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Why it’s important to understand your influencing style

I recently read an article which referenced Nelson Mandela as one of the best negotiators in history. It got me thinking about the importance of understanding your own influencing style and being able to adapt it to different business situations. 

If you can effectively motivate others and get people on board with your ideas, your business will operate more efficiently and the fact that everyone is working together will boost team morale.

However, “influencing” is definitely not a one-size-fits-all art. Every person is different, every situation is different, so you’re going to need to bring the right influencing approach to each new scenario.

For example, a more forceful style might be appropriate when negotiating a business deal or when an immediate response is required in an emergency, but it’s usually not be the best technique for building long-term relationships.

Using charm to win people over is another well-used and successful influencing style; however, without sincerity and follow-through the effects may not last beyond the first conversation!

Each of the following five categories of key influencing styles has benefits and drawbacks. The best way to improve your ability to influence is to identify which category you naturally fall in to. Doing so will allow you to consider the positives and negatives of your particular approach, and in what ways, and situations, you need to adjust it or draw on a different technique.

Asserting

This style demands attention, and this type of influencer pulls no punches in getting their message across. It’s a strong way of communicating what you want, but it’s worth remembering that the to-the-point tone might be off-putting for some people and in some situations.

Convincing

Using facts, logic and experience, this style is about rational persuasion. People who use it are often said to have the “gift of the gab”. It’s a good style to draw on to combat highly emotional situations. But logic has its limits, and sometimes a more personal approach is more effective than facts and figures.

Negotiating

Give a little, get a little. This style suits a situation where the influencer is ready to make a trade-off. This one is required by every business owner on a perpetual basis so it’s worth practicing – and being aware of the potential to give away more than you intend. Need some inspiration? Harvard Law professor Robert H. Mnookin says the late Nelson Mandela is one of the best negotiators in history.

Bridging

This involves using other people to create connections for you and is particularly helpful for building relationships to reach long-term goals. In short, you could say this is networking. It’s very effective, but less so if an immediate or short-term result is needed.

Inspiring

Encouraging and creating a team environment where everyone has a vested interest in an outcome is the main feature of this influencing style. Obviously, this skill is hugely beneficial – as long as you don’t hold back on expressing your own opinions in order to get and keep people on side.

Chris Niarchos is a lifelong entrepreneur and founder of The Cobra Group of Companies, which specialises in incubating, developing and managing a portfolio of start-up enterprises and successful companies.

 

Imposter Syndrome: the self-doubt that (often) comes with success

What do these four celebrities have in common (apart from fame)? And do you know who the guy in the bottom right is?! It might surprise you that these incredibly successful people have all spoken about dealing with Imposter Syndrome.

It seems bizarre that after striving for what you want in your career, putting in more hard yards than you can count, you might come out the other side feeling undeserving of your success.

But that’s how it is for people who suffer from Imposter Syndrome, a feeling of inadequacy and a baseless fear that you’ve faked your way to success. Rather than feeling triumph in reaching their goals, these people feel like they are never good enough.

The effect can be detrimental both professionally and personally and, to at least some degree, most of us can relate to it.

I got to thinking about Imposter Syndrome after reading that many extremely successful people have struggled with it, including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, author Neil Gaiman and even Neil Armstrong (above, bottom right), the first man to walk on the moon!

Photo of Emma Watson
Emma Watson says her self-doubt has increased alongside her success.

Actress Emma Watson says the feeling increased as she became more successful: “I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved’.”

Are we all Imposter Syndrome sufferers?

I think this imposter feeling is something most people who have experienced some level of career or business success can identify with – that nagging question in the back of your mind: am I good enough?

And, in fact, American educational psychology researcher Dr Kevin Cokely has conducted several studies into Imposter Syndrome and says 70 percent of the population reportedly feel like an imposter.

Chris Martin on stage
Coldplay’s Chris Martin embraces the dose of “paranoia” that has come with his stardom.

A little bit of doubt can be a good thing if it spurs you on to work harder and go that little bit further. I like Chris Martin’s comment on this: “It’s helpful to have some arrogance with paranoia. If we were all paranoia, we’d never leave the house. If we were all arrogance, no one would want us to leave the house.”

But doubt becomes detrimental if it starts eating away at your confidence and affecting your performance.

I’m not an expert like Dr Cokely (or world-renowned actor/author/astronaut for that matter!), but I have developed my own techniques for dealing with doubt.

Reality-check your success

First and foremost, I think it’s important to learn to differentiate between self-doubt and reality. This takes practice.

I’ve found that logically assessing your own achievements is a good way to tackle negative thought and emotions. Do a regular stocktake of your quantifiable, tangible achievements – actually write them down to make them more ‘official’ and so you can see in black and white what you’ve done.

And try not to just focus on the end goal. Even when you’re constantly striving to reach the summit, it’s important to take a moment to enjoy the view on your way up by celebrating the milestones – big and small – along the way. 

Get a fresh perspective on your performance

It’s true that we’re our own harshest critics and it’s easy to get caught up in your own self-doubt so it can help to ask others for their perspective on your abilities and what they see as your achievements.

Talking to people about the “am I good enough?” imposter thoughts can help you recognise that the thoughts are not a true reflection of your abilities, nor are they unusual – you’re likely to find others have felt the same way.

Seek out a supportive environment

Surround yourself with positive people who recognise and build your sense of worth. In a workplace, it can be as simple as having colleagues who give you positive feedback and acknowledge your achievements.

Mentors can also be incredibly effective in this regard. Whether you seek out a mentor through an official programme or opt for a more casual mentoring arrangement – perhaps with a colleague you admire – this type of professional relationship is a great way to get a career and confidence-boosting perspective on your skills and performance. The reverse is also true: becoming a mentor to someone else can benefit their career and give your confidence a boost at the same time.

I’ve discovered that Imposter Syndrome is a more common problem than we might think, but it doesn’t have to be a constant or continuing one. Self-belief is a must in business, so it’s important to acknowledge when doubt creeps in and deal with it so that you’re not dragged down by false thoughts.

Chris Niarchos is a lifelong entrepreneur and founder of The Cobra Group of Companies, which specialises in incubating, developing and managing a portfolio of start-up enterprises and successful companies.

 

Why age is no barrier to becoming an entrepreneur

Older man holding a stop sign
Stop thinking age is a barrier to entrepreneurial success!

Think you’re too old to strike out and start your own business? Think again. As long as you’ve got a good idea and the right attitude, age is no barrier to launching a successful company.

In fact, that extra experience you have could give you an advantage when you’re starting out as an entrepreneur. I may have set up my first business when I was 22, but during my career I’ve met many talented entrepreneurs who launched their companies much later in life.

Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone

The one thing you really need if you want to become an entrepreneur is the bravery to step outside your comfort zone and test yourself in a completely new situation.

There’s no denying this can be a big step, especially if you’re used to working for other people and following their lead. But if you’re passionate about your idea, you’ve done your homework and you’re prepared to put in the hard work and pick up new skills along the way, there’s no reason to let your date of birth stop you from following your dreams.

Rather than seeing your age as a problem, focus on the fact that you’ll have a wealth of skills and life experience to bring to bear in your new role.

Take a look around you

Sure, we all know about Zuckerberg and Musk and Chesky – the entrepreneurs who became incredibly successful at an incredibly young age. But there are just as many examples of successful business people who launched their own companies with a lot more mileage on their career clocks.

Finding out about these entrepreneurs and their stories could give you the inspiration you need to take the next step on your own journey to starting a company.

One of my favourite examples is the late Leo Goodwin. He worked as an accountant in America until the age of 50, when he saw a gap in the insurance market and launched the Government Employee’s Insurance Company (GEICO).

Working with his wife, he quickly grew the business and by the end of his first year, he had employed 12 people and was providing nearly 4,000 insurance policies. Now, GEICO has over 14 million policyholders and employs tens of thousands of workers.

Another inspirational story is that of Carol Gardner. At the age of 52 and newly divorced, she entered a competition to create a Christmas card featuring her dog Zelda. She won, and the positive response she got encouraged her to set up a greeting card company that she called Zelda Wisdom. A few years later, the business was valued at an impressive $50 million.

Wally Blume also arrived in the business world later in life. After a successful 20-year career in the dairy industry, he decided to open his own company in 1995. Called Denali Flavors, it specialises in creating and marketing innovative ice cream flavours. Its most popular product, Moose Tracks, makes around $80 million a year through licensing agreements.

Talented ‘older-preneurs’ like these show just how much can be achieved by going it alone and starting your own business – regardless of your age.

Chris Niarchos is a lifelong entrepreneur and founder of The Cobra Group of Companies, which specialises in incubating, developing and managing a portfolio of start-up enterprises and successful companies.

 

What you want to know about running a business (but are afraid to ask)

Picture of question mark icons
Chris Niarchos answers the business questions you may be afraid to ask.

Lots of people like the idea of working for themselves, but there’s no getting around the fact that taking that leap of faith and actually setting up a company can be a daunting prospect.

If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, here are a few questions you’ll probably want the answers to, but may be too afraid to ask.

What if my business fails?

It’s normal to have some doubts when you establish a business. I was just 22 when I set up my first company and I had anxieties about it at the time. When you’re new to something, it’s completely natural to wonder if you’ve got what it takes to succeed.

However, during my career I’ve learned that you can’t let concerns about potential failure stop you from pursuing your goals. It’s impossible to guarantee success with every business venture, but you can guarantee that you’ll keep going if things don’t go to plan.

It’s important to realise that many of the most highly regarded and successful businesspeople have experienced major setbacks along the way. What these people have in common is the resilience required to pick themselves up and carry on.

Sir James Dyson is a great example. The inventor and entrepreneur, who’s now said to be worth over £3 billion, went through his savings and over 5,000 failed prototypes before he developed the bagless vacuum cleaner that propelled him to fame and fortune. Speaking to Entrepreneur.com, the inventor said that failure helps you to progress. He added: “You never learn from success, but you do learn from failure.”

Will I be able to handle the pressure?

Pressure is an unavoidable part of running a company and you won’t really know if you can cope with the stress until your business is up and running and you’re faced with the challenges this brings.

There are things you can do to lower pressure levels though. For example, try to avoid the temptation to micromanage all aspects of your company. Attempting to control every little detail yourself can mean your workload quickly becomes unmanageable. Alternatively, if you quickly get into the habit of delegating certain tasks to the appropriate people, you should find it easier to keep your to-do list – and consequently your stress levels – in check.

Also, try to understand that all entrepreneurs feel the pressure. This isn’t a sign of weakness, but it is something you have to learn to control. Many of the best businesspeople use pressure as a driving force to make them stronger and better in their roles. 

Who can I turn to if I don’t have the answers?

You can’t expect to be the full package when you first start out as an entrepreneur. There will be things you need to learn and you’re bound to make the occasional mistake. This is where a business mentor can help. A trusted and experienced advisor can provide you with invaluable advice and give you added reassurance and confidence when you need it most.

Businessman and author Zig Ziglar summed up this idea when he said: “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

Chris Niarchos is founder and chairman of The Cobra Group of Companies, which specialises in incubating, developing and managing a diverse portfolio of start-up enterprises and successful companies.

3 entrepreneurs who refused to take no for an answer

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said: “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, never submit to failure. Do not be fobbed off with mere personal success or acceptance.”

Nicknamed the British Bulldog and known for his tenacious spirit and unrelenting bravery, it was clear that Churchill adhered to this motto in his political life. In my opinion, he demonstrated the kind of persistence and courage that entrepreneurs need if they’re going to be successful.

After decades of experience in business, I am well acquainted with the word ‘no’, but I haven’t let it stop me from pursuing my dreams. I know, however, that when you’re faced with apparent dead-ends time and again and your goals seem unattainable, it’s tempting to throw in the towel. If you’re in this position right now, you might be inspired by the experiences of these entrepreneurs.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb

Picture of Brian Chesky on an ipad
Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky initially struggled to find investors but his company is now worth $24billion. (aradaphotography / Shutterstock.com)

CEO and co-founder of peer-to-peer accommodation rental company Airbnb Brian Chesky is worth £2.9 billion today and was named a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by the Obama Administration in 2015. However, at the start of his career, the now 35-year-old was also familiar with the word ‘no’.

Early on, Chesky and his Airbnb co-founders were introduced to seven eminent investors in Silicon Valley and pitched them in an attempt to raise $150,000 in exchange for 10% of the business. They received rejections from five of the investors, and the other two never replied! However, Chesky and his associates were undeterred and continued to pursue their goals. Today Airbnb is valued at £24 billion and has been used by more than 60 million people.

Kavita Shukla, Fenugreen

Kavita Shukla is the founder and CEO of Fenugreen, a social enterprise tackling global food waste with her own invention, FreshPaper, which keeps food fresh. The young entrepreneur has been awarded the INDEX: Design to Improve Life Award – the world’s greatest prize for design – and has been named in TIME Magazine’s ‘5 Most Innovative Women in Food’, but her success grew from humble origins.

Shukla started out mixing spices in pond water in her garage when she was 12 years old in an attempt to reproduce the benefits of a homebrewed spice tea her grandmother gave her in India. She eventually came up with the idea of creating a spice-infused paper that prevents bacterial and fungal growth, and worked on the product all through high school and university.

Despite failing to get the interest she needed from potential donors to create a large-scale non-profit, and being told repeatedly that she “needed more experience, more degrees, more money”, she persisted.

Shukla believed in her idea and invested $150 in spices and paper-making materials to create a local non-profit. The product became a huge success and is now sold in supermarkets in more than 35 countries worldwide.

Joy Mangano, Miracle Mop

Picture of Joy Mangano
Joy Mangano created the Miracle Mop to make her own household chores easier. (Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com)

The story of Joy Mangano is the stuff of Hollywood movies – quite literally. Joy, a film loosely based on the American inventor and entrepreneur’s life, was released in 2015.

As a divorced mother of three struggling to make ends meet in the 1980s, Mangano found inspiration in the drudgery of household chores. Frustrated with mops that didn’t last long and required the user to bend down to wring them out, she created what would become known as the Miracle Mop.

She borrowed money to make 100 prototypes and started selling them locally. In 1992, a TV shopping channel bought 1,000 of the mops, but the executives asked her to take them all back when they failed to sell.

Believing strongly in her idea, Mangano refused to take the mops back and demanded the chance to sell them herself. In her first appearance, more than 18,000 units were sold. Within 10 years, her company was selling more than US$8 million worth of mops every year.

In 1999, she joined the Home Shopping Network, where she now generates in excess of £110 million in annual sales. Today, Mangano is said to be worth £38 million.

Chris Niarchos is founder and chairman of The Cobra Group of Companies, which specialises in incubating, developing and managing a diverse portfolio of start-up enterprises and successful companies.

4 no-fail tricks for keeping your focus laser sharp

 

Whether you’ve simply got too many things to think about or you feel as though you’re on the verge of burnout, it can be hard to keep your focus when you’re in charge of a business. When I set up my first company in Sydney at the age of 22, there was a lot I still had to learn about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur – and one of the lessons I had to take on board (and quickly) was how to keep my focus laser sharp. Here are some of the no-fail tricks I’ve picked up throughout my career.

Devise a schedule that works for you

When your workload starts to build, it can be tempting to think that the best strategy is to squeeze as many working hours as possible into each day. This could involve getting an early start in the office and working non-stop until the evening. However, as virtuous and productive as this approach might seem, it may not be the best approach for you. If you’re like most people, you’ll need at least a little downtime during the day to keep your concentration and motivation levels up.

So, rather than staring at your computer screen from dusk until dawn, everyone benefits from factoring some breaks into their schedule. For example, you could give yourself timeouts to go to the gym, take a walk or grab a coffee. Far from being a waste of your time, short breaks are  a way to re-focus your mind.

Don’t try to do everything at once

All entrepreneurs have to be able to multitask to some extent, but they also need to be able to prioritise the most important jobs. Sometimes, this means putting certain tasks on hold. To keep on top of your workload and control your stress levels, it’s vital to realise that you can’t do everything at once. So, if you’re working on something important that demands your full attention, be disciplined about putting emails, phone calls and other distractions on hold for a while.

Create an inspiring workspace

It might seem like a small point, but the look and feel of your workspace can have a huge impact on your ability to stay focussed. I’m not suggesting that everyone should go out and spend thousands of pounds revamping their offices, but I do know that having a working environment that’s not only comfortable and practical but also inspiring can make your days a whole lot easier. Whether it’s smart and organised or more creative, your workspace should reflect your approach to business, make you feel proud and put you in the perfect frame of mind to concentrate.

Look after your health

When deadlines are looming and the pressure’s on, your health and wellbeing might take a backseat. You may find that your diet suffers, you’re not getting enough sleep and you can’t stick to your exercise schedule. In the short term, this might not have much of an effect on your performance at work, but over time it can really start to take its toll.

If you’re tired, unfit and under too much stress, you could find you struggle to concentrate and keep up with your workload. This means that even when you’re really up against it, it’s essential that you make an effort to look after your health by getting enough rest, doing plenty of exercise and eating healthily.

3 ways to avoid burnout as an entrepreneur

Being your own boss certainly has its perks, but it also comes with a heavy weight of responsibility.

You can’t simply switch off and forget about your company at the end of the day. Instead, you might find yourself working long hours under considerable stress.

This means that, if you’re not careful, you risk suffering burnout. There are ways to avoid this though and, over the years, I’ve learned a range of techniques that help me to avoid reaching this point.

  1. Set aside time to really switch off

Switching off for an entire weekend, or even just an evening, might not be an option when you have your own company – at least not in its early stages. After all, you’ll no doubt want to be on hand if any problems arise. But if you don’t give yourself any time to relax, you’re storing up trouble.

I can’t recommend enough getting into the habit of setting aside at least a little space in your schedule to completely forget about work and focus on other things. Even if it’s just an hour or two in the evening, this downtime will help you to de-stress and reboot, making you even more productive when you are in work mode.

And don’t be afraid to take holidays. Admittedly, this is one I’ve found doesn’t get any easier the longer you’ve been in business. You might be worried about the adverse effect that a break may have on your business, but it’s important to also consider the negative impact on your company if you’re too tired to work efficiently. The occasional getaway will give you the chance to re-energise and you’ll probably find you return with a renewed sense of purpose and drive.

  1. Take steps to stay healthy

When you’re prioritising your business, your health may take a back seat. For example, you might not get enough sleep, you could fall into bad eating habits and you may struggle to get the recommended amount of exercise. Trust me, I’ve been there.

All of this is bad news for your wellbeing. It will also impact on your energy levels and make the day-to-day running of your company feel like more of a challenge.

So, no matter how busy you are, try to get a decent amount of sleep and take steps to incorporate exercise into your daily routine to help you to stay in shape and keep your energy levels up.

It’s also important to plan your meals so that you don’t end up relying on junk food to refuel. I’ve certainly been guilty of this, but now make sure I have a healthy breakfast (I’m addicted to the yoghurt from the café near my office) and buy fruit to snack on throughout the day so I’m not tempted by the vending machine at 3pm.

  1. Delegate to lighten your workload

Even if you’re a perfectionist by nature, it’s unsustainable to attempt to micromanage all aspects of your business. This approach will almost certainly result in burnout. Instead, make sure you have a good team around you and learn to delegate tasks to lighten your workload.

It might feel uncomfortable at first, but handing responsibility to others is essential, particularly if your company is growing and your to-do list keeps getting longer.

3 attributes that are stopping you from achieving your goals

3 attributes that are stopping you from achieving your goalsPerhaps your ultimate goal is running a successful business or landing a dream job, or maybe you’ve set your sights on a completely different, non-career related target.
Whatever your aspirations, there may be certain aspects of your personality that are holding you back and that you need to work on. Here are three attributes that I’ve noticed can stop people from achieving their objectives.

  1. A lack of self-belief 

It’s natural to have some doubts about what the future might hold, but it’s essential that you don’t let a lack of self-belief stop you from pursuing your ambitions. Too often, people let negative thoughts dictate their path.

Whether you’re gearing up to pitch a business idea, you’re preparing for an interview or you’ve got another important test ahead, it’s crucial that you think positively and have confidence in yourself and your abilities go to these guys.

Bear in mind that if you don’t believe in yourself, it’s unlikely that others will. It helps to focus on your strengths rather than obsessing over any weaknesses you think you might have.

  1. Impatience

Expecting things to go your way from the beginning is a recipe for disappointment. Sure, some people manage to meet their objectives quickly, but for most, reaching life goals is a long process.

It’s important to realise that the effort and time you put into meeting your targets makes eventual success all the sweeter. If you’re prepared to put in the hard work and you’re ready to overcome a few hurdles along the way, you’re much more likely to achieve something meaningful.

It’s often useful to set interim targets so you can measure your progress. Hitting these smaller goals can give you an important morale boost and reinforce the fact that your efforts are paying off.

  1. A tendency to procrastinate

Let’s face it, life’s full of distractions. But if you don’t want to be swayed from your course, it’s vital that you resist any inclination to spend too much time procrastinating.

It can be easy to put off the difficult tasks and prioritise easier, more enjoyable things instead. There’s nothing wrong with this in principle, but if it stops you from progressing in the way you’d like, you’ll need to change your approach. If you’re ready to embrace challenges and to focus on the things that will really help you move forward, you stand a much better chance of succeeding.

These three characteristics are common, so you shouldn’t be put off if you recognise them in yourself. The important thing is to identify any traits that could be holding you back and to take steps to address them. By making changes to your outlook, you can ensure these issues don’t stop you from getting where you want to go.

Founder and chairman of the Cobra Group of Companies, Chris Niarchos knows what it takes to make it to the top in business. Starting his company at the age of just 22, he has succeeded in growing it into an international organisation.

What business lessons can we learn from the revised WTO figures?

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” John Allen Paulos

This quote may come from a mathematician rather than a business leader, but I think it sums up the mood of many within the business community right now.

Companies are having to adjust to major changes in the world around them. From the uncertainty triggered by the UK’s decision to leave the EU to slowdowns in major countries like Brazil and China, the global economy is going through a period of significant change.

Reflecting this fact, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) recently revised its forecast for global trade growth down by over a third. According to the organisation, growth this year will total 1.7 per cent.

This is down on its April estimate of 2.8 per cent. Responding to the statistics, director-general of the WTO Roberto Azevedo said the slowing of trade growth is a serious issue. He went on to suggest it should “serve as a wake-up call”.

Businesses must be prepared to adapt and innovate

It’s easy to panic when market conditions get tough, but instead of doing this, it’s important to try to take a step back and see what we can learn from situations like this.

To me, the WTO figures reinforce the fact that companies have to be ready to adapt and innovate whenever they are met with difficulties. By making sure they are agile and prepared to change their business models to deal with the challenges of the time, companies can protect themselves from a whole range of potential problems.

In fact, the savviest operators are often able to turn seemingly negative situations into positives for their businesses.

A business case in point

In a recent blog post, I referred to the example of the music industry and the so-called ‘lost-decade’.

As the digital revolution kicked in and people started to change the way they consumed music, the profits of traditional record companies tumbled from US$14.6 billion in 1999 to $6.3 billion 10 years later.

While many companies struggled in these difficult circumstances, some were able to overhaul their approach and went on to not only survive, but thrive. They did so by innovating and creating new, successful products.

As Paulos’ quote elegantly expresses, there will always be uncertainty. It’s knowing how to cope with changing demands that can bring people (and in this context businesses) a sense of long-term security.

Chris Niarchos is founder and chairman of the Cobra Group of Companies. In his role, he is responsible for setting the strategic direction for all of the businesses within the group. Since setting up the company in Australia in 1988 at the age of 22, he has grown it into a successful international organisation. It is now a group of diversified companies specialising in managing and developing an exciting and varied portfolio of businesses.

My top public speaking tips (hint: they’re not about picturing your audience naked)

Mars Cowley-Smythe public speakingAs part of my job, I do a lot of public speaking. I know that it isn’t the most popular activity in the world – as many as 95% of people say it’s one of their greatest fears. But, when you break it down, it doesn’t have to be any more frightening than having a chat with your colleagues around the water cooler.

So I thought I’d take the opportunity to run over some of the best public speaking tips that I’ve received and how they can help you to share your messages.

Public speaking needs passion

For me, public speaking is all about inspiring passion. Speaking to an audience is an opportunity for me to talk about what we’re doing and the direction that the company is going in. It’s a great way to share what inspires me with people in my company and in Appco’s independent contractor network.

In my experience, being more comfortable with public speaking isn’t just about picturing your audience naked. It involves thinking about how you deliver your speech as much as what you’re actually saying.

Public speaking needs audience awareness

When I think about some of the best speeches that I’ve watched recently – speeches by people like Barack Obama and Steve Jobs – one of the most obvious strengths is that they are always aware of their audience.

When Obama speaks at a small town hall gathering, he engages each of the attendees individually, making eye contact and gesturing (note, not pointing aggressively) to attendees learn the facts here now. When he’s speaking to a much larger crowd, like at his inauguration, he’ll completely change his tone and gestures. He won’t walk around so much, he’ll stand taller and look more statesmanlike.

Most importantly, a great speaker will tailor what they’re talking about to who they’re talking to. Look at when Obama goes to speak to a small group of people: he’ll talk about things that engage that audience. When he’s speaking to the nation, say, for example at a State of the Union, he’ll behave more formally and will move around less.

Public speaking needs a personal touch

So you know your audience, how do you make sure that you reach them? This, I think, is relatively simple: tell a story. Anecdotes help your audience understand and follow your thinking.

In some of the speeches I’ve given around the world, I often tell a story from my own life, which has influenced my thinking in some way, such as the ‘Be Something More’ poster from my childhood. My mum wouldn’t let me have any other posters on my bedroom wall.

This one ended up influencing my entire way of thinking and I think that sharing this helps my audiences to understand where I’m coming from. I’ve included a video of me talking about it below.

https://youtu.be/l15z3vd77QQ

Public speaking is, at its simplest form, about communication. How do you share the ideas that you’re passionate about and bring your audience along with you?

When I think about it in this way – when I try to really understand the mindset of my audience and consider the opportunity I have to share with them a very personal vision about where we’re all going – far from dreading it, I can’t help but be excited by public speaking.