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How Public Speaking Can Change Lives - The Taz Thornton Story

succeed through speaking tom bailey Apr 11, 2022

Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed Through Speaking, interviews Taz Thornton.

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.

Taz Thornton is an award-winning business and personal empowerment coach, best-selling author and international speaker. She has spoken across the world, at some of the biggest stages and for household name brands.

She has coached two BBC Dragons, actors (Game Of Thrones, Last Tango In Halifax and more), politicians and military tacticians from the Royal Navy, Army, Airforce and Special Forces.

Featured on ITV, BBC, Sky and in media outlets including The Daily Mail, Huff Post, Metro, Yahoo! News, Kindred Spirit, Soul & Spirit, The Stylist, OutNews Global and America Out Loud, Taz regularly impacts thousands of people around the world with her positive messaging.

Taz is the living proof that it is entirely possible to turn our lives around and create the future we want to live, having escaped abuse, broken her back in a suicide attempt and climbed her way back through depression and breakdown. That breakDOWN was Taz’s breakTHROUGH, and ‘The Pink Powerhouse’ now uses her skills and experiences to inspire and motivate people the world over.

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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, I'll be getting to know Taz Thornton, who is an award winning business and personal empowerment coach, a best selling author and of course an international speaker, having spoken on some of the world's biggest stages. So Taz Hello and a very warm welcome to today's episode.

Taz Thornton  00:45

Thank you. Thanks so much for inviting me. I'm looking forward to this. Absolutely.

Tom Bailey  00:49

Thankyou and just out of interest for some of our international listeners whereabouts in the world. Are you right now?

Taz Thornton  00:54

I'm in Lincolnshire, England right now, earlier this morning. I was in reading. I've been to an award ceremony last night and I got back in probably about an hour ago.

Tom Bailey  01:03

Okay. And you're ready to go. So that's great. Yeah, brilliant. And let's just share a little bit more about you before we do get started. So Taz has coached to BBC dragons, actors and politicians. She's been featured on ITV, BBC, Sky and other leading media outlets, and is living proof that it's entirely possible to turn your life around and create the future you want to live. So Taz I know that you're currently using public speaking in many forms to inspire and motivate people all over the world. I'd love to know, were you always naturally competent public speaker? Or is it something you'd had to work on?

Taz Thornton  01:39

It's something I've chosen to work on. And I'm naturally quite an introvert. But when life threw me lots of challenges, and I went beyond the the time where I was trying to escape from life. And thank goodness, I failed in those checkout attempts, my goodness, I, I chose to turn those experiences into something that could mean life or it could mean something for other people who were also on that precipice and was thinking maybe life wasn't for them. So I started there. And it got to the point where I felt my sole mission, if you like, was bigger than me to help to inspire, to motivate to support others as much as possible. And because that mission was so much bigger than than little old me, I needed to get over myself. And that meant that I needed to get used to speaking in front of bigger audiences, because I can't get that message out to the people that I believe and I'm here to get it out to if they don't know why I exist. So the best way to be as successful as I possibly can with that thing I call my sole mission is to get to bigger and bigger audiences. Now, of course, some of that's online, the world of social media opens up so many opportunities for us. But it also means stepping out on onto a stage. And actually, I find smaller audiences can be more intimidating than big auditoriums. Yeah, yeah.

Tom Bailey  03:13

I mean, what what powerful comparison to say, you know, I've got this maybe slight fear of embarrassing myself versus I couldn't save lives through the power of my message, it really does make the small fear that little voice inside your head insignificant compared to the impact that you can have in the world.

Taz Thornton  03:31

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm still the person if I'm dropped into the middle of a social situation or party or a barbecue, I'm still the person hiding in the kitchen can come and go yet have enough people seem to say, can we escape now. But I've, I've conditioned myself enough now that if I go into a room, and I have a purpose, I'm going to be the speaker at this event? Yeah, you know, I'll be standing tall, and I will be feeling full of confidence. Because I have that purpose. And I know why I'm there. And I think for the kind of introverts watching and those who have those, those those fears, and those nerves and those anxieties around speaking, that's something that's that I found is a really useful message to pass on that if you do get to the point where you have a strong enough message, when you work in walking with a purpose. And you know, you have that message that can override the anxieties, the stresses, the fears, the worries. And again, you know, people will see me on the stage and assume that I'm full of confidence. Yes, in that situation, because I've conditioned myself for that situation. But social situations, I'm still full of social anxiety, I'll still be trying to hide behind it. You have lots of whatever's in it.

Tom Bailey  04:43

I can absolutely resonate with that. And we'll probably dive into that in a little bit more detail. But then the next question for me is around the power of public speaking. So I call this podcast succeed through speaking and that's really to help motivate people to realize the power of that. So How do you think public speaking can help people to succeed in life and in business?

Taz Thornton  05:07

The thing in fact, if I'm, if I'm sitting in my own company, I can, I'm gonna, I actually I don't procrastinate much now, but I used to, we can procrastinate, we can get lost in our thoughts. We can do all kinds of things to delay the inevitable whatever that inevitable might be. When you're standing on a stage in front of 10s, hundreds 1000s However, many people who are waiting for you to lead them, you can't procrastinate. You can't just stand there or freeze. You can't just go make yourself a cuppa and put it off for a little bit more, you can all just check tick tock, well, you can but you wouldn't be invited back to that stage. You've got people who are there who are hungry, who are waiting for you to inspire them and to lead them in some way. And that's a really important point to remember too, that when you step into the place of being a speaker, you are stepping into a place of leadership. You can't dilly dally or faff about if someone is waiting for you to lead. So I think that's one of the greatest skills is it forces you to learn to think on your feet and to not just be reactive, but responsive and to start planning a little way ahead? So I'll be scanning the audience before I've even started to speak and starting to kind of this might sound a little bit woowoo, but kind of starting to intuitively tune in and go what's needed here? Yeah, who's who's going to be the one in this audience that that's going to sit with their arms folded and not want to engage? How do I crap that person because if I get that person smile, by default, I've got everyone. So it forces us to act, it forces us to really understand how quickly we can respond. It teaches us to have little stories and gems up our sleeves. It teaches us to read our audience to read the room, it teaches us to learn not to script, I never speak to script, I'll always have kind of some bullet points I'll always speak to whoever the organizer is, what is it you want me to create for this audience? What do you want the transformation to be? What do you want them to be walking out thinking? What do you want to change, and I'll hold that in mind. But one of the ingredients, the agreements I always insist on is right, you give me these parameters. But I will not script, these are some of the points I will cover. But you need to trust me to be able to work with that audience to pull out of them and to give to them, whatever is going to generate the the change the transformation that they need. So it teaches you to do all of that as well, it teaches you to read people on mass. And to trust yourself. If a thought pops into my head, of course, there's a little bit of a sense check that goes on first. But if I get a really strong feeling or a thought something that needs to get out there, nine times out of 10 I'll do it whoever whoever, whatever that is that's feeding stuff to me. They probably know more than I do. So just go with it. So I think that's the number one it teaches you to trust your intuition.

Tom Bailey  07:59

I love all of that so much great value in there's a couple things I just want to pick up on. I think first is that reading the room, and second is around scripting. So to that first point, I think it's really important what you said about looking around the room trying to tune in trying to think about who can I help because turn that spotlight away from yourself out to the audience is one of the best ways actually to get over that fear of what if I embarrassment myself? So I think that's me to serve them? Yeah, serve them add value. So that's a really, really great conduit as a speaker. Yes. Yeah, the message comes flows through us to them. And I guess the second point is around scripting. So I had big fear of public speaking this desire to be perfect, because I don't want to make embarrassing. So yeah, I used to script word for word, spend three or four weeks memorizing it every night stressing over it. And when I delivered it, it was robotic and millimeter perfect. But if I forgot one word, it just threw the whole thing out. So yeah, I think it's so important that you just don't script.

Taz Thornton  08:58

There's a couple of points I bring up there. Number one, perfection, we need to recognize that actually there's no such thing as perfection. And we know there's no such thing as perfection, because whenever we put a piece of work out even if it's a social media post, and we think that spot on, that's perfect. You read that back a week later, and you'll go Oh, wish you'd said that or that oh, so perfect isn't moving, fix it. There's no such thing. So perfectionism is really just a publicly acceptable term for procrastination, which is the publicly acceptable term for making excuses not doing stuff. Yeah. Yeah. The other point and you hit this beautifully. I remember one of the things I've done, I've done three TED talks now and I remember one of those talks. And one of the speakers we had to get had to stop and partway through because of course with the TED talk, it's essentially a live filming studio. And some of the tech hadn't worked. Yeah. So they had to pause the speaker partway through and then they reset and when the feedback came back for that event. Everything was great, except a lot of people complained about the fact that this speaker then delivered exactly the same thing. Perfect pitch spot on. And they felt that it was over rehearsed. Yes. And the other thing I would say to that is to anyone watching who who's ever been to a networking meeting or go to networking regularly? How often do we see somebody turn up and they always deliver exactly the same pitch? Now what I've some trainers will say, that's the right thing to do. But for me, I switch off paper. Yeah, for me, if I'm going into a room and in a networking scenario, I'll be looking around and saying, and thinking, Who do I need to connect with today who might not want to work with you? Can I help? Who can I serve, and I will create my pitch, not really a pitch as it is, I will create my service statement to connect with those individuals. And it's always going to be different when someone always delivers the same thing. And it's rote. We switch off, we don't. And also it eventually gives that air of oh my god, boring. And they're not saying anything different. Or they know more than this statement. You know, so. And it's easier to if you can, if you can find the courage to ditch the script. And I train a lot of people to speak to. And I remember one of the one of the women I've been training to speak, the script is like a comfort blanket. You remember dumbbells magic feather? That's what the script is. Yeah. And she stood there in this event. And I watched her speaking and she had her script in her hands. And she did not look at it once. She didn't stick to it. She didn't look at it. She didn't read from it. And at the end, I walked up and said, Give me your script. And I tore it up in front of her. And she was,

Tom Bailey  11:42

yeah, panic. times did you look at that?

Taz Thornton  11:45

Oh, I didn't. And it's so much better, your audience will connect with you so much more. If you just speak from your heart. And it's one of the reasons, I always tell people to only speak about topics that you know, inside and out that you have a real passion for that. It's your drive, it's your story. Or it's something that you are intimately connected with a know inside and out. If you only speak about things that you know, or you've experienced, we don't need a script D because you know the story, speak from your heart, take your heart, follow your heart and take your brain with you as the saying goes, Yeah, speak from your heart, drop the script, and you will find people will follow you far more readily. Yeah,

Tom Bailey  12:27

really, really important. So thanks for all of that. And so just take you back to the very beginning. Just a second. So what was your earliest memory of having to stand up and deliver a presentation? And how did it go?

Taz Thornton  12:38

Well, I could say you're right back to English lessons at school, we used to do those presentations. But as a grown up, um, before I became a full time coach, speaker and trainer, and author and all that jazz. I was in publishing, and I was editor for various different magazines, some, some consumer, some business. And particularly when I was on the business to business circuit, we used to hold these big black tie awards events, but not all one was out last night, it's come full circle. And I'd be tasked with scripting them. And I'd sometimes have to stand up and present. And I remember the first time I was told about I don't know, well, about a week before the event. Oh, actually, you're not just scripting this. You're you're presenting this alongside the celebrity compare. Well, I beg your pardon. Sorry. Yeah. And we're talking Park Lane hotel, hundreds of people. And I did it. And it was okay. But I made every school girl error in the book. I've got everything going around in my head, pitch it properly. Don't speak too quickly. Don't speak too slowly, I realized I was speaking too quickly, to slow down. And I started slowing and leaving lots of pauses to people congratulated me afterwards. And I didn't know how well I don't I have no idea. Because when you're in it at first, you know, now I get off off a stage and I'll give myself score myself out of 10 and work out what I could have done better. Yeah, at the time when you first start doing it. I'm sure you'll you'll you'll relate to this time at no idea how I did how I did it was just oh, we're just doing it? Yeah. Well, this was it was way back in the days of the Internet was only just starting to come onto everybody's desktop back then. And somebody was streaming it out to a website, which was so high tech that my goodness, real video went to a website, really. And I forced myself to watch it back. And it was painful. But I watched that video with all the speeding up and the slowing down and the overly dramatic pauses so many times. It was my best training ground. So I would say that to people to so many people. I'm like, Oh no, we don't watch myself back. I hate the sound of my own voice will say Yeah, well that's just because when when we speak when we're speaking it out loud. It's vibrating through all the different bones in our heads and in our ears. And when we hear it back, it's going went through a different set of buttons. Yeah, so it sounds different. That's all it is. Yeah, get yourself over that one. And if you can record yourself speaking, not just in your bedroom, when you have a gig, even if in the early days, I used to set my phone up at the back of the room on a little 20 quid tripod from Amazon, and leave it there, record the whole thing and force yourself to keep watching it back. It's the best way to learn, if you're not going to go and have professional training, even if you have had professional training. do that anyway, because other people will give you feedback. But the best feedback is going to be the recording. And you can learn so much from that

Tom Bailey  15:36

perfect, perfect, great piece of advice for people just starting out at the very beginning. So let's take a look at the other end then. So let's say someone's listening, and they've done a little bit of public speaking, they've they've got the book. And and they want to move to this space of actually getting paid to speak keynote, speaking speaking on the international stage. What advice would you give to somebody who wants to make that transition?

Taz Thornton  15:56

Number one, you've got to build your visibility. Yep. Number two, you've got to build your visibility. Yeah, three, guess what's coming, you got to build visibility. You've got to get out there on social media, you've got to show up, you've got to build. So many people talk about building an audience. But for me, what's more important is building your tribe. And the way I describe this is, your audience is everyone who knows you exist, everyone whose feed you pop up on, that's your audience, if you look at that as pie chart, which is why I'm making lots of big round gesticulations Yeah, there'll be a tiny slice of that, who are people who hang on to your every word are becoming your advocates, and are ready to buy whatever you put out there to recommend you. And who just thinks the sun should think the sun shines out of your whatsit, you know, that's your tribe. So and that, that that percentage in terms of that pie chart, I reckon always stays the same. But as you grow your audience, the percentage stays the same, but the numbers grow on it. So you need to be showing up, you know, you also need to be really clear about what it is. What's your message? Who Who do you serve? Who is that message for? What's the difference that it's going to make? What's the point of your talk? How are you different to everyone else? And who do you want to be speaking for who are the businesses you want to be speaking for, which are the shows or events you need to be speaking at, and you need to start making those connections in the right way. Another thing I would say is never ever, ever, ever, ever pay to speak. I think because there are so many people now who've realized, as you said a few minutes ago who get the bug for speaking it is it is as addictive as tattoos to get the bug for speaking. And because that's out there so much. And because there are so many new speakers who are essentially desperate for assets, they need the pictures, they need testimonials, they need a show reel. And so there's this big industry now growing up around charging people to speak. Yeah. But the more you buy into that, the more you decimate your future as a speaker, because who on earth is going to pay you to speak long term, when there are so many of us who are saying yes, I'll pay to get on that stage. And flip that round in another way. When you become a professional speaker, and if you're getting to the point where you're wanting to be paid for gigs, you are getting your pro speaker. That's your work. Can you think of any other scenario where you would pay someone to allow them to work for you? No, it's crazy. So don't pay to speak, create your own opportunities. And right back at the beginning, my goodness, right back at the beginning, when I was starting to speak as me rather than for some of the corporates I'd worked for before, I was showing up to the opening of an envelope, you know, showing up everywhere. If you're on the networking circuit, and you're doing the little talks and at the networking events, treat them as a full on speaking gig. And afterwards, you know, take note of who's at that event, go to them on LinkedIn and ask them all to give you a testimonial for your speaking. You're gonna build that way. grab every opportunity speak everywhere you can and get someone sitting in that room picking up your car, even if it's usually camera phone and taking shots. Yeah, teach them the angles, teach them where you want the shots from have them walking behind you. So they get that famous shot from the back of your head in the audience in front of you. One from the back of the room. And when you're lining up the photos for goodness sake, if there are empty chairs, take them out of the shot. Yes, because you're in an auditorium with 5000 people but on your on your video and your photos. There's five empty seats at the front. It looks pants. Yeah. And if you're if you're somewhere with fixed seats, I've been known to refuse to start until people from the back of unfilled seats at the front. And I'll turn that into part of the talk. And then I'll teach them why. I literally go into look guys, anybody here who wants to be doing what I'm doing one day. This is why I've done this you can have this piece of advice for free because empty seats look rubbish on your marketing picks. Yeah. All of that.

Tom Bailey  19:56

Love it. Yeah, there's so much in there. I can't even reframe that. So what I'll do is I'll just add all that in the show notes. People just have that great advice. But yeah, that's been great. Thank you. I think one one last question. Just because very topical at the minute is around this whole thing called the global pandemic that happened in 2020. It switched off speaking as such, you know, in person at events and conferences. How did you transition during that period?

Taz Thornton  20:24

Online, all over the world during lockdown, it was great. You know, it could be in the US one minute and United Arab Emirates the next year. So the downside to that, of course, is that it doesn't look as good to get a screenshot sent to us to have you actually on a stage. The great thing about the pandemic is and the lock downs, of course, is that there were occasional Windows between the various lock downs, and I did do some speaking in between those times. It was weird. I speak into a roomful of masks with me at the front. You know, you don't need to wear a mask. You're the speaker. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, but use them all as assets, even with online gigs, get get the testimonials. And again, because it's global. It's great. I think, I think now we're coming out of that. I suspect some of the speaking gigs will remain online. Rather than opportunities dying. I think it might expand them, but we'll be doing things differently. So you know, my speaker training retreats, were the ones I usually run to a year and in lockdown around one through all of them. And it was postponed. So many times. I haven't even set dates for the next one. Yeah, because I'm a little bit nervous about what they might do again, ya know? But there, is there still a hunger for live events. Yeah, I've got. Am I as busy now, as I was before locked down with in person events? No, I think I've probably got four or five lined up for this year, as far. Yeah. But I'm being asked to speak online regularly. So remember that two guys that just because you speaking online, it doesn't mean you shouldn't be paid for it? Yeah. You will have some gigs where they don't pay. A lot of the business shows, for instance, don't pay, but they won't expect you to pay them anything. Some do. Some will try and sell you a standard package. We all start saying No, they'll have to stop doing that. Yeah, there are some events where I'll still go and speak for free because I know the return from the audience were more than balanced that which takes me on to one quick other point, selling from stage I don't do it. I hate it. Yeah. And for me, if I, if I serve my audience, powerfully enough hyphen deliberately, it's about, it's not about being powerful and having power over them. It's about being in your own power, powerful. If I serve my audience power fully enough, they will seek me out and they will come and ask to do work with me. Yeah, I don't need people to be sitting down and then me to be pushing stuff out there. We'll try and try and to get people onto our free webinar, which of course is only going to be an upsell. Yeah, I want people to genuinely feel that I've changed something for them and come to want to be with me afterwards, on that basis, rather than me selling myself.

Tom Bailey  23:17

Yeah, yeah, really, really important. And it may well be the first touch point you've had with that audience member and that public speaking, there should be several touch points before a sale happens anyway, to build that know, like and trust factor. So

Taz Thornton  23:29

but if you're doing your social media regularly and showing up enough, you won't even realize you've had half of those, those touch points, people will come to you and your thing you don't know them. Yeah, they've been stalking you for so long. Yeah, you've been touching them all over for years. So that can bypass the system quite beautifully.

Tom Bailey  23:46

Yeah. Now for those people listening, you're about to see this but in the video, we can see lots of books behind you, Taz. So for anyone listening, where can they get in touch with you? You know what your books you've got? What are your websites? Where can people reach out and connect with you?

Taz Thornton  24:01

Touch I'm on pretty much every social channel you can find you can find me there. Apart from Snapchat, I'm there but I don't look. Everywhere else. If you find me on a social media channel and active on ping me a message I might not look at it. So straightaway sometimes my team will see at first, but I will always go and read everyone and respond appropriately when I can. You can email me through the website too. You can find me on Amazon all my stuff there. And in all good bookshops. Yeah, just get in touch. And I promise I'll read it. I got excellent. Always be an immediate response. But a welcome back to you.

Tom Bailey  24:34

Thank you so much for what I'll do is I'll put all of those links into the show notes as well. So people can just click on them and connect with you and you know, go from there.

Taz Thornton  24:42

Thanks so much.

Tom Bailey  24:43

Thank you so much again for your time today. I really appreciate you coming along and sharing loads of great value with our audience

Taz Thornton  24:48

today. Thank you. Thanks for inviting me. It's been a pleasure.