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How To Stand Out Using Public Speaking - The Allister Frost Story

succeed through speaking tom bailey Jun 10, 2022

Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed Through Speaking, interviews Allister Frost.

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.

Allister Frost is a keynote speaker, digital marketing pioneer, and future of business expert. A former Microsoft leader, he inspires audiences to embrace change with positivity, so they will thrive in our technology-driven world. His mantra is "Catch up, keep up, and never ever give up."

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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 Allister Frost, who is a keynote speaker, digital marketing pioneer and future of business expert. So Alistair Hello, and a very warm welcome to today's episode.

Allister Frost  00:40

Hello, Tom, thank you for having me.

Tom Bailey  00:42

Thank you so much for being here and just out of interest whereabouts are you in the world right now

Allister Frost  00:46

I'm in Godstone, which is a little little suburb off the M 25. Just on the bottom, the six o'clock on the M 25 Wheel of misery that we all will have misery.

Tom Bailey  00:58

Thanks for sharing. And we'll just share a little bit more about you before we do get started. So Allison is a former Microsoft leader and inspires his audiences to embrace change with positivity so that they can thrive in our technology driven world. His mantra is catch up, keep up and never give up. And Alister, given you've got that mantra and given a topic today is public speaking, I want you to know, that topic of never giving up how has that played out in your public speaking career?

Allister Frost  01:28

I think it was a good place to start, isn't it? Yeah, it's it's a tough industry. I'll be honest, you know, and I think it's quite right, that the body is naturally nervous and anxious about this whole being on stage be in front of people sharing an opinion thing, and you get a lot of knocks, you have to be pretty thick skinned, and you're gonna have a great deal of self belief, I think. So yeah. Never giving up in the speaking industry is key. I mean, but by the same token, also, you've got to be smart enough not to flog a dead horse, you know, sometimes, there may be topics, there may be an approach that you develop, that just doesn't work. And you've got to have the flexibility to say, Okay, I'm open to learning. I'll try something new. So yeah.

Tom Bailey  02:16

Thanks. Thanks so much for that and just out of interest. So, I mean, how important do you think public speaking has been in your career to date, I

Allister Frost  02:24

think I think it's been, it's quite valuable. I spent 20 years in the corporate world first, in the corporate world, where speaking helped me, it gave me an opportunity to stand out because there's a sea of individuals, there's lots of people in the company. And there's not many who are actually prepared to put themselves forward and to put on a show, I suppose. So by having the confidence to do that, that allows you to stand out in the corporate world. And of course, that opens doors. And particularly at Microsoft, it was wonderful, because I got to go to big events, I got to stand on stage and do some important stuff. And I also got to host my own events, because I was prepared to be the host and bring in speakers and do stuff like that. And I suppose that's what gave me the confidence and say, Okay, actually, I wonder if I can make a living just showing off on stage?

Tom Bailey  03:11

Yeah, yeah. Awesome. And I think when I was in the corporate world, we used to talk about performance image. And exposure is three of the big drivers for your career. And, you know, you can perform well in your role. But if you don't have a great image, personal brand, and you don't have exposure to the leaders and the influence in the company, it's really hard to really progress your career. So speaking allows you to

Allister Frost  03:29

do that. It does, you've got to put yourself out there. Excellent. Yeah,

Tom Bailey  03:32

I completely agree. And we've talked about, I guess, the benefits public speaking and and where it's led you today, but let's just go back to the very beginning. And what was your earliest, earliest memory of having to stand up and deliver a presentation?

Allister Frost  03:49

Obviously, I Well, I went through university, so it was a bit of it there. But frankly, there was pretty shambolic. Yeah, earliest memory. This is how old I am. I was at Kimberly Clark, graduate trainee. And I had to go on a two day training course to learn how to use wait for an overhead projector. Wow. Yeah, remember those things? I do. And there was a, there was a, there were a couple of guys who came in and taught us how to use this thing. Because it's newfangled bit of equipment, if you could print slides in those days, imagine that. And actually, it was really beautiful. It was almost like ballet, they have this performance thing where you could put put slide it on, then slide it off, and it was quite a lot of theater was involved in doing it. But part of that was not just how to use the plumbing machine. It was also about how to hold yourself in front of the stage and in front of other people. And then from there, I suppose I moved on, you know, I did digital days at Microsoft. So then I was actually running the thing and these days, I get booked to turn up and do a turn big events and conferences.

Tom Bailey  04:45

I love it. And when you think back you know you mentioned shambolic in terms of your early days of presenting what was their initial fear was the initial you know anxiety when it came to speaking or you're always quite naturally confident person?

Allister Frost  04:56

No, I distinctly remember by being utterly terrified, yes. And the first time I had a video playback of me doing a thing I've just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. I was I looked awful, I sounded terrible, what whose voice was that? And nothing made sense to me. And it takes it took a while to get my head around the fact that the way we see ourselves internally is not the way other people see us perceive us externally. There are two parts of that. And actually, you need to work on the external perception because that's what the rest of the world gets to see. And I remember being utterly terrified. And it took a lot of confidence to get back on the horse, if I can use that example. And go again, but I'm glad I did. So I would say if there's anybody who's not had any presentation training at all, do try to get yourself on a on a decent course, where you can just be in front of a few people have a camera rolling, look at the tape and dissect it and pick it apart. Because there's, there's so much progress you make in those first early days. Yes, extraordinary. Earning gets much harder after that, because you once you've mastered the basics, you then move on to the more advanced, that's certainly

Tom Bailey  06:07

that's a really good point. One of the mistakes I made when I first started out had a big fear of public speaking social anxiety, I bought every single book on public speaking, presenting competence, self esteem, took two years to read them all and, and still hadn't actually done any presenting. So I think to your point there, you need to actually get out there, do it, get some feedback and and just learn through doing it. I think it's a really good point, you

Allister Frost  06:28

need to get out there and do it. But the other thing I remember realizing was when when you in the early days of training, they used to say to you imagine your audience isn't there and they say daft things like imagine nobody, they're all naked. You're sort of like you're, you're in control, and they're all naked. And that's really unhelpful, because actually you are there for the audience at the end of the day. And he the thing that I had to learn to do was to forget myself, forget my inhibitions, my worries, my self perspective, and be there for the audience and do something that was going to make their day really good. And the minute I did that, I started to enjoy the smell of the audience, you know, the noise of the people before the rustle, and it's like, right there here, I can actually do my thing without them. I can't. Yeah. And that that really helped me to get myself a bit, which they don't teach you when you begin. It's all about me, me, me. And actually just do something for somebody else.

Tom Bailey  07:20

Yeah, really good point we focus on where am I looking what my hands doing, you know, what's my voice doing? But in reality, if you're not adding value to the audience, that's where your focus should be. So it takes the spotlight off you. We've talked about some tips and advice and value there for the for the beginning days. What's What's the one thing that you'd wished you'd known back then like, what advice would you give to a young Alice to just walk out in front of his first audience?

Allister Frost  07:47

Well, I think I would go back to that last point just made, it's not about me, it's about the audience. But also, honestly, the other thing that you have to remind yourself, when you're when you start out, you think everybody's watching everybody's seeing those weird verbal vocal tics, you've gotten that thing you do with your hand. Yeah, and the way you've put tabs and all that stuff that they train you not to do. But the truth is, the old, nobody cares. Nobody cares about any of that stuff. They just want to be entertained, they just want to, they want you to do well, they want to hear something interesting. But nobody has. And I started presenting in business, like the 1640s, or something with an overhead projector. And we didn't have smartphones, and all these other distractions and things those days. So they were kind of captive. Now there's a, there's a bajillion things that you could do, other than listen to the speaker, so they don't really care. So you've got to work very, very hard to get their attention and to hold their attention. And, and that's about putting the audience first having them in mind. And I think as times gone by, particularly as we've gone through the pandemic, and so now the other side, giving a talk is about entertainment, it's not a lecture, there's a huge difference between a presenter, who's got some slides and can kind of talk you through them. And a speaker, and a speaker will go on to entertain, they will have a narrative, they will have a flow, they will think through the highs and lows, they will think about the wow moment. They've got a big ending, you know, it's, it's a performance. Yeah. And, and I didn't realize that, that in the early days, and I was just presenting for many, many years, and that's a good place to start. It really is if you can get good at presenting, then you'll start to think, oh, hang on, I wonder if I could do something a bit different here. Maybe I could actually be a bit more of myself and then then then your true personality will come through.

Tom Bailey  09:35

Yeah, and I think a lot of that a lot of the mistake that a lot of presenters fall into is trying to get lots of information from from them into the heads of the audience, but the reality is they're only going to remember probably 10 or 15% of that. So just just give them that 10 15% And the rest of that should be stories, analogies, you know, your credibility, if humor if you have to just all those Things that wrap around that core message to make it really memorable. I think that's

Allister Frost  10:03

really people remember the whale moments or remember how they felt, and we'll talk about that funny story or that he pulled here, they're not going to talk about bullet three on slide 17. And that's, that's, that's quite a hard thing for a lot of people to get through. Because they think when I'm giving a talk, I will get credibility if I impart lots of information. The truth is, the best thing you can do as a speaker is to give is to really the hard part of the job actually is, what are the three things that I need to say, and what 674 I can ignore? Yeah, and once you found those three things, you can really deliver those. Well, if people leave remembering one of those three things, you've done an amazing job. Yeah. And that's, and that's what and when you realize that that's why it's so hard to be a great speaker. And it's so hard to do a short talk, like a TED talk, for example, compared to an hour on stage is really easy. You just go on and ramble and blah, blah, and you know, you can go on forever. Someone gives you 10 minutes to deliver a talk. That's one of the hardest things you'll ever do. Yeah, you need to have that sort of mindset, I think. Because then you'll start realizing how, how could I go on stage deliver? Whatever I've got, and actually land one thing really well?

Tom Bailey  11:15

Yeah, really important. Totally different talk. Yeah, absolutely. And we've talked already about learning from mistakes and getting out there and actually just doing the thing, and have there been any big speaking failures, big mistakes that you've learned from along the way.

Allister Frost  11:32

I think one of the tough lessons I had, just, just before all the pandemic craziness, I was booked for a very large financial services organization, they had 1000s of employees, but they would sort of bring in about 300 at a time. And I had to do the same talk to these people each time. And it took several weeks, probably over a month to do this thing. Yeah, it was a bit of a road show. And I'll be honest, it kind of became a day job. It became almost like I was on autopilot. Yeah. And I lost that edge. I lost the nerves. I was complacent, bit cocky. Yeah, I knew I knew that gave me tamer at the back of their noses, like, Yeah, sort of sitting there, you know, having a chat with them two seconds before going on. And there was one particular delivery there. And I was doing all the thing I was landing all my jokes, or, you know, I had all the stories and stuff. I was getting nothing back from the audience. And that's a horrible feeling. And it was because I got complacent. So fight as much as you can to enjoy that feeling of terror, that feeling of I am anxious, you need the adrenaline you need that buzz, because the minute it goes, actually, it's a lot worse. So that was a really tough lesson for me to learn. And I had to really pull my socks up after that, because I thought, I can't do another delivery like that. So frightened myself by changing a few things and putting myself on edge.

Tom Bailey  12:50

That's a great lesson. Because ultimately, a lot of the people that I speak to in the early days of becoming a speaker is that all they want us to remove that fear or they want us to get rid of that apprehension. But you know, what you're saying is actually know that that adrenaline that apprehension is what keeps you performing well, and you know, use it.

Allister Frost  13:08

It's also the complacency is also a symptom of over preparation. Now, this may sound strange, but if you're over prepared, over rehearsed, if you've spent too long thinking about it, you can actually go to the other end, and then it's become slightly robotic. So it is about finding the sweet spot what works for you find that thing, where you're, you're confident you can land it, but you're on edge, you'd have to go wrong, and actually is that adrenaline that will allow you through, and there'll be the best speeches of your life.

Tom Bailey  13:38

Love that. And just to bring that to life, I guess from my own example is my way of controlling my fear was to memorize my script word for word, and bring the script with me on stage as a compliment kit and basically just recite it to the audience and huge mistake, because it was robotic. It wasn't authentic, it wasn't me. It's okay, if you say a little bit and make a few mistakes, you know, because that's what humans do. And it makes you more real, I guess.

Allister Frost  14:04

Yeah, and, and I think that the thing that I've, I've done a couple of times where I've taken notes on because I've got new material, I'm not really with it, the client was paying me to do a talk and if people can see your workings, that's what it's kind of like you can see you've got the script, it just doesn't feel like you're with them doing you're just reading something out. And that's the same thing as if you're reading from the slides behind you, you know, people can see your workings. So don't do that hide those away. Find a way you can brighten your hand you can do all sorts of things. You can have a little note on the lectern if you've got one but don't don't give the audience the impression that you're just going through something that you know could have been done anyway because if that's the case, you might want to just record it and watch it on YouTube and stay down Yeah,

Tom Bailey  14:49

yeah, yeah put put honestly, it's almost like going to go into a theater production and all the actors on stage have got bullet points and and now it's it just won't feel real it so yeah,

Allister Frost  14:58

that's great that people want to be there. They want to be in them. homerun with you. Yeah,

Tom Bailey  15:01

yeah. With you being present? Absolutely. Okay, great. So I guess we've talked about those who are just starting out as speakers, they want to figure this out and try and understand their nerves and start to do this. And what about the other end of the scale? What about those people who have started speaking, they're starting to feel confident, they really want to get paid as a keynote speaker, what what advice would you give to them?

Allister Frost  15:24

It is a tough industry, I'm not gonna lie. If you go on LinkedIn, and search for a keynote speaker, there's hundreds of 1000s of everyone's a speaker, you literally put it on your CV and your speaker, anyone can, anyone with a power of speech can be a speaker, you're not really a speaker until such time as you've got good recurring revenue and references from previous jobs. So I would say, don't rush it. Try and master the craft of speaking so that you're good master your story, do some free talks, get get out there and sort of learn your craft a little bit, talk to the local scout group, talk to anyone who will listen. So you get to just practice what you do. Don't feel you've got to rush into the big bucks stuff, because you won't get it the one, there's a huge barriers to entry to, you know, being a four or five, even six figure speaker, yeah, you've got to have an amazing website, you got to have a show reel, you've got to have lots of evidence, you're gonna have lots of customer quotes, and so on. And you have to build into that it's taken me years to get that. And so don't feel don't get disillusioned. If you're not getting instant success. Work your way through just accept it's a marathon, it's gonna take time, there's no quick, quick fix here. And, and honestly, if you are suddenly getting bookings, and you're doing well, you might be a flash in the pan, you know, there. Every time there's a new Olympics or a World Cup or something, there's a low bar speakers come onto the circuit, because they've got that story to tell, yeah, they will become meteoric success overnight, but then they'll disappear. Also, very quickly, you don't want that you actually want to build a business, most of us at least, it's going to be with us for a number of years, I'm going to be able to take it places. So like, you've got to be an overnight success.

Tom Bailey  17:07

Yeah. And also, just to build on that as well, you know, just because you're not getting paid to speak doesn't mean it's not going to give you a return on your investment of your time as well. So it might be if you're a coach or consultant, speaking and building your credibility, raising your profile can be financially rewarding, just through the backup of, you know, customers coming towards you people click on your website, whatever your call to action as well. So,

Allister Frost  17:28

of course there are there are lots of ways that you can monetize speaking to us that horrible expression, yeah. But if you do want to get paid for speaking, then you've got to, you need to pick a lane, you need to be doing something that nobody else is doing. You need to be focused on that. And you need to genuinely be an expert in it. And actually, being an expert in that thing. More than being a speaker is important, actually, because Peter would rather hear from a real expert who's not very good at speaking and hear from a speakers like gold or the techniques and the fancy clothes and things but doesn't know what they're talking about yet. You know, really master your topic. And if you can do that, and you can make it unique, then you have a chance. Love it.

Tom Bailey  18:09

There's been so much great value in this conversation. I think one just final question for me is, if anyone does want to book you as a speaker, if they want to get in touch and find out more, what's the best place for someone to find you online?

Allister Frost  18:20

Well, the hardest thing in this is you've got to be able to spell my first name, which is Aleister a double l i s t e r, even I spell it wrongly sometimes. So if you can spell Aleister, a double L is TR and then my surname is frost you will find me or you can go to Alison And you'll also find me on most social networks and available

Tom Bailey  18:40

to those people struggling to spell Alistair. I'll put those links into the show notes as well so people can click on that, and they can connect with you online. So thank you so much again for your time today. They've shared such great value with our audience, and I really appreciate it.