Refugee to coaching media’s big wigs: Coach Lurata Lyon says even the most senior people still have lessons to learn

Coach Lurata Lyon on lessons learnt teaching the industry's leaders how to speak on stage

Speaking on stage or nailing it in pitches may come easy to some but even the most assured in the media still have lessons to learn, according to coaching and development specialist Lurata Lyon.

Having coached many leaders from across the media industry, in Europe and in Asia, The Drum took time to quiz Lyon on some of the lessons she has learnt from the training, as well as setting up her own business.

A key issue with the industry is senior people not believing that they still have lessons to learn, she says. “A common issue in media, as with every sector, is that people think they are much better than they are and have nothing to learn. Product knowledge can be a bit hit and miss, and although I don’t write presentation material, I’m surprised how differently individuals pitch the story of the media/tech they work for.”

“When training senior executives there can sometimes be an inward perception that they have nothing to improve on, as they are frequently on client pitches, panels discussions and presenting to large audiences. But it’s actually amazing to see how many have bad habits they have picked up. Coupled with this, because I’m often working with ‘big’ personalities I use softer skills to disarm them to get a positive response, obviously just pointing out weaknesses and giving instructions doesn’t work well.

I’ve noticed in Singapore, there is generally less self-confidence when training local agency and sales teams in the region versus training similar groups of people in the UK and Europe. However, once I overcome this initial inertia, the enthusiasm and willingness to take on constructive feedback is wonderful,” she adds.

Storytelling is key to pitching or selling in media, she says, but not many people are natural at it. Having access to training is what helps people push into ‘big wig’ status, Lyon believes that if people can use their own stories and build confidence, they can also achieve great things.

“In many cases society, news and media have made the business world look and feel so far detached from reality, which creates barriers to people succeeding and realising their dreams. The truth is that the majority of the population will not have access to the educational channels that have breed many of the worlds business leaders, nor will they exposed to key influencers in the Tech and Financial service sectors, to help propel them to the top of business world.

Whilst I have huge respect for many professional big wigs, ‘some’ politicians and even celebrities, and use examples of their public speaking skills to showcase what great can look like, I feel it’s important for people to look inwardly at themselves in order to flourish and perform at their best. When I go in to client meeting or training I don’t look at anyone as a business I look at them as humans with great stories behind them. Over time we tend to forget our authentic self,” she says.

“Being able to connect and relate to others is part of my coaching to success. When you speak from your heart and you can share your values, the audience are more likely to warm up to you and buy in to your story or pitch,” she says.

For Lyon, her own story is exactly what she uses to help encourage people to do the same. Lyon was kidnapped by a human trafficking gang and after seeking political asylum in the UK, has risen to be a successful entrepreneur, now residing in Singapore.

“I use my very own journey from surviving through the war in former Yugoslavia, escaping my kidnap by human trafficking gang and ultimately making it London. Not sharing my story in detail but rather the lessons I learned, and the strength that I gained and who I became because of that experience.

Since moving to Singapore, she’s set up a business there but travels to speak at events across the world, including WPP’s Stream. On setting up business in a few countries, Lyon says Singapore has a surprisingly open business community.

“When I moved from London in 2014 to support my husband’s business, I never thought I’d be setting up in Singapore too. However, considering the differences that my training has made to my clients in the UK and EU, I thought it would be a great shame not to share that with Asia market. In most markets I find people are always trying to look after their own business and reluctant to help one another. However, being in Singapore has really been an eye opener and I will continue this way where ever I may be in the world in the future. To calibrate with other business, help one another is the key to success,” she says.

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