that are deeply ingrained in our unconscious mind and are mostly involuntary.

According to Maja, our subconscious mind works hard to get us what we want, but it needs to be pointed in the right direction. She tells us that NLP is essentially a skill set of communication techniques, not only with others but also with ourselves. We hold ourselves back on many layers; NLP helps us understand our subconscious more.

Some people find it strange when she talks about NLP, but when she tells them her story, they start to understand and believe her. She shared with us that she used to be a procrastinator and a person who never finished anything. A brain looks to confirm what it already believes is true, so we naturally do not look at anything that could disapprove of our internal obstacles. She later realizes that she was afraid to fail which was why she would not finish anything. Then she has worked through that label successfully and said goodbye to it 6 years ago.


Connect with Margreet on her LinkedIn or check out her company StageHeroes.

Books mentioned in this episode are The Big Five for Life by John Strelecky and Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun.

Listen to the full episode!