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How To Successfully Navigate A Speaking Career - The Mark Denton Story

succeed through speaking tom bailey Mar 23, 2022

Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed Through Speaking, interviews Mark Denton.

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.

International award winning Keynote speaker and Master Executive/Team Coach who specialises in helping individuals, teams and organisations navigate confounding change and deliver breakthrough results

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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 against Mark Denton, who's an international award winning keynote speaker and both a master executive and team coach. So Mark Hello, and a very warm welcome to today's episode.

Mark Denton  00:41

Yeah, very glad to be here, Tom,

Tom Bailey  00:43

so much. Appreciate that. And just out of interest for some of our listeners, especially our global listeners, whereabouts in the world. Are you right now?

Mark Denton  00:51

Right. I'm on the south coast of the UK down near Southampton, which is about an hour south of London or so. But right on the coast, which is where I like to be.

Tom Bailey  01:00

Absolutely. And I think I've seen your talk is all about navigating the storm. So I'm sure we'll talk about that and how it relates to the sea and boats as well, I guess. Yes. So just wanted to share a little bit more about you before we do get started. So Mark specializes in helping individuals, teams and organizations to navigate confounding change and also deliver breakthrough results. I mentioned a second ago that your the talk you deliver is called navigating the storm. And to really kick off this interview, my first question to you is in relation to your journey as a speaker? So is that journey something you feel like you've had to navigate like a storm? Or were you always a naturally born speaker?

Mark Denton  01:40

Yeah, no, I think it is something I've had to navigate. You know, I like speaking. So I suppose that helps in being a speaker, you know, I get a buzz out of it. But I also get a buzz about what people what impact I can have on people and what people take away from my, my particular topic and story. So that also gives me a kick as well. But um, yeah, I've had to navigate it

Tom Bailey  02:06

for sure. Great. And we'll talk a little bit more about your journey in a second with that. And but first of all, the title of this podcast is called succeed through speaking. When you think of that, do you think that speaking is a key part of success? And why is it so important? If so?

Mark Denton  02:23

Well, I think you can be successful in many different fields. You know, I think speakers can have a lot of influence on others. And, you know, from that point of view, I think it's important with success. And certainly, you know, if you need to influence people, you know, depending on what you do, in other words, to convince people to do something, or back to you, or invest in you, or any of those kinds of things, you know, speaking is important. Yeah,

Tom Bailey  02:55

absolutely. So as a, as a business owner, or if you're in a career profession, as a professional, there are going to be opportunities to speak. And I guess the better you are at it, the more likely you are to achieve your goals as well.

Mark Denton  03:07

Yeah, I think, Tom, I think, in any leadership position, you sooner or later, you'll be called upon to stand in front of a group, whether it's your own team, or whether it's others or stakeholders or anything else. So your, you know, your ability to do that. Well, I think I think is a really important skill. But it's certainly not something that comes naturally to so many.

Tom Bailey  03:27

No. And, and we haven't really talked about the start of your journey, whether it came natural to you or not. So if you think back to the very beginning, What's your earliest memory of having to stand up and deliver a presentation? So?

Mark Denton  03:42

Yeah, I mean, when I really got into speaking, was at the end of a great adventure that I just finished, it was actually leading a team in around the world yacht race. And I was sponsored by a big company, and the then finance director of that company came to me at the end of it and said to me, Look, I'm getting all my leaders together. I want you to come and share what you've learned from this, this incredible adventure. And scared the living daylights out of me, quite honestly, because I think my first ever conference was 250 people. And I'd never really spoken in front of any kind of size of audience like that. I think I'd stood up in front of groups before because I'd lead a team in a round the world yacht race, I'd certainly stood up in front of my team and in other forums, but that that was that was a pretty big ask.

Tom Bailey  04:35

Yeah. And, and that first presentation when when you think back, how did it go? It was that did you walk away feeling proud or as you wished it had gone differently? How did you feel?

Mark Denton  04:45

I you know, to be quite honest, I loved it because actually, it went pretty well. And I got a standing ovation. And that was my first ever my first ever speech and there's a couple of reasons for that. I'm not sure it was because it was that Polish So any of that kind of stuff, but I was standing up in front of a kind of a home audience, if you like it was it was leaders from the company that I just, you know, been sponsored by represented. And so I think, you know, the standing ovation was probably give me a bit more of a clap than just for what I said, yeah, it was a real it was a real thrill, you know, when you when you when you do it and do it? Well, Tom, it's, it's a real boss, it can be a real boss. And if you have a real impact on people, and you know, you've kind of shifted minds, you know, that can be enormously satisfying.

Tom Bailey  05:33

Perfect. And I guess anyone listening that? Maybe not, they haven't yet stood up in front of a big audience. They're a little bit nervous about it. Is there any advice you could give to them? Or? Or is it any advice you'd give to yourself when you're just starting out as a young Mark speaking?

Mark Denton  05:49

So what advice would I give people what feel feel the fear and do it anyway? Probably, yeah, Tom, because I think the only way to overcome that fear is, is you know, the only way out is through. And that's a favorite saying of mine. So actually, you know, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and stepping into that space, I think he's is really important. And so just feel the fear, do it anyway. But I think preparation is super key in this. Yeah, you know, the more prepared you are, the better it's going to go. And, and it's as simple as that. So if you are being asked to present it, and the more practice you do, the more preparation you do, the more you think about the structure, the presentation, everything else, you know, the greater your chances of success, I think there's a number of controllables that we can control that can that can really, really help. But yeah, that would be my advice, you know, definitely prepare, but just, you know, sooner or later, you've got to get up and do it. So just get up and do it.

Tom Bailey  06:51

Great. Just as a follow on point, and then a follow on question. So when I first started with this big fear of public speaking, I read every single book on speaking presenting competence, social anxiety, but two years on, I still hadn't actually stood up and spoke. So something I'd wished I'd done back then is actually just push myself a little bounce on a comfort zone, and maybe found an opportunity to stand up and practice some of these skills much earlier in the journey.

Mark Denton  07:17

Yeah, and you know, what we always talk about is, you know, whenever you're trying to do something new, is look for a low risk opportunity. Yes, don't stand up in front of 250 people, you know, try and get some friends and family together, or some colleagues and just stand up in front of them, you know, with the view that you're going to get their practice, but get a bit of feedback at the end about kind of what worked? And what are the even better riffs? Rather than what worked and what didn't? Yeah, what works? And what are the even better ifs for next time? Yeah, I think the only way that you're going to learn is to is to do it. It's kind of one of those things, you can stand in front of the mirror, as long as you like, Tom, sooner or later, you know, what I think what really puts the fear of God in people? Is everybody staring back at them, you know, it looking for divine guidance kind of thing. And, you know, so the only way that you're going to get that is to is to actually retrieve that environment.

Tom Bailey  08:10

Yeah, get used to that feeling. And a lot of the things that come up with apprehension with with new speakers that I speak to is fear of judgment, fear of other people's opinions, fear of what if things go wrong? And but ultimately, you need to sometimes things need to go wrong for you to learn how to handle them in a real life situation.

Mark Denton  08:28

They do. And you know, the inner critic is always a bit of an enemy. For speakers, you know, what's that little voice in your head saying to you? And if it's saying, you know, where, you know, you're not worthy, and you no good, no one's going to be interested in what you're going to say? And what makes you think that, you know, anybody would want to listen to you, you know, none of that is helpful. No. But what we have to do is we have to wake up the nurturing voice, because there is another voice in our heads, and one that's a lot kinder to us and actually say, well, actually, you know, people are going to be interested in what you're going to say, you know, you're absolutely have a right, you know, to be sharing your point of view. And, you know, what's the worst that can go wrong? Tom? Yeah, you know, maybe someone in the audience has a different point of view. But you know, that that's, that's as maybe we're never going to please all the people all the time, that's not a reason not to do it. And so I think we sometimes have to counteract those negative thoughts that are rattling around in our minds and, and counter and analyze them and kind of counter out in the middle there with some more nurturing kind of dialogue. And I think I think mindset is really important when you're going to, you know, stand up in front of a group. Yeah, absolutely.

Tom Bailey  09:35

And just to go back to your point on preparation, so I guess one mistake that I made when I first started out was writing a script word for word line by line, memorizing it word for word line by line and then just effectively reciting it. And I later found out that there was a big mistake. So I guess what's your advice around preparation?

Mark Denton  09:54

Yeah. And so look, I think you could over prepare, and I think that might have been a little bit of prep. Should that. But you know, I'd My advice for your preparation and your levels up. But you know, we don't really want to stand up there and be a robot either. And so we do need to have some bullet points in our mind, there's no doubt about it and maybe even bullet points on a card or something that we can see easily. But yet, we want to try and be as natural as we can at kind of fill in the gaps in between and really, you know, telling a story and telling it from the heart and taking people on a bit of a journey. Really. Yeah, and the more that we can do that without without saying it word for word, reading off the page is a definite no, no for me. Yeah. But even you know, memorizing it parrot fashion, I don't think that's helpful either. I think we need some bullet points to keep us on track. But then I think we need to trust ourselves to fill in the gaps in between.

Tom Bailey  10:49

That's a really good point about trust. And one of my first mentors said to me, questions generate content. So what I mean by that is, you can ask yourself a question on stage, for example, and what happened when we did x? And then effectively, you can talk about what happened when you did X. So by being able to ask yourself great questions on stage out loud, and then answering them that is another great way to generate content.

Mark Denton  11:13

Yeah, and you can probably, you know, even say, so, you know, I can probably guess what you're thinking as an audience right now, you're probably thinking, you know, what did Mark do next or whatever else? And then you could answer that question. So you could easily do do that. And I think there's lots of skills that we can do to, you know, keep us safe up there, and help us through, you know, through our dialogue. But yeah, I just, I also think keeping it simple is a good thing. Yes. I mean, interacting with the audience, and all of those kinds of things is great, too. But I think it takes a bit of skill to do that. And maybe in the early days of presenting, you know, you really just want to put some preparation into thinking about, you know, what's the subject matter all about? Who's the audience what's going to be interesting to them? How can I take them on a journey, you know, what's the beginning and a middle and an end? To, you know, to my, my presentation, because, you know, ultimately, we are trying to take big, dry journey, always think, you know, try and have it like a book or like a film or like a TV program. And, you know, start at the start, you know, taking certain interesting middle and then have a really good conclusion at the end, and you can't really go wrong with

Tom Bailey  12:32

that. Excellent. I love that advice. Keep it simple. Have there been any crap, catastrophic speaking failures for you over the years? Has anything gone wrong?

Mark Denton  12:43

Let me think I mean, you know, I'd love to say, honestly, you know, no, I can't think of anything really catastrophic. Primarily because I'm a bit of a stickler for preparation, like Tom good. You know, I get there early, you know, I soundcheck I make sure my equipments gonna work. You know, the only chemistry things that have happened to me is all of a sudden I've got there and I haven't got the right piece of equipment. Yeah, like I run on a on an Apple MacBook. And apples have these little adapters that you have to plug in, that allows you to connect projectors and all of this kind of stuff. And there's been a couple of occasions where I've turned up and I've been searching through my back. Yeah. And if you can't find that adapter, all of a sudden, you know, I'm kind of stuffed, but I've always managed to get myself out of it. But really by someone else, having the adapter or me being able to transfer my presentation onto someone else's laptop or whatever else. But the crucial thing that stopped me having anything catastrophic is that I am I am there early. Yeah. And I am checking everything and I really got the I's and cross the T's around that.

Tom Bailey  13:57

Great now that's great. A lot of value in there actually around getting there early. Make sure you double check and triple check. You've got all the right equipment. Yeah, yeah. Right and and then have a backup plan as well. If anything does go wrong.

Mark Denton  14:09

Yeah, Tommy just you never want to be setting up in front of everyone else while everybody's waiting for you to speak it will totally unnerve you, if it doesn't work that will totally unnerved you. And my advice is to do everything you can to control the controllables because actually, when you stood in front up in front of people that that's that's a little bit more uncontrollable. So control what you can and what you can't, you're just going to have to, you know, trust your ability to be able to pull

Tom Bailey  14:35

that off. Perfect. So we've had some advice from you for people starting out. That's my advice for you when things might go wrong or how to prevent that. What about people who really want to pursue a career as a paid keynote speaker Do you have any advice for those people?

Mark Denton  14:49

Yeah, you know, I have I have lots of advice for them. But there's there's a few key things I think it's worth really notice that you know, notice My first advice is, if you really want to become a paid keynote speaker, you have to really think about picking your lane. So, you know, what is your specialist subject? And why would anybody want to pay? You, you know, to hear that at the end of the day, speakers that just think that they can be all things to all people and speak on a myriad of topics will never be successful. And actually, to be honest, I'll be surprised if they even get a job, primarily because that's very hard for people to buy. Yeah, they don't know what you speak about, and what value you add, how can they? How can they work out whether whether you're the right speaker for them or not? So you've got to pick your lane. And you know, that lane can come in many different ways. You know, one is it might be your expertise, or it might be you know, who you speak to, like this particular presentation is all about those that are starting out speaking, you know, so you'd want to really think about what what you know, what might be relevant for those people, and you need to be able to, you know, package that so that other people can really understand it and see the value of it. Yeah. So that would be a really important piece of advice. And because there's a, there's 1000s of speakers out there, Tom, but those that are busy, and are getting paid well for what they do. One is they have a clear line to is that they're great storytellers. And they have thought long and hard about how to structure their presentations and make them engaging. And they've, they've often worked on them over years, in order to get them to where they are now. I'm 20 years in. And I'm still, you know, still looking to keep refining what I do. So I think you need to be you know, you know, up for all of that.

Tom Bailey  16:55

Yeah, perfect. That's great advice. big takeaways. Yeah, really, really appreciate that. And the next question is quite topical one. And it's on the back of the 2019 global pandemic, which wiped out keynote and stage speaking. So how did you transition during this period. So

Mark Denton  17:13

you can always see these big things like this as an opportunity or a threat. And you know, what start off with, I thought it was a threat, my diary imploded. You know, and I think if you speak to any speaker, that's what they'll say. But after a while, I actually saw this is a huge opportunity on a couple of fronts. One was to spend time refining my speech. Second thing was to spend time refining my marketing, I did an enormous amount of work on my marketing in lockdown. But the third thing I did was convert to virtual. And so I built a studio here that would allow me to deliver my speech to anyone anywhere in the world, without me even leaving my home. And actually, what that did was open up a massive new market. Because when we're flying around, and fine transatlantic, and those kind of things, actually, you know, what costs the most money is getting us there. So it's almost bigger than your feed top. Actually offering virtual is a really good option. It allows you to beam into any conference or boardroom anywhere in the world, it means that people don't have to travel to, you know, come and listen to you means you can get to much bigger audiences, much bigger target market. And so I put a lot of effort into virtual great, and that was about how do I show up really well in the virtual space. I'm sitting in my studio right now. And this isn't how I would normally present. If I was presented virtual, I have a special way of presenting when I present virtually. So that's what I did.

Tom Bailey  18:49

Great. And do you think that it's here to stay or people desperate to get back into stage speaking, global speaking?

Mark Denton  18:56

Well, you know, we all want to get back on stage because we all love live events, because we'd much rather be speaking in front of a live audience and speaking into a camera, Tom, that is to say, Absolutely, it's here to stay. Yeah, you know, I'm, I've done six this year, and I've got another two coming up this month that with that are all virtual, you know, and there they are beaming out to global audiences and that, you know, that's, that's, that's here to stay. Global conferences are here to stay. It costs a lot of money to move people around, fly, everybody somewhere, put them up in a hotel for two or three days, fly offices in speakers. They can put the same conferences on for the for a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the wear and tear on people. Yeah. And moving them about and a pandemic still going on? Of course. So I don't think virtual speaking is going anywhere anytime soon. I think I think this is another part of what we what we need to be good at doing.

Tom Bailey  19:51

Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that and I've got one final question for you today. If anybody does want to book you as a speaker find out more about you We'll just connect with you online. Well, should they do that?

Mark Denton  20:02

Yeah, www dot Mark is my site, you know, I'd love you to go there. As I sort of put a lot of effort into it during lockdown. There's a great show real great visuals there, you know, really shares what my story is all about. So that's where to go Mark Denton code at UK.

Tom Bailey  20:20

Perfect. And what are the marks? I'll share that in the show notes. People can just click on that and dive right in. So Mark, thank you so much again for your time today. I really appreciate you coming along and sharing your story with our audience.

Mark Denton  20:32

Brilliant, Tom, thanks for inviting me. lovely to be here. I'd love anybody to connect with me on LinkedIn. You know, stay in touch. If I can help in any way you know, do get in touch.

Tom Bailey  20:41

I appreciate that. Thanks again. Thanks, Tom. Cheers.