public speaking presentatio

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Is public speaking your kryptonite? If so, think of someone who’s good at it, and ‘be’ them

Many years ago, I had a sales coach, Richard White. He was a fabulous guy who asked me every question I didn’t want to answer – which is what made him a fabulous coach.

He also had great humility and openly declared that presenting and public speaking were his kryptonite.

I took the opportunity to ask him a tough question, hoping to put him on the ropes for once: “What are you doing to improve that situation?”. Great question, I thought, nailed it. He replied: “I signed up to the Toastmasters’ Association and my level six graduation speech is next week.” Great reply! I hadn’t nailed it.

Richard went on to say that whenever he wanted to be better at something, he modelled himself on someone he thought was good at that thing. I didn’t understand and he explained.

“Next week, I’ll be Ian, who is a great speaker, an old boss, and whenever I get on that TA stage, I am Ian. It works for every situation, Darren!”

He further explained that it was about modelling, which was a key part of neurolinguistic programming but I think he lost me in the science.

For 20 years, Richard’s advice has stuck with me and I have used it often. Personally, I have three kryptonites: networking, presenting, and leading. In situations that require these skills, I ‘become’ the following people…

  • For networking, I am Simon Spence, sales director of Westbridge Foods and long-time friend. He’s a charismatic person everyone likes.
  • For presenting, I am Jack Black, founder of Mindstore. A fabulous storyteller who has everyone on the edge of their seats.
  • For leading people, I am Paul Barber, my ex-boss at Sainsbury’s, who had the knack of gathering his team together, somehow speaking to each of the directly while in a group and motivating them all.

I’ll never be as good as these people for these disciplines. But that doesn’t matter. It’s about aspiring to be better than you were and being the very best version of you.

Which soft skills are you not so good at? And who are you going to be when you find yourself in those situations? For those old enough to remember, this is a little bit like ‘Stars in their Eyes’. Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be…