Recently I interviewed Mary Ann Mariani, owner of Kingdom Presenters, a company that works with people to become better presenters. She is an incredible person who has been a speaker coach here in San Diego for many years, teaching leaders how to “speak so that others listen,” which is something that I need to learn a lot more about. She has a passion for teaching people how to better present their message and make it more compelling for their audience. She has helped my husband with his newest speech (coming soon!) and it sounds amazing! I can’t wait for you to hear that one! I was so excited when she agreed to do a video interview with me! I had so many questions. Here is our full video interview:
Our full conversation:
Amanda: Welcome, Mary Ann. Tell us more about how you came to start Kingdom Presenters.
Mary Ann: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here and to have the opportunity to share a little bit about what I’m able to do with Kingdom Presenters. This journey started a while ago. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I grew to have an appreciation for a clear and compelling message when I was a part of the Apple computer Macintosh launch team. That dates me a little bit, but it was fun.
I then had the opportunity to work for Electronic Data Systems out of Dallas. They helped me to understand the importance of taking your message globally, and how that can operate on a global level to have a greater impact.
For the last 18 years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with 2Connect, a local company here in San Diego. They are a premier presentation training company. That’s where I’ve gotten to hone a lot of the things that I share through my Kingdom Presenters work. At 2Connect, we work with companies like J&J, HGTV, LPL Financial and many others.
Back in 2008, the Lord put in my mind to take the passion I have for the work I do and create Kingdom Presenters. We have a focus on non-profit Christian ministries and other organizations that have important messages to get out, but don’t always have access the resources to do that. It’s been put on my heart to help them to create clear and compelling messages. That’s what I’ve been pursing ever since, alongside my 2Connect work.
Amanda: Do you just work with people in San Diego? Do you travel? Do you work with people outside of the state?
Mary Ann: I love that I get to do work here in San Diego, my hometown. Yes, I do have the opportunity to travel. Over the last 10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work in many states here in the US but also in Europe. I had an opportunity to go to London, France and Budapest, Hungary for Campus Crusade for Christ. They have what they call the Eastern European Development Institute, which trains all of their leadership in Eastern Europe. I was a coach to them for their presentation skills for three days. It was great fun.
Amanda: Did you have to work with different languages?
Mary Ann: I did. I learned a lot about working with a translator which was newer to me. I had worked with a translator, in Shanghai, China for Chrysler years back. I hadn’t recently worked with one, so it was quite an awakening for me. I’m not perfect. At one point, I had a co-worker, Maria Keckler, go with me because there were so many people that we were training.
I was looking at the translator with a look of, “Why are you talking over me?” I wasn’t realizing that he was translating. No one had told me he was there to translate. We were there for three days. The rest of the time was great. He was a fabulous guy. I learned that I needed to slow my pace down a bit and allow them to absorb, because the Russian participants did need the translator where the others had English as a strong second language.
Amanda: A lot of words in English are different, especially descriptive words. Maybe the other languages have more words and we don’t have as many.
Mary Ann: What we find is that pace makes a big difference. In the US, we are prone to filler words like “uh” and “um.” They’re not so bad because they don’t mean anything. But when we use a filler word that means something, like the word “basically” then someone with English as a second language think, “Why is it so basic?” when that’s not what we meant. We have to be aware of things like that.
Amanda: What exactly is a speaker coach?
Mary Ann: A lot of people ask that question. Sometimes they might think it has something to do with accent reduction or language change. In my role, we’re helping people to create and deliver clear, concise and compelling messages so that their audience can understand and respond in the way that they hope. In today’s environment, that’s not always so easy. There are a variety of mediums in which we share our messages, which can make it complicated. When people want to use a speaker coach, they initially do it thinking it’s because they need preparation or out of fear of speaking.
In the work that I’ve been doing over the last 10 years, I focus on two areas where speaker coaches can be a big benefit to someone. First, what is their main message? How do we get to a clear and concise message? People are drowning in data. They don’t want to hear a lot of noise. They want to have a very concise message so that the audience can receive it will and act upon it.
Second, how do we wrap your story around their story? How do we wrap the speaker’s story around the audience story? It’s really about them. How do we help them be a part of what we’re doing so that they want to join us in those efforts and make a difference?
Amanda: I’m starting to talk to people more, especially in my video services company. I’m realizing how much more it is about them than about what I’m saying. It’s about bringing value to the conversation. My husband met you as a speaker coach when he started to do speeches and small group seminars. Do you help a lot of big-time groups or smaller groups?
Mary Ann: It’s a little bit of all of that. At Kingdom Presenters, I’m often helping individuals and organizations when they are trying to craft a message and deliver on that for fundraising, ministry or church outreach, rallying the team to get things done, and for support. Those can be small groups or larger groups. I often find myself helping people like your husband who are authors, speakers and entrepreneurs who have important messages to get out with the expertise that they have, but they want to take the expansive information and bring it down to something more like a TED Talk or simple message.
Nowadays, audiences don’t give us as much time as we used to get. How can we take all of that and make it worthwhile for the audience, and for the speaker themselves?
Amanda: Is there a big difference if they’re speaking to one or two people as opposed to speaking to a really large group? Do you teach basically the same things?
Mary Ann: There is preparation needed for both. Whether it be one listener or many, they want to get the most out of the conversation. A little bit of preparation is going to go a long way even if it’s for one person.
The nuance changes because it becomes a lot more conversational and two-way when you’re speaking to someone one-on-one or one-to-small-group versus a very large audience. There are lots of ways that we can bring the audience into our conversation. It will be a little more passive, like rhetorical questions and the use of illustrations versus speaking back and forth to each other.
Amanda: Do you use tactics like saying, “Raise your hand if you’ve done this?”
Mary Ann: Absolutely. Anytime you can make it an active experience versus a passive experience and engage their minds and hearts in what you’re doing, it can go a long way.
Amanda: Give me an example of a time that you worked with someone who worked with a really large group.
Mary Ann: This example is relevant to San Diego. There’s a national organization called The Barnabas Group. Their mission is to bring marketplace leaders together with ministries to help them in terms of time, talent and network. This is to help them take that ministry to the next level. They have a chapter here in San Diego. It meets quarterly. The speakers who come to that are only given 15 minutes. It’s a true TED Talk. They take their ministry message and craft it down to 15 minutes.
The audience is often a few hundred people, business men and women, who have come there wanting to hear their story and wanting to know how that story can be impacted by the way they can contribute. Helping them to match that business story and the ministry story together for the rather large audience of a couple hundred people is a way for me to share in the adventure of that ministry.
Amanda: How exactly does your process work?
Mary Ann: When people aren’t used to working with a coach in this capacity, they often feel like a fish out of water. The first thing is to realize that everyone has an important message to share and a voice that only certain people can hear. We look at how you can be yourself but still get the important information across. I will find out a little bit about the person and what they’re trying to share.
Often, they are the most themselves when they’re sharing with me initially. They’re passionate and excited for their message and organization. I capture thoughts on that. Then we talk through a little bit of structure. Structure goes a long way to help a person prepare an organized talk that audiences can take in.
I introduce speakers to what I call my LOVE approach, which allows them to have a very simple method in order to organize their content in a way that audiences can receive the message. They gain the results that they want.
Amanda: What is the LOVE approach?
Mary Ann: The word “LOVE” is an acronym. It’s a simple approach that I share with people to structure their talks. “L” stands for listen to God first. My audience is often Christian speakers. They want to align their communication with God’s will. The “O” stands for organize their story. Audiences are drowning in data. A little bit of structure goes a long way to help those important messages stand out so that audiences can connect with the message.
Amanda: You’re helping to take away all the stuff that doesn’t matter. I’m sure that’s a big part of it.
Mary Ann: That’s a big part of it. For most of us, when we have a passion around something, we tend to want to bring the whole thing to the table. Audiences aren’t quite ready for that. We have them bring that in a little bit. I did that with your husband. We create the story around the information to answer, “Why is it so significant to this listener now?”
The “V” stands for value your audience. How do we wrap our story around their story and connect in a meaningful way to them? In 20 years of working with individuals on presentations, the most forgotten thing is the audience. We tend to forget that, we speak to the audience, not with the audience.
We want to be able to bring them in. They like that, and we like that. The “E” stands for enjoy sharing confidently. You are showing up in your best way. When we’ve done a little bit of this homework ahead of time, showing up confidently is much easier to do.
Amanda: That’s the scariest part, especially for new speakers. Do you ever go with people to their speech or programs and see the final product?
Mary Ann: That’s the reward for me. It’s a blessing to be able to see them step into sharing their message with confidence but also with excitement, passion and joy. They own their stories. I feel like a proud mom when it’s done.
Amanda: Are there a lot of other speaker coaches in San Diego? Is there a lot of competition?
Mary Ann: There are a lot of resources out there. There are books, tapes and coaches. I say hallelujah. The more people can tap into individuals like myself, the better speakers they become and the better their audience leaves with a good message. I don’t feel that there is a lot of competition, especially when it comes to the non-profit arena, Christian ministry work, entrepreneurs, authors and speakers. Even though there are several of us out there, it’s a great thing that there is.
Amanda: There can never be enough of refining for how you do things and how to get your message across.
Mary Ann: Just like each person has an individual voice that can be heard by some, different coaches resonate with different people. I encourage people to get out and meet as many people as they can. If there is a good coach that connects with you and helps you get your message out in a way that’s important to your audience, go with that person. Not every coach will be the same for every student.
Amanda: I think there are probably coaches who are more harsh about their critical feedback. How do you find a balance with telling them what’s wrong with their speech? How do you dance around that delicately?
Mary Ann: It can be challenging. This is a philosophy that I learned at 2Connect and I carry it through to Kingdom Presenters. The gentleman who was the CEO of 3M said, “I don’t want to correct your paper. I want to help you get an A.” We try to bring out all that is right. If there’s a gap between the best you and where you’re at now, we show what will help you get there. What’s the model, tool or story? How can we help that show up?
Amanda: What if a person is really adamant in saying, “I want this part in. I want to say this a certain way?”
Mary Ann: They own it.
Amanda: We’ll see how the feedback goes.
Mary Ann: Usually, if they’re married to it, it’s for a reason. We want to acknowledge that. Often, just a minor adjustment to that will be a win-win.
Amanda: What do you do when you’re not coaching? Is there anything fun that you do here in San Diego?
Mary Ann: I love San Diego. I’m married. I have a wonderful husband. We have a 15-year-old daughter in high school. We spend a lot of time doing outings as a family. Our daughter is a competitive springboard diver, so we spend a lot of time poolside. San Diego is the best place to be by the pool.
We have a dog named Mia. Every March, the Helen Woodward Rescue Center holds a Puppy Love Dog Run. All the San Diegans come with their dogs. There are hundreds of dogs dressed up for March Madness and luck of the Irish stuff. We do a fun run with the dogs.
Amanda: Is it an actual run, like a 5K?
Mary Ann: Yes, it is a 5K. The fast runners take their dogs way out in front. I let my husband go with our dog because he’s a faster runner. I like to do my own pace behind.
Amanda: Our dogs are very slow. They’re labradoodles. They’ll run for about a mile and then lay down. Then they’re done.
Mary Ann: This race is good for all kinds. It raises funds for rescue dogs, cats and other animals. It’s a fun way to get out in San Diego. I’m not sure if everyone knows that it exists. It’s every March.
Amanda: I had no idea. There are always different activities for dogs, and tons of great restaurants and beaches for dogs.
Mary Ann: Some years, it’s held in the mountains. Recently, it was held in Embarcadero downtown. I believe that the one for this coming year is in Embarcadero as well.
Amanda: Are there any final tips that you want to give people who are trying to share their message but are confused or scared?
Mary Ann: I encourage you that you have a voice. You have a message that only some people can hear. Whether that be used in church, at work, in the community at large or at schools, step into it. Your voice matters. When we use our voice, especially when we’re in the Christian community, God will be honored, and people will be blessed. That won’t happen if we don’t step up and use our voice.
Amanda: That’s a powerful message. It’s really nice to have you today. I’m excited to hear more about your coaching. If someone wants to get a hold of Mary Ann, how do we get a hold of you?
Mary Ann: They can go to my website, which is www.KingdomPresenters.com.
Amanda: Thank you so much. It was nice to have you today.
Mary Ann: Thank you, Amanda. It was a pleasure to be here.