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How Speaking Can Serve Your Business - The Nathan Littleton Story

succeed through speaking tom bailey Mar 16, 2022

Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed Through Speaking, interviews Nathan Littleton.

In this episode we hear about our guests journey with confidence, public speaking and presentation skills and how it has helped them succeed in life and in business - in other words, how to succeed through speaking.

Nathan Littleton is a marketer, professional speaker and author who specialises in helping businesses to grow by attracting and winning more customers.

He started his first business, building websites from his bedroom at the age of just 12, and since then , he has made it his mission to give businesses the insights and tools to take their marketing campaigns from good to great, leveraging nearly 20 years of experience in the marketing world.

As an in-demand conference speaker, Nathan speaks regularly on email marketing, content creation and marketing strategy with the perfect blend of energy, insight and actionable advice. He is also the National President-Elect of the Professional Speaking Association UK and Ireland.

When he’s not speaking, Nathan is a long-suffering Aston Villa fan, stand-up comedy fanatic and proud geek.

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Tom Bailey  00:07

Hello and welcome to succeed through speaking the place for experts and entrepreneurs who want high value ideas to boost business results. Hello, I'm Tom Bailey. And in today's speaker stories episode from succeed through speaking, I'll be getting to know Nathan Littleton who is a marketer, professional speaker and author who specializes in helping businesses to grow by attracting and winning more customers. So Nathan, hello, and a very warm welcome to today's episode.

Nathan Littleton  00:45

Hey, Thomas, great to be with you. Thank you.

Tom Bailey  00:47

Thank you so much. And just out of interest whereabouts in the world are you right now?

Nathan Littleton  00:52

I'm in the UK somewhere dead near the middle of the UK. So I'm in Solihull, just near Birmingham.

Tom Bailey  00:56

Excellent, very close to myself, then what a wonderful part of the world we live in. Right. Well, thank you so much. And I want to just share a little bit more about you before we do get started just to give that context. So Nathan started his first business at the age of just 12. And since then, he's made it his mission to give businesses the insights and tools to take their marketing campaigns from good to great. I know that Nathan is also an in demand conference speaker and is also the national president elect of the professional speaking Association, UK and Ireland, which is all very fitting as the purpose of today's episode is to find out all about Nathan's journey with public speaking. And to kick things off. Nathan, I really just want to ask you the first question, which is, when you think of the title succeed through speaking, what does it make you think of? Do you think that speaking is a part of success in life and in business?

Nathan Littleton  01:51

Well, I think it's it for some people it is certainly, just actually getting onto a stage can be such a difficult thing for people that being able to get onto a stage, if they can do it. And they can feel that they've done a good job. That is success. But success in speaking can mean a lot of things to many people, I think it means success, if you've been able to get your message across to your audience in the way that you want to, but in such a way that it makes a difference to them, they go away, they leave the room, they leave the virtual room, as we've been over the last couple of years. And they do something different, either in their life in their business, or whatever your purpose is for being on that stage in the first place. And I think if you use speaking as part of your business, then it should serve your business either as a marketing tool as a product where you are paid to speak, or just to get a message across because you have a course or something that you care deeply about.

Tom Bailey  02:40

Yep, great answer. And you mentioned a few times that about adding that value into the room and giving great insights to the people that are listening. So when you think of your career today and your business successes, how important do you think public speaking has been to help you on that journey?

Nathan Littleton  02:56

particularly over the last few years, it's been a huge part of my business, and to be honest, a huge part of my life. But if I think back to when I first started my business, and maybe a few years after that, speaking was a way for me to make sales, to be honest, I remember someone telling me a business coach that I was working with at the time, if you can deliver 3040 minutes of great value, great educational content from the stage, you're in a position then to be able to position a product or service that's relevant to what you've said, you've got a captive audience where they've had a taster, they've had a test drive of what you can offer, and then they'll be interested in a product or service that you can offer them. And that was certainly true. And it did develop from there into something different, but that was certainly the starting point.

Tom Bailey  03:38

That was the people talk about, you know, serve before selling. And that's what you're exactly doing the adding lots of value, you're giving great content in 40 minutes building that know like and trust factor. And we talk it was all about the difference between one to one sales versus one to many, you can really leverage your time when he's speaking in front of a big audience and, and really get the message out there. So yeah, I completely agree with all of that.

Nathan Littleton  04:00

I'm in two minds, if I'm honest, really about where I'm at with selling from stage right now. And I think it's because, and I say this as someone who was sold from stage many times number of years ago, I don't do so much. Now I do speak, there are some occasions where I'll speak for free. And it's because I want to position myself in front of an audience but not to pitch your product or service at the end. And the reason I'm in two minds about it is because I think it changes the focus of the presentation. So if your aim for being on stage is to deliver a message and get someone to do something different. That's different to having a purpose on stage where you want to deliver content purely with the view that they're going to buy something at the end of it. It does sort of leave a bad taste in the mouth there it I know it can be done ethically. I know it can be done well. I think I'm yeah, just still sitting on the fence was

Tom Bailey  04:47

really interesting. And you know, we have seen potentially the overuse of selling from the stage and you come to this free conference where there's eight great keynote speakers but in reality It's eight pitches, and you go home with an empty wallet in a lot of cases, that can be awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing that. So I guess we're talking about where you are today, let's let's take a little look backwards and right to the very beginning, maybe not when you were 12, working on your businesses, or in your bedroom, but What's your earliest memory of having to stand up and deliver a presentation? And how did it go?

Nathan Littleton  05:26

So my earliest memory was a business presentation. And it's where I'd been asked to introduce myself at a networking event. But as part of introducing myself if you could deliver a little bit of value, if you could share a tip with the other people in the room, then that will be great, too. And I remember being pretty, pretty scared, if I'm honest. It seems strange to think now, but then I know a lot of people are in that situation. Don't get me wrong, I still get nervous. Someone told me a few years ago, there are two types of speakers. There's those that are nervous, and there's those that are liars. And I do think that's true. It sounds a little bit flippant, but I think the point is whether the nerves you have when you speak, even if it's just little bits of butterflies in your stomach, whether they manifest themselves, I mean that you you choke up, or you're shaking or something like that, that's very different to the nerves, where you just feel in the in your stomach, and that can turn into adrenaline that can turn into excitement. I was certainly not at that point, when I had to deliver this presentation where all I could feel was fear. I'm, I'm fairly sure the room felt hotter to me than it did to anyone else in the room and imagine any, it was a bit of a struggle. If I'm honest. I was glad it was a short one.

Tom Bailey  06:35

Yeah, good. Yeah. Good. I'm glad. I'm glad that you said that. Because you know, a lot of people who are just starting out on their speaking journey, almost wonder if they'll ever be able to do it. But the fact that you did have those nerves, and you got those feelings of the room heat, you know, maybe hands are shaking, and and now you can stand on stage with confidence. So it's great to know that you have been on that journey. So somebody who's at the start of that journey, might want to ask you the question, you know, what was the one thing that you wish you'd known back then that you know, now when it comes to speaking and presenting? Or another way of asking it is, what's what advice would you've given to a young Nathan?

Nathan Littleton  07:14

I'll give two if that's okay, please. The first is to understand that actually, the audience wants you to do well. The reason they're sat in that audience at that time is because they want to learn something from you, they want to hear something from you, that's going to make them do something different when they leave. Actually, if you flip the mindset that everyone's watching you, and everyone wants you to fail into everyone wants you to do well, they want to learn from you, all of a sudden, your whole body posture can change. And the other one would be to just take two seconds before you open your mouth, to breathe, to just pause, take the room in and then all of a sudden, you're not talking on half a breath. Because that's where the nerves really do start to manifest themselves is where you haven't taken that breath. And you've only got that little bit left to get your first sentence out. And then you're playing catch up all the way through

Tom Bailey  08:01

a love button. You know, your body's already in a position if you've got that fear, whereby it's taking sharp breaths anyway. And so you might as well give yourself that, you know, big gasket back gasp of oxygen, fuel the body if you're the mind. Ready to get started? Yeah, thank you so much, two great pieces of advice. So along the journey, and clearly delivered lots of presentations since then, do you have any big speaking failures that that stand out anything where things just went wrong?

Nathan Littleton  08:34

Yeah, I can think of one in particular that I wouldn't even call speaking, it was actually a very brief foray into stand up comedy. Okay, it will still apply. I was standing on stage, I was delivering something that I wanted the audience to take something from. And in this case, it happened to be laughs. And I think the slight difference with stand up comedy is that every word really counts. So I don't encourage people when they're speaking to learn a script off by heart, I think you need to structure I think you need to know your opening lines and your closing lines. But the bit in the middle, I think you just need an idea of where you're going with it and where you want the path to take. But with stand up comedy, because every word counts, I think you do need to learn it by script, I think you do need to learn every word in every beat. And the issue with that, when it came to one stand up comedy thing that I did was that I forgot my position. And because it was dead scripted, because it was word for word. Because I'd forgotten where I was, I then didn't know where to pick it up. So there was this really awkward pause this really strange moment where the audience were willing me to do well, it was a friendly audience. But also, I didn't know where I was going to go with it. And the only way I could do it, and I could see why this would make logical sense was to actually repeat the sentence I said before to see if I could find the rhythm with it again. And that is what happened. But I felt so embarrassed by it. Yeah. And actually, when I spoke spoke to people afterwards. Did they really notice? I mean, they might have noticed, but did they think it was as big an issue as I did in my head? No, of course not.

Tom Bailey  10:00

Yeah, we blow things out of proportion when all eyes are on us and we were embarrassed or we, you know, feel like people are judging us. Yeah, it just exposed us. And it's a great, great site. You've been through that. And, and it's interesting about the script. So when I started, I've got a bit of a bit of a background with fear and social anxiety, I used to script everything, word for word. And I would not stand up to speak without a predefined script. But watching back, you know, it was very robotic, there was no authenticity. It's almost like I was too perfect. But as speakers, we're humans, and we can say, and we can make a few mistakes, and we can go off piste a little bit, because that's just what happens in conversations anyway. So yeah, great piece of advice. Lots of value. Lots of advice already. What other piece of advice might you give to somebody who wants to really pursue a career in speaking, what speaking of conferences, keynotes, anything like that?

Nathan Littleton  10:58

I'll give two again, if I can, I'm trying to squeeze as much as I possibly can. The first one would be the biggest difference that was made to my speaking ability was the use of stories, and knowing how to create stories that get a message across, not so that it's really it's really tightly structured in the sense that I'll tell a story, I'll make a point, I'll give an example. I think the best stories and the way they used in presentations, tend to be the ones where the message is kind of teased all the way through the story. And then all you have to do is just fill in the blanks at the end of stories absolutely make the difference. And the great thing is, we're talking about scripts, and memorizing speeches, is that stories of things that you already know. So actually, you don't need to scrape them because you've got the gist of the story in your head already. And you will become more authentic, if you do appear as though you are telling a story that is from the heart. And it just makes the message get across so much, so much better than it otherwise would. So stories are absolutely the first one. And I think the second and something that I think I'm still on a journey of and I think everyone is, I don't think you ever really get to the the full crux of it is to find your particular style. And when I first started speaking, I work with a brilliant speaker, coach, she was fantastic. She taught me how to speak how to feel confident onstage, but also how to, I guess deliver in a way where I felt like I will belong to be on that stage. Yeah. And that was an important thing for me to get over that from an early point of view with with being confident onstage. But he did give me a certain style. And the style I'd kind of liken it to is that of a politician. And that's not really me. He did help me to speak, she taught me a way of speaking. But then I needed to, I guess, learn the rules before I could break the rules, and it was breaking the rule. And then I could find my own style. And again, I think the thing I'd liken it to is, I remember someone telling me, oh, you learn to pass your driving test. And then you learn to drive. And I think it's a really similar thing with speaking. You learn how to speak in a certain way that teaches you the basics teaches you how you can stand on a stage with confidence and deliver with confidence. And then you find your own style, you find the stories that will work and the way you deliver them. And the punch lines that once upon a time were improvised, and then their planned improvisation is every time you deliver. That's how you find your style, which you can only really do with stage time. I appreciate. Yeah. But I do think you have to learn to speak first and then find your style.

Tom Bailey  13:27

Yeah, and you made a really good point at the end, that can't be done through theory that has to be done through practice. So just get out there and start speaking, I think is one of the key messages there. So yeah, really appreciate that. And when you think back along your journey, other than having a coach, have there been any other key resources that have really helped you along the way to develop and learn and grow as a speaker? Yeah, so

Nathan Littleton  13:51

you mentioned at the start, I'm national president elect of the professional speaking Association. I've been a member for seven or eight years now, I've been a fellow of the Association for four of those. And it has been probably the biggest difference maker in terms of my speaking business, but also my speaking ability, because I'm surrounded by like minded people who have in many cases been there and done it before me, who understand what it's like to stand on the stage who understand what it's like to deliver a presentation where you want to get value across. But I think more importantly than that, they understand what it is to run a speaking business. There are plenty of places out there where you can go and get stage time, you can learn the craft of speaking the likes of Toastmasters and speaking clubs all around the country and all around the world. I think running a speaking business, doing it as a professional thing is a slightly different thing. It's a slightly different discipline. And I think having people around me that already understood that and could help me could teach me the things that I needed to know that was hugely beneficial. And I've been in the Association for a number of years, obviously now on the board and becoming president elect. I'm still learning every single day I'm learning from other people that are they're both people who have been In the Association for years and people who are coming through just now, and I think it's

Tom Bailey  15:05

incredible. And that's exactly what what I did with the speaking clubs side of it. And, you know, I'd spent two years reading books on public speaking, presenting and realized I still haven't actually done any speaking. So went down to my local speakers club and just being in a room full of supportive, friendly people who were just willing you to get up there and do it was critical for me. And it really helped me get over my fear of public speaking. So absolutely, one to look into. And couple more questions. I think one is quite topical right now. And we're just coming out of a global pandemic, a lot of us were at home, a lot of conferences, events, workshops were shut down. And how did you personally transition during this period from a speaker to potentially a virtual speaker?

Nathan Littleton  15:53

Well, it was an interesting one, because just before the pandemic struck, I was already in a bit of a transition period. And that's because most of my speaking has been around email marketing and marketing for smaller businesses. Yeah. And I was mindful of the fact I wanted to break into for one of a better phrase, the corporate speaking space. So the kind of conferences that I wanted to speak at, weren't necessarily looking for an email marketing Speaker, I'd been recommended because they were looking for a marketing speaker and they said, Hey, maybe give Nathan a try. But no one was going out there necessarily looking for an email marketing speaker, the number of those events wasn't really there. So I wanted to find something that would be more suitable, something that was a bit higher level. And I created a concept called credibility marketing. And I was just trying to deliver that. And then the pandemic strip. Yeah. And at that point, it wasn't something that I really felt fitted to the online space. It wasn't something that I wanted to deliver as a keynote over 40 minutes to a roomful of pictures on Zoom wasn't really the thing I wanted to do. Yeah. So with that, I decided to stick to what I knew. I kept delivering email marketing stuff, I, I changed things, I was offering my own open programs. So rather than obviously just delivering a presentation and getting people to take something from it and do something different, there were more interactive experiences where they were, I would hold their hands through a process of creating a lead magnet or sending their first email newsletter, for example. And they're the ones that are really enjoyable, because I think people did have zoom fatigue. I think just watching the presentation for 40 minutes wasn't quite doing it for people in the way that it was hard when it's just on Zoom. And, yeah, these interactive experiences, the thing that I think carried me through business was a struggle at the start. I did lose clients, obviously lost all the events. My diary. Yeah, like everybody else. And I applaud anyone who did just adapted. So my things in many cases, and just adapted here, yet

Tom Bailey  17:50

had to pivot had to adapt. And, yeah, I love the fact that you found a creative way to still make it engaging, still make it collaborative, even though we were just at home on ASEAN workshops. Great, excellent. And I think we've we've hinted at it, but what's, what's next, in terms of events? Are people going to go back into these huge conference centers is going to be blended? Where do you see the world going in terms of opportunities for speakers and how they'll be interacting with audiences?

Nathan Littleton  18:20

It is really interesting to see, I think, there will be an expectation that hybrid forms should be offered that big conferences in particular, for those people who perhaps can't make it for for the full event, or simply don't want to, because they're now accustomed to the fact that they can watch a conference online, and they're quite happy with that. I think there will be an expectation the hybrid should be offered. But also there are so many people, so many people who want to be back in rooms with people, they want to be shaking hands, they want to be seeing the whites or someone I someone's eyes, rather than just a computer screen. So I don't think live events are going away anytime soon. I think it will be hundreds of years, maybe when we're on interactive holograms that with you, before we get to the point that live events will disappear. And I couldn't be happier with that, you know, I have my first event back in the room after the pandemic in the middle of last year. And it made me realize just how much more I enjoy being on stage than I do delivering in front of the computer screen and the camera. Yeah. For me, for the audience, everything felt better. And I think the more we can embrace that and get people comfortable to getting back in the room. I think the better.

Tom Bailey  19:29

Absolutely. And I think it's some of the conversations that happen in between the sessions and the workshops that that really get a lot of the value in the nuggets of information. So absolutely agree with that. So very, very last question from me. Where can our listeners or our audience connect with you online if they want to find out more about your business, what you do and how you can help them with their marketing as well.

Nathan Littleton  19:56

The best place to connect with me is probably through my website. Nathan Littleton, Cody. Okay, all through links, then there are loads of free resources on my website as well. If you wanted to find out how to use email marketing within your business, how you can get higher open rates from your emails, there's all that good stuff there. And you know what? Let me know that you heard of me through the podcast, and I'd love to connect and chat with you.

Tom Bailey  20:16

Absolutely. I'll drop all of those links into the show notes. People can just click on those and dive right in. So, Nathan, thank you so much again for your time today. I really appreciate you coming along and sharing such great value with our audience.

Nathan Littleton  20:30

Hey, it's great to chat. Thank you.