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How I Became an International Speaker - Alex Staniforth

succeed through speaking tom bailey Dec 21, 2022

Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed Through Speaking, interviews Alex Staniforth.

Alex Staniforth is an expert in overcoming challenges and helping others forge the path. Alex is a record-breaking adventurer, ultra-runner, author and mental health activist. By the age of 27 he has already made two attempts to summit Mount Everest and raised over £100,000 for charities – whilst openly sharing his battles with depression and eating disorders. In 2017 he became the fastest person ever to climb all 100 UK county tops by bicycle, foot and kayak, covering over 5,000 miles in 72 days. In 2020 he co-founded Mind Over Mountains, a charity to restore mental well-being through nature. Despite a lifelong stammer, he is now an international motivational speaker for corporate organisations, conferences and education, inspiring teams to build the resilience and mindset to embrace challenges and protect their well-being. Why settle for Base Camp?

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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 of against now Alex Staniforth, who's a record breaking adventure Ultra runner, author and mental health activist to Alex Hello, and a very warm welcome to today's episode.

Alex Staniforth  00:40

Hi, Tom. Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Tom Bailey  00:42

Awesome. Thank you so much for being here. And just out of interest for me and everyone listening whereabouts are you in the world right now?

Alex Staniforth  00:48

I'm at home in skills No, which is just north of Kendall in the Lake District. So I'm looking out to the hills, and it's not raining for a moment. So yes.

Tom Bailey  00:58

That's amazing, incredible, especially with all of the running and the outdoor adventures that you do. That's the perfect place in the world to live. Thank you so much for sharing. And I know that you're not somebody to shy away from a challenge, and in fact, went from having a lifelong stammer to now being an international motivational speaker. So, for me, I really want to find out about your journey as a speaker from those early beginnings, up to where you are today. So where shall we begin? What's your earliest memory of having to deliver a presentation?

Alex Staniforth  01:29

Good question. It feels like a long time ago, relatively speaking. I'm 27. So probably isn't that long ago. But I've yeah, I've had a stammer ever since I've been able to speak. So speaking in front of an audience or even on the phone has just been a complete nightmare for me. I've, you know, I even smashed up phones at home because I've been unable to say my name or say anything. So it's been a constant challenge. And I still live with that today. I was lucky enough to to be a torchbearer in the Olympics in 2012. And that led me to be invited by my old primary school to go and speak to the students about experience. Suddenly, I had this unique opportunity to talk about now naturally, when they asked me I can see that it would be impossible. How on earth am I going to speak in front of two kids and kids can be a pretty unforgiving audience. Yeah. But I think having that opportunity as a torchbearer has started to make me realize, you know, what happens when we say yes to things, and I started to push myself to go outside of my comfort zone and to embrace all the opportunities that brought. So I said yes, and I was also really terrified. But I turned upon the day in my Olympic torchbearer outfit. And suddenly, I found quite interestingly, but speaking in front of a roomful of people was a lot easier than it would be face to face or on a zoom call on the phone call. But I loved it, I got a buzz out of that. And the thought that I could make a difference in inspiring people was phenomenal. And then I kept on pushing myself, I kept wanting to do more and more of it. And I guess that's the initial spark to where we are today.

Tom Bailey  03:03

I love that. And I guess, it's very much the same with with overcoming lots of different fears and challenges is, we build up this big picture of how it is going to how I'm going to fail, or how I'm going to be embarrassed or how I'm going to make a mess of the whole thing. But until you actually go and do it and try and experience it, you just will never know. So it is worth just getting outside your comfort zone and really pushing yourself isn't it to to achieve that goal.

Alex Staniforth  03:23

Yeah, and I think it doesn't have to be big, you know, I started, I literally threw myself in the deep end, which I have a habit of doing. And yeah, sometimes that's good as you really raise your bar, but it could just be a small event speak in front of a few friends or 10 people, some colleagues, any opportunity, I think it's about taking the first step and playing to your strengths. You know, if you're talking about something you're passionate about, then you're halfway there. Yeah. You know, I don't regret doing that at all, because it's given me the best job in the world.

Tom Bailey  03:52

Excellent. All right. I love that story. And if you think where you are now, and you think back to Alex, on that stage front of 200 students, what's the one piece of advice that you'd give to him right now to help him get prepared for that situation.

Alex Staniforth  04:08

Probably advice that I still use today is to be prepared to practice to not be afraid of showing your authentic self. That doesn't mean telling up and winging it, you know, and that's a mistake that I've made before and don't want to make again, but I think it's about trusting your expertise and the value that you can give to people. The challenging part of being a speaker is sometimes you can't measure or see that you could plant the seed in somebody's mind that won't evolve for many, many years. But I think it's not to underestimate the value you're having. And to, you know, turn up as yourself. I think more recently, I kind of may be falling into the trap of trying to match up to what other speakers are doing and wanting to be as successful and as busy as they are. And it's easy to go off your own path and to you know, not stay in your own lane. So I think don't be afraid to show We really are. And if I if I stand on stage, people can connect and relate to that people want to relate to people to emotions, feelings, not just think, Oh, well, I couldn't possibly do that.

Tom Bailey  05:11

Yeah, that's really important. And, you know, it's not to compare. But when I first thought about becoming a speaker, I had a Midlands, Birmingham accent and I thought, I can't be a public speaker cuz I've got this Birmingham accent not gonna take me seriously. And so I actually went to pay for a vocal coach to try and change my accent, which was the complete wrong thing to do, especially based on that advice there. It's just be yourself, be authentic, be true to your roots. And you know, not everyone has to love you. But a lot of people will as long as you provide him value. Yeah, absolutely. Great. Well, okay, so we've kind of talked about where you were, where it began, and those early days. Now, there's always a transition in the public speakers life is of doing that free talk in front of a school audience or a local club, to then actually get paid to speak. So I guess what was that transition point? Like for you to go from free speaker to a paid speaker? What what happened? And and how did you kind of, how did you get through

Alex Staniforth  06:09

that experience? Interesting point. And I think I can't ever say it was planned. You know, I didn't. It was a goal. But I didn't have a plan. Therefore, it wasn't much use. But it just kind of happened. And I know a lot of speakers will say that, you know, and I guess I've come from a background of not understanding the value of these things. I've always worked in kitchens as a pot washer since I left school to pay for my expeditions and Everest and things. So I think naturally, when I, when I was going to Everest in 2014, you know, naturally, I had this inkling, I had this point of interest, people wanted to hear about it. And they also needed to raise a lot of money in a short time to fund that expedition. And after, after that first school tour, I started being approached by more and more schools to go and speak and I never charged for it until I got an inquiry. Well, I kind of emailed Chester business club just before my every strip, basically asking for some money for my trip. And there was this, you know, lightbulb moment slash moment of the stars aligning where they said that they said to me, well, actually, our speakers just pulled out of our next dinner. Now they have really top level speakers, the likes of RAM finds prime ministers, have Rosie swell Pope, who's now become a huge inspiration friend of mine, and suddenly said, If you come speak for us, we'll we'll pay you, you know, for speaking and for your expedition, brilliant. But obviously, I had to say yes. But suddenly, as you know, as an 18 year old in a suit, I'm turning up to a dinner of 100, like senior business leaders. That's where I met my first coach John, who is still a coach and a good friend. And he taught me everything I needed to know to speak well, and build that kind of early foundation. But yeah, suddenly, when I got offered that much money to speak, what they offered me now is obviously blessing, I would probably accept now. It suddenly the penny dropped. So that oh, this is cool. People pay me to do this. It's like, Can I really add that add that much impact and value, but then you realize how much value a speaker can bring to a business to an organization to an event? I think from then on, you set your baseline. And over the years, as I've hopefully got better, hopefully got more experience, I've been increasing that to hopefully reflect an increase in value. And you have to really be consistent with that, you know, it can seem like a lot of money to people who aren't in the speaking world. But actually, you've got to be consistent and know your worth, because you've got to be, you can't undermine that because it doesn't only under undermined doesn't only undermine our own worth, but also other speakers in the industry. And it is the best, best job in the world to show. Yeah, perfect.

Tom Bailey  08:49

I love that. Thinking of your talks today. Obviously, you've got you've had a lot of experiences, you've done a lot of adventures, you know, you've done a lot of ultra running and mountain mountains in Everest, etc. What, how'd you get balanced, right between between content, storytelling, inspiration, like when you write your talks, how do you get that balance? And is there a science behind it?

Alex Staniforth  09:12

I don't think there's a science there's a lot of practice and a lot of experimentation and, and a process. You know, everybody's different. Everybody has their own approach. And I think also the client needs their own approach. They may want somebody that wants to focus on storytelling and anecdotes as opposed to practical tools and strategies and insights. I guess, as I've got older, more experience I have tried to include include more, you know, practical, actionable tools, as well as just stories and stories connect and inspire. But I think you need to leave people with tools. Those have naturally developed through my challenges that I've learned. I've been doing a lot of research in the areas of resilience and mindset and trying to share some things that I learned as well. But I think people need to be able to need to relate and take things away and I think I do try really hard to put myself in the, in the client's brief in the audience shoes, and how can I connect being on a mountain in a gale in an avalanche in a desert, you know, an earthquake into a business border. So, stories storytelling is is the thread throughout. But I really try and connect that back all the time to challenges that people might be facing into the audience so that they can really take something away.

Tom Bailey  10:23

Yeah, I love that. And I guess when you are thinking about becoming a paid speaker is thinking about how much value can I add to this audience? How much? Can I? What's that one thing that they'll take away to implement in their lives, it's going to have a massive impact for them, as well as the guests, that that's where you can start to increase your prices as well, the more value you can add to that audience. Yeah, sure. Perfect. Well, thank you for sharing all of that so far. And couple more questions. I think one thing for me, that'd be interesting to find out about is advice for somebody. So I've got, I've got people who are afraid of speaking, I've got aspirational speakers, I've got new speakers, I've got experienced speakers, I want to talk to those aspirational and new speakers who may want to one day do this as a career, you know, become a keynote speaker as a career. What's what's the best way for them to kind of go about that? And what's the core piece of advice that you might give to somebody?

Alex Staniforth  11:15

Oh, well, I mean, I have a lot of the same questions, you know, nothing, I've recently realized that I need to play the long game, you know, seven, naturally, with adventures and Everest, I want to aim for the top, I want to be as good as I possibly can be, you know, but I need to, I need to want to be in this for a long time, you know, sharing this, sharing that message and life experience. So I think it's about, I guess, playing the long game, you know, being patient with your progress. And I think knowing your key message, I think it's very easy to be too broad. And at the moment, I'm trying to work out a bit more around, what is that core message, you know, do something you're passionate about. If you're if you're not, then you've kind of already lost, you've got to be something that you can bring know what your core proposition is, and own that space. And I think once you've got that, I think, always focus on delivering value, or making a difference first, if focus on the money, the business, I think you're going to end up going off the wrong path. And maybe I've made the same mistake, I think it's just about knowing the value you can bring. And just to own that space, I think is the best advice I could give really,

Tom Bailey  12:31

yeah, love all that that's so important. And, and it kind of links back to that. And you mentioned earlier as well about having a goal but without plan. So I guess if you are aspiring to become a speaker in the long term, have that as your goal, but you do actually need to create a plan of how you're going to get there as well. So that's really important.

Alex Staniforth  12:47

Definitely, yeah, and I think that plan always changes. You know, the speaking industry has transformed in the last two and a half years alone. And but I think it is that theme around keeping on learning keep speaking to other speakers. Problems, can you solve them? For the world?

Tom Bailey  13:03

Yeah, perfect. Love that. Great. Well, one last question for me today. If anybody wants to book you as a speaker or find out more about you, where's the best place for them to go?

Alex Staniforth  13:10

I'd love to hear from them. And always happy to share any advice for you during the speaking world as well. That's probably my website. I extended drop me an email on there. I'm on all the social media channels, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, you can probably find me quite easily and Yeah, feel free to drop me a line. I'd love to help inspire and help people to face their own challenges. Suppose.

Tom Bailey  13:32

Awesome. Thanks so much, Alex. What I'll do is I'll put a link to all of those links in the show notes. And people can just click on that and they can connect with you a little bit further based on so thank you again, so much for your time today for adding such great value to our audience and also for sharing your story. It's great to be here. Thank you for having me.