Over the past couple of years, I’ve been increasing the frequency of public speaking that I do as part of our overall brand reputation strategy. Being seen as a person of influence in your sector, provides substantial benefits to your brand and puts you significantly higher up the consideration chain of your target audience. It reaches out further and deeper than any advert you can ever place.
This week I hosted the annual Shared Services Forum UK conference in Harrogate. Bringing together around forty really large private and public sector organisations to share examples of excellence, the names of businesses attending was like a who’s who of top flight companies. There was a brilliant line up of keynote speakers during the day, including Molly Harvey, Adrian Webster and David Yeoman , each delivering different takes on leadership, motivating others and personal development. I was able to spend time with each of them during the prior evening dinner and during the day to talk about what makes them tick.
The one common characteristic of the three speakers is that they all continue to develop themselves, in order to develop others. They sat in on the keynotes of the other speakers, observing, taking notes and learning. They all possess a hunger to raise their game, refine, test, learn and be their best.
It was fascinating to see the contrast in styles and engagement between the three speakers. Harvey, with a soft Irish accent, delivered some powerful content which had the audience listening intently. Webster, turning energy up and down in explosive stage fits of a sparky performance and Glaswegian Yeoman, engaging the audience and challenging people with his forthright views on use of words and behaviour. He managed to get everyone up and spontaneously clapping to the Gypsy Kings, cleverly anchoring a moment where we had all just let go of tension by blowing our negative thoughts into a balloon.
Observing the audience, it’s amazing how people love to be inspired by others and catch the wind of enthusiasm of clever thoughts, connectedness and potential for change. Molly Harvey made a great point during her keynote about “watch who you spend your time with.” What she meant was, you have to spend your time with people who have the mindset that you aspire to, have or are developing in order for you to be challenged and grow. If you have a think about the five people you spend the bulk of your time with, what does that say about how you are influenced?
That’s why it’s important to get out of the office, meet new people, discuss, debate and network. To listen to others, grow, share and challenge yourself. I learned a huge amount just being in the presence of others, I’d encourage you too. Consider it an investment, not a cost. Invest in a day, don’t justify a day. Excellent people do.
One of my favourite tunes from 1994 – Incognito “Positivity”. Used to love listening to this in the car due to it’s uplifting words, always gave me a lift as a 26 year old salesman driving a White Cavalier.
On the subject of “positivity”, last Friday night I spoke at a business awards in Tameside, Mancheser to an audience of around 250 people. It was billed as an “inspirational speech” – so I’d pondered on what to say for a couple of weeks and decided on ambition and having a positive mindset (we call this 141%).
I’d clearly hit a chord as so many people came to me afterwards to say how much enjoyed hearing someone from a large company talk up small businesses and have an outlook that says you can achieve things. Newpapers are still full of negativity, bad news and super-injunctions! Five key points I covered were: -
Give, Give, Give – Giving has a wonderful karma effect. The more generously you give your time to others unconditionally, the more opportunity comes and knocks on your door.
Have a plan of where you are navigating to and programme your sub-conscious. Your brain is a very powerful thing. When you walk, you just walk, your brain does the clever bit. When you pre-programme your sub-conscious with your objectives – it has an amazing effect of navigating you towards them. What are your goals? Jot them down. Process them. Tell your brain out loud to help you get there (not at a bus stop mind you).
Have the mindset of an opportunity engineer. Don’t think “What can I sell you” – think - “What opportunities could we mutually work on?” Win/Win wins business.
The world is a huge marketplace at your screen. Never has there been a better time to open up your products and services to a global market. It’s a click away. Don’t limit your thinking to your local neighbourhood or regional. Think Globally!
Small has a great advantage – you’re not BIG. Speed is crucial in the hyper world we all live in. Big businesses take longer to do things. Smaller busineses can punch above their weight using social media to engage customers, google to turbo-boost up local ranking and geo-location to grab people in local markets. Get tech savvy.
There’s never been a better time to be a new start. Free tools on the web. Cloud based applications for money management, marketing and collaboration. Social media to access markets. Free business advice. If you are positive and realistic, so much can be achieved. That’s coming from a bloke that started out as a barman, who now shapes the direction of a £100m+ business. Go get ‘em!
Growing for Gold. That’s what I entitled a talk I gave at the Business North West fair in Manchester today to an audience of small businesses. Examining three key areas of growing a small business to large, I made these points: -
Growing Pains – Things you’ll experience as your business grows.
Feeling less connected with the breathing heart of the business.
You’ll feel a bit out of control. As you will realise you can’t do everything.
You’ll spend more time in meetings.
You’ll spend more time on people issues.
You have to bring in managers to run areas for you (and by default spend more time managing them).
You spend your time avoiding calls of people trying to sell you stuff.
Life gets lonelier. You’re not part of the team anymore. You’re the big boss.
Things that Big Companies do well that small businesses can learn from
They’re on the numbers. They always have a budget, 3 year plan and cashflow forecast.
They make their processes slick, with as little human intervention as possible.
They have a good plan A, but always have a plan B.
They fail fast. If things aren’t going well, they don’t get wedded to an idea.
They spend more time in the future. Looking at future markets, products and growth areas.
Transitioning from Management to Leadership
I ran through ten things from a previous post I’d written around leadership. You can view it here and some tips to make you a better leader.
An interesting conversation came from the audience. “What’s your motivation for giving this talk today?” – excellent. Answer = My day job is creating market space for us to sell our products to SME’s. It’s in my interest to see small businesss grow. By growing, we get to sell more products to them (plus I enjoy the public speaking).
At the end of today’s talk, I spent about an hour talking to small business owners about various challenges, problems and opportunities that are on their desks right now. It’s clear, that there are plenty of businesses with big ideas, ambition and the metal to get on with it. Good for them.
Speaking at an event I did in London yesterday, I was approached by one of the audience members at the coffee break to ask for some tips they could use for an upcoming and important presentation they were doing. Speaking in public isn’t difficult, it all depends on how much work you put in to make it an enjoyable/stimulating experience for your audience. Let me share some of the tips with you.
Really think of your message and take out, build the entire talk around this.
Never read from bullet points.
Use images to support your words.
Stand still, except when moving to another fixed positon.
Speak with your mouth and use your hands to exaggerate. Vary your voice.
You will either gain or lose your audiene in the first minute, think about what you can do/say to really gain their attention.
Be yourself. Authenticity matters. Share stories that show you are human.
Prepare. Your audience can spot an unprepared speaker from a mile off.
Engage with as many people as you can when you talk. Look for the “nod”. What this means is, look into a particular audience members eyes and speak at them until they nod at you, then move on to someone else.
Be engaging and interesting. Nearly all subjects – bar the obvious – can be made more interesting if you really think about it. The more interesting, the more engaged your audience will be.
Presenting. On the Top 10 fears of human beings, it comes about third on the list, before dying. Great presentations look effortless, are interesting and engage audiences. I got sent a great link by a contact on Twitter the other day, it’s well worth a watch. Click here. It’s an online slide show about “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” from Apple. It covers all the essentials from a master in the art. The main point of note is about preparation and rehearsal, this is key. Jobs takes about 90hrs preparation to deliver a 1hr keynote. That sounds excessive right? Well yes, it does on first glance. However, if you’re the CEO of Apple a lot depends on your delivery and it’s time well spent. The more you put in at the front end, the better the experience will be for your audience. Above all, be yourself, don’t read from slides, the shorter the better and let your personality come through.