Q: My biggest fear is speaking in public because I usually start shaking or stammering, or sometimes I can’t speak at all. How can I overcome my fear?
– Rispa, Kenya
Rispa, you are not alone. The writer Mark Twain, who knew a thing or two about making a good speech, said: “There are only two types of speakers in the world: 1) the nervous and 2) liars.”
If you are worried about public speaking, try tracking down videos of some of my early efforts online – I’m confident you do well in comparison! I’m thankful that there is no footage of the very first time I spoke in public.
When my first venture, Student magazine, started to gain recognition, I was sometimes asked to talk at gatherings. The first event that could have been considered high-profile was at University College, London, for a German TV channel.
Before my turn came to take the stage, the student leader Danny Cohn-Bendit and the activist Tariq Ali gave exceptional speeches about human rights. They were passionate about their topics, oozed confidence and had the intellectual clout to back up their rhetoric. While the crowd cheered and stamped, I was fighting the temptation to throw up.
My mind went blank when I took the microphone. I mumbled incoherently for a bit before leaving the podium. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and my face glowed red as the Virgin logo.
A few years later, Sir Freddie Laker, one of my most important mentors and the man who inspired me to get into the airline industry, urged me to make myself the public face of our company. He argued that rather than trying to get people’s attention with a big marketing campaign, it would be much cheaper and far more effective for me to make headlines myself – especially since my small company was competing against bigger rivals.
But this meant addressing my problem with public speaking. I realised that if I was going to be the face of our brand, I was going to have to talk the talk.
What I soon learned was that practice made all the difference. The more prepared I was, the less I stammered and stumbled. Good speakers aren’t just talented or lucky – they work hard.
Start practicing your speech well ahead of time at home. Try to get comfortable with the material and learn where you should be forceful and where you should use a lighter tone.
Above all, you should prepare to be yourself. Often when someone delivers a speech that was written for them by somebody else – politicians come to mind – it sounds too suave and premeditated.
The key is to understand your message, put your own personality into it and convey it in your own words. Remember, not everybody has a huge vocabulary. Often a short word will work much better than a long one that you may mispronounce anyway – especially if you suffer from dyslexia like me.
Twain also said: “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Whether you’re preparing a few remarks or are just going to answer questions from the crowd, think about potential topics you want to talk about, then write them down – bullet points will do. It helps to have a rough outline of where you’re going to take a point, to keep the conversation moving forward.
Then, when it’s time to make your speech in public, try to imagine that you are back in your living room chatting with friends. Pick out someone in the crowd and try to get your point across to them personally – you’ll find the rest of the audience will understand your message too.
Keep in mind that there’s no need to stick rigidly to your script if an interesting tangent presents itself. Some of the finest moments in the history of oration include off-the-cuff remarks. Also, this is when spontaneous humour is most likely to erupt. A good joke will not only help you connect with the crowd, but help you relax. If you loosen up a bit, the words will flow more fluently.
To be an impressive public speaker, you have to believe in what you are saying. And if you speak with conviction and you’re passionate about your subject, your audience will be far more forgiving of your mistakes because they’ll have faith that you are telling the truth.
My answers aren’t always smooth and immediate, and often include a fair few “erms” and “ahs.” But most audiences are far happier with a hesitant, sincere response than a speedy but superficial answer.
Prepare, then take your time and relax. Speak from the heart.
Listening To These 8 Audiobooks On Success Is A Better Use Of Your Long Commute
Commuting is mostly just unpaid work, unless you make an effort to learn something along the way.
Commutes are getting longer, and in some cities they’re up to two hours each way. I have a friend in Los Angeles who does this. He passes the time with audiobooks. Now that’s still a lot of time to be stuck in transit, but he doesn’t view it that way. He says it allows him plenty of time to feed his personal and professional goals.
I’ve spent years listening to literature in the car while commuting, but somewhere along the line I switched over to books on business and personal improvement. I mostly gravitated toward amazing people who built their success from scratch and who experienced tremendous hardship. It stands to reason that if you’re dealing with hardships like a long commute, it’s important to hear motivational words that can help you transcend the difficulties.
Here are eight audiobooks that will help grow your success, both personal and professional, on your next commute:
3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018
Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.
Goal setting as a concept makes perfect sense. At the most basic level you decide on the destination and then plot the way to get there. But as with many things, we like to overcomplicate that which should be simple.
Before you know it, you end up with 2 big goals in 15 different areas of your life and 100 micro goals that will help you reach your 30 big goals.
Complicating something simple. Some of the biggest obstacles to people in reaching their goals are:
- The overestimate the effort it will take to achieve those goals
- They want to go from 0-100km/h in the blink of an eye
- Life is dynamic and static goals often do not make sense
- They get so entrenched in the day to day running of things that goals get pushed aside.
What if instead of goals, we just focused on giving our best every day?
Of course, you still want to have an indication of where you are going.
But, if you are giving your 100% every day then you can forego the micro goals for a better way of calibrating your compass… using questions.
Related: Goal Setting Guide
I suggest you ask yourself these three questions regularly:
1. What does better look like?
The question at the heart of development and incremental improvement. This question allows you some creative space in which you can imagine a better future.
- What does better health look like?
- What does a better business look like?
- What does better customer service look like?
- What does better leadership look like?
By reflecting on this question, you materialise the gap between where you are and where you could be. Now, the only thing that is left is to align your daily actions with the better future you imagined.
2. What can I control?
Borrowed from Stoicism this question highlights the power of decision in your life. Epictetus said we should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”
Once you ask this of yourself regularly you will feel more in control of your life and more in control of your business.
Because your focus is solely on the things that you can influence. It restores the belief that you can actually impact the world around you in a meaningful way.
3. Was I impeccable with my actions today?
One inherent flaw with goal setting is that the goal setter often feels judged. As if we need more of that. In addition to the constant negative self-talk we have to endure we now have an additional source of judgement – whether we reached our goals or not.
As we discovered in question #2 We cannot control everything. Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.
So, instead of judging yourself, commit to giving your best every single day.
What I love most about these questions is that they provide a built-in layer of accountability. Use them every day.
To Be Successful Stay Far Away From These 7 Types of Toxic People
You need a network of talented people, not toxic personalities who undermine you.
Surrounding yourself with prospective mentors is an excellent way to build lifelong success. When Steve Jobs founded Apple, he learned from colleagues like Steve Wozniak about what it took to build computer hardware. And he learned from early investors like Mike Markkula about what it took to build a successful company and market a product. Now imagine if Jobs had surrounded himself with toxic personalities instead. It is likely that he would not have been able to create a company that is on course to be valued at $1 trillion.
If you interact with people who demonstrate questionable behaviour, you’re more likely to model that behaviour yourself or to become stressed as a result. At the very least, you will be missing out on the opportunity to network with more successful and inspiring individuals.
This article will review seven personality types that should be eliminated from your life in order to build your most successful self. Once these people are gone, you can work on building a network of people who influence you positively.
According to a report by NPR, micromanagement is one of the biggest factors associated with employee dissatisfaction, lowered motivation and lack of professional creativity. To be successful, you must learn to solve problems independently. Micromanaging can make it difficult to develop these skills.
Related: Keep An Eye Out For Toxic Employees
2. Short-term thinkers
If you surround yourself with short-term thinkers, it will be difficult to know if an idea is destined for long-term success. Those who are narrow-minded may be more likely to dismiss one of your ideas because it will take time to develop into a meaningful success.
Take the creation of Airbnb as an example. The company was founded in 2008. At the time the “sharing economy” did not exist, and hotel chains like Starwood and Hilton dominated the lodging market. A short-term thinker would have criticised an idea like Airbnb.
In order for the company to be successful, Airbnb would need to change people’s attitudes and expectations about travel. They would need to encourage people to be comfortable staying with strangers, and they would need to find ways to mitigate possible liability should something tragic happen during a customer’s stay.
Well-respected venture capitalists decided to pass on Airbnb because of these short-term concerns. The Airbnb founders were only able to find success once they connected with people who were comfortable thinking long term.
Pessimism is not always a bad trait; at times it can help entrepreneurs to recognize certain pitfalls that might otherwise be overlooked. However, a steady diet of pessimism is toxic when it comes to taking big professional risks.
As David Armor, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, says, “An entrepreneur starting up a company, for example, might drive himself to work 18-hour days for months and even years because he optimistically believes that there will be a big payoff for him at the end.” Conversely, a pessimistic attitude would make it difficult to tolerate such a prolonged stressful situation.
For those interested in taking on stressful professional situations, pessimistic people should be avoided in most cases.
4. Selfish people
Relationships that contribute to success are mutually beneficial. This dynamic cannot exist when dealing with selfish people. As a result, it is best to eliminate selfish people from your life in order to make room for more giving relationships.
A recent study found that a job applicant who is referred by an existing employee is 15 times more likely to be hired than someone who applies via a job board. If you befriend a selfish person, you probably can’t rely on them to introduce you to new career opportunities. However, forming connections with someone who is altruistic could give you a professional leg up.
5. Risk-averse personalities
Business success is about making informed decisions by weighing risks and rewards. If you are surrounded by people who over-index on possible risks while ignoring the possible rewards, it will be challenging to identify good business opportunities.
Take Amazon as an example. In 2014 Amazon launched a smartphone called the Fire Phone. In the end, the phone was not successful. Following the unsuccessful launch of the Fire Phone, risk-averse people might have avoided developing another piece of computer hardware.
But instead, Amazon correctly assessed the opportunity for an in-home smart speaker, and launched the Amazon Echo just one year later. Today, Echo has 75 percent of the smart-speaker market in the United States.
6. Unmotivated individuals
People who lack motivation or work ethic set a bad example for those interested in working diligently to become a professional success. There is no worse colleague than someone who simply does the bare minimum to get by.
Rather than associate yourself with people who cut corners or avoid hard work, try to surround yourself with people who are motivated to succeed. Collaborating with people who have a healthy drive for success can instill an extra dose of motivation in you.
Financial responsibility is a critically important quality to develop if you want to become successful. Warren Buffet is perhaps the supreme example of a financially responsible and successful person.
Buffet is the third wealthiest person in the world, worth nearly $80 billion. But despite his professional success, Buffet does not spend his money on flashy cars or large homes. In fact, Buffet still lives in the modest home in Omaha, Nebraska, that he purchased in 1958.
Those who associate with spendthrifts may be more motivated to make irresponsible financial decisions in order to fit in. At the very least, it will be harder to associate with people who make good financial choices, as these personalities are frequently diametrically opposed.
Business is all about who you know. From landing a new job to launching a new company, your network will enable or prevent future professional success. When developing a network of talented people, it is best to avoid toxic personalities who could set a bad example or demotivate you.
Be sure to avoid people who are micromanagers and short-term thinkers, as they can make it difficult to think autonomously. Risk-averse individuals or pessimists may cause you to think twice about great business ideas, and spendthrifts or selfish people may hamper your ability to grow. Last but not least, stay away from unmotivated individuals, as your success is dependent on your willingness to work diligently in order to succeed.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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