This journey actually starts back in 1978, where, as an excitable and impressionable teenager I was training to be a London Police Officer at the Police academy in Hendon. During my training I was made an example of during an arrest role-play in a “mock” magistrates court. During the exercise it was suggested I had made up my arrest notes and that what I was sharing wasn’t the truth and wasn’t what actually happened! So, in their wisdom I was put on trial in front of my classmates, peers and trainers for perjury! – You can imagine the impact this had on me as a young impressionable, introvert teenager. From that day forward I struggled with ALL public speaking requirements throughout my entire police career and long into my corporate career too.
For over 30 years I struggled to speak to groups of three or more people, at any level. Team meetings, presentations, interviews, events, trainings days. Basically, anything that involved me standing up and presenting to three or more people left me stressed, anxious, sleepless and nervous.
Roll forward to 2004, (following my redundancy) I took on a new career path and started my own business as a Business Coach and Mentor. I was experienced, matured, confident and considered by many as a successful leader in business. But underneath this success the shy, reserved introvert still very much existed.
In 2005 I was a delegate at a global coaching conference and got chatting with an extremely successful (multi-millionaire) coach over lunch. He asked me “how’s business?”, “tough” I replied with open honesty. He instantly countered with “if you want to be successful in this business GET ON STAGE”. I stopped and considered what he meant by this, but he went on to suggest that much of his success had come from positioning himself as the “go-to” expert and that working in a one to many environment was a far more efficient way to promote my product or service.
I took it on the chin and spent a few weeks digesting the implications of his recommendation and advice. After all, it all made complete sense, the one to many marketing and expertise positioning was exactly what I needed to attract new business. I also recall reading something once about the value in learning to love the things we hate.
So, with all that in mind, if I truly wanted to be a successful business coach I needed to learn to love public speaking.
In 2005 I set off on this amazing journey to fix the fear that had been instilled in me way back in 1978 – I started by running small “free to attend” seminars that were 2-3 hours long. I would aim to attract 20-30 delegates per event and would promote and commit to 4-5 events per year.
As the years passed I could sense my confidence and my business starting to grow. So, from 2009 through to 2011 I upped the number of events to 15-20 a year. All still completely free and all aimed at getting 20-30 people in the room for a half day presentation.
Around 2011 something interesting happened. I started to be invited to speak at other people’s events. These might have simply been networking groups or small expos or even some training days. But I saw them as evidence that what I was doing was of clearly a good standard and worthy of being trusted to speak in front of someone else’s invited audience. Notwithstanding some of these were even offering to pay me to speak at their events.
This bought with it a new layer of anxiety and pressure. After all, the majority of these people don’t know who I am, and they hadn’t been invited by me. What if they think I am rubbish? What if I dry up? What if I don’t meet their expectations? What if, what if…
It took another couple of years for this to settle down, and my own levels of confidence and self-belief began to override those horrible “what-if” voices in my head. Eventually, I then began to ENJOY these opportunities. For me, this was no longer about overcoming fears or leveraging a one to many marketing strategy. This was about me getting a buzz, a sense of fulfilment and achievement from doing something I once feared, dreaded, and literally hated the thought of. I could now feel proud of how far I had come and what I could now do.
Since 2012 I had to stop running my own events as the level and frequency of guest and paid invites had increased to such a level I no longer had the time or need to run my own. I now run just one or two (sell out) paid events a year that attract 100’s of delegates. Check out my latest speaking engagements here.
Along the way I have had opportunities to speak to audiences all over the world. Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Dublin, London, Cape Town, to name just a few. More recently (5 years running) I have been a regular speaker on Europe’s biggest business show in London’s Olympia and ExCel arenas which attract in excess of 28,000 visitors every year.
In 2018 I was invited to address 250 Officers, trainers and academics and the worlds most prestigious and respected leadership training school – The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. As one of the first civilians to be invited in to talk about coaching in business, it was another definitive marque for me of the journey I have been on since 1978 to quash the demons created by a misguided training session that (of course) had my best intentions at heart. I actually mentioned this learning during my talk to the officers here. There is nothing better that real-life stories to get a message across. Especially to such an esteemed, educated and knowledgeable audience. Not too shabby for an introvert!
- GET ON STAGE – If you are in business and want to be successful you might want to consider getting “on-stage”. Nowadays, getting on stage can be done in so many different ways. But ultimately there is no replacement for presenting to an audience.
- COURAGE BUILDS CONFIDENCE – I became more confident because I was courageous enough to step up and face my fears.
- IT TAKES TIME – I started my speaking journey in 2005 and delivered literally hundreds of free events to learn my craft and build my confidence before people started inviting me to speak for money.
- IF YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH THEY WILL FIND YOU – I didn’t seek out the paid opportunities, they sought me. – This is an important note to consider. For me it was a marque of my readiness and achievement. Reminds me of the line “If you build it, they will come” – Head down, keep doing what you do best and eventually people will want to pay you for what you do.
- WHEN SPEAKING PUBLICLY, WEAKNESS CAN BE A STRENGTH – Some of the best speakers I have seen are those who still show some signs of vulnerability, but are full of integrity and honesty. By the same token some of the worst speakers I have seen are those that exude overconfidence, cockiness and misguided sense of self-worth. Lacking integrity, honesty and congruency.
- ITS NOT FOR EVERYONE – Acknowledge that some people simply don’t have the DNA to be successful public speakers. It isn’t for everyone – I won’t ever be built for sprinting, I can learn how to sprint and might have the desire to be a great sprinter, but sometimes nature will prevent you from being world class.
If you are keen to become a public speaker or maybe you are someone who has been trying to break onto the public speaking circuit, then this might be useful to you. It is just a short insight into my journey from introvert to Sandhurst – I welcome your thoughts, views and experiences. Thank you for stopping by, I hope you found it useful.