Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Drawing from choreography and movement direction practice, Mariana Lucia Marquez and Emma Zangs (Marquez&Zangs, Metaspeech) have developed an alternative approach to public speaking training. Their method combines movement, reactive thinking, situational awareness and embodying flow.
Based on neuroscience and somatic research, Metaspeech's tried-and-tested approach hones in on non-verbal communication as the foundation to achieve a grounded presence. By co-ordinating hand gestures, eye contact, posture, voice and stance the speaker becomes assertive and can effectively "own the room" when delivering a message to an audience.
Last year, Metaspeech's tech startup clients raised a combined £12M, procured investment through BBC's Dragon's Den and gave talks at Tedx, Digital Shoreditch, Trendwatching.com, (best speaker award at SXSW V2V). Most recently, their innovative workshop "Embody Your Brand”, has been delivered to the likes of Techweek and Google in New York.
Both Mariana and Emma hold a master’s degree from TrinityLaban Conservatoire in London. Their movement expertise ranges from Contemporary Dance, Yoga and Ballet to Authentic Movement, and Somatic Awareness. Their combined business acumen spans across entrepreneurship, leadership and product development.
What is the idea behind Metaspeech and how did you come up with it?
The mission of Metaspeech is to offer tools for people to tap into their body’s intelligence in order to be more at ease with their bodies and become more empathetic. We came up with it after meeting at the MA in Choreography (2010-11) at TrinityLaban, London. We were working in the arts and pretty much failing at making a living so we researched how our skills could help people in other industries. And we created our alternative method for public speaking training.
When did it all start and do you have other members in your team?
We incorporated Marquez&Zangs, our choreography consultancy in 2014 and launched Metaspeech in late 2015.
We are currently 5 women working on Metaspeech. We are the co-founders and lead coaches, there’s a head of “online courses” and junior coach, two Sales Associates (one US-based and one Latam & UK), plus one person heading finance. We are all dance fans and/or dancers who believe in the crucial need we have as humans to be consciously embodied.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
Seven years since we met but it took us two and a half years to be where we are now with Metaspeech.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Most often than not, ourselves. We tend to assume things that a lot of times are not real. That relates to the steep learning curve we’ve had since entering business. Our education in the arts didn’t prepare us much for entrepreneurship. Despite both having worked in businesses from an early age and Mariana even having co-founded a startup in her 20s, business acumen has been the single most needed and hard to acquire skill for us. We’re very proud of how quickly we’ve caught up, and we totally owe it to our body intelligence!
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
The downside of being so deeply connected to our bodies, our intuition, and gut feelings is that we’re not as used to making decisions based on facts or data. So that’s been challenging for us.
Being a female entrepreneur is not something that preoccupies our minds and we think it is because we are two. We feel strong being two females and we keep each other afloat. We do get called “the Metaspeech girls” quite often, and we’re not crazy about it, but generally that goes away once people meet us. We are very aware of embodying our most assertive and confident selves when we do business. On the one hand, people expect us to be as that’s what we teach ;) but also, it helps us to stay grounded and connected to who we are.
Obviously we think about motherhood a lot, Mariana having children and Emma thinking about building her family. But before childcare and equal opportunity, we would say the main challenge we both strongly work to overcome is staying healthy so we can live and do what we love doing, as simple as it sounds.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Being able to do what we love.
Having coached a startup that got invested on at the BBC’s Dragon’s Den
Giving our talk “The Future is Sensorial” at the opening of 4YFN 2017 in Barcelona.
Seeing hundreds of entrepreneurs / speakers becoming more confident in themselves and endorsing us as a result.
To be part of Sadler’s Wells Summer University (an exclusive programme for 21 choreographers every 4 years). http://www.sadlerswells.com/jerwoodstudio/summer-university/
What are projects you are currently working on within your company, not only when it comes to business skills but also wearable and fashion tech industry?
The Future is Sensorial - our talk about wearable tech, the skin, human empathy, and world peace.
“Choreography at Work” a research project on the impact that the dancing body can have on productivity and wellbeing in the workspace. We’re about to start testing with a bunch of dancers moving about offices :)
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
From our perspective as choreographers, we are very interested in how the act of self-tracking can open someone’s awareness of their bodies. It’s true that it can also replace the awareness as in outsourcing it to a tracking device. But overall, we see that self-tracking is on the rise for things like health and wellbeing, and we imagine that there will soon be better tech to track productivity in relation to work/life balance. We hope so!
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Yes, it’s very important as it gives us a voice as a minority and helps us to feel more supported and not alone.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
You don’t need to be liked.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in tech?
Sarah Drinkwater (Google Campus London) was one of our early supporters. When we feel low, we remember people believe in what we do.
Deborah Hay (not in tech) - she is an American choreographer and she is a true inspiration for our practice as dancers and entrepreneurs.
Moon Ribas – she created a 7th sense for herself by implanting a chip into her elbow that allows her to feel earthquakes. Check our her work, she’s phenomenal!
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, co-founder of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.