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Why I Am Doing Less Public Speaking? - Joe Leech

succeed through speaking tom bailey Nov 21, 2022

Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed Through Speaking, interviews Joe Leech.

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.

Joe is a trusted adviser and coach to CEOs of start-ups, high growth tech & Fortune / FTSE 100 companies.

A recovering neuroscientist, then a spell as an elementary school teacher, from UX research, to design, to product management then to product and business strategy. Joe brings 15 years in tech, $20b in revenue, experience with 30+ start-ups & FTSE / Fortune 100 giants.

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Succeed Through Speaking helps Coaches, Consultants, Entrepreneurs and Experts how to amplify their Expert Authority & get their message to market with both confidence and clarity so that they can raise their profile and attract new clients.

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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 Joe Leech, who is a trusted advisor and coach to CEOs of startups, high growth tech and fortunately, footsie 100 companies. So Joe Hello, and a very warm welcome to today's episode.

Joe Leech  00:42

Hi Tom, good to be here.

Tom Bailey  00:43

Thanks so much for joining and just have interest whereabouts are you in the world right now?

Joe Leech  00:48

Yeah, so now I live in Dorset on the south coast of the UK. So partway between Lyme Regis and Weymouth. So right at the bottom of the UK, fantastic. Living on the edge of the UK. Yeah, that'd be down here.

Tom Bailey  00:59

Yeah, absolutely. Well, great. Thank you so much. And I also know that you're the host of make better decisions, the podcast and are also a keynote speaker. So I wanted to begin by asking a question around. How important has public speaking been for you in your career to date?

Joe Leech  01:16

Tonight? It's a good question. And it's been it's ebbed. And it's flowed for me, really? So I definitely thought for a long time that it was my superpower. And then it gave me got generated me all the work that in the world if needed, but the reality is, is most recently I've not I'm not so sure. Actually, it's been an interesting journey, trying to figure out where public speaking fit into what I do and who I am really. So. Yeah, yes and no, for me in terms of success and usefulness for me, but it'll be interesting to explore that and chat to you about that today. Anyway.

Tom Bailey  01:49

Absolutely. Yeah. And I think best place to start for me is right at the beginning, actually. So what's one of your earliest memories of having to stand up and deliver a presentation or or do some form of public speaking?

Joe Leech  02:00

Yeah, so I remember it really the first time I had to do it, it's actually when I went to university, the school I went to, wasn't great. When I went to university, it was in my first year, I had to give a presentation, I studied neuroscience University, which was very impressive when you talk to people at parties, but not easy. You're not particularly practical, really, in the real world. I had to give a presentation on the human brain in my first year. And it was all I was awful, awful. And I didn't quite know why I was awful because you know, I've good conversationalist, I can have a great chat to people. But I didn't want it when I kind of basically got up in front of the group. I didn't know what to say, I stuttered I kind of I just didn't really have a proper format for what I was doing. I thought I could just kind of just get out there and kind of do it really add some cards with talking points on and I had some overhead projector slides, which shows how old I am some acetates with some images and stuff, but I was just awful. And it really stuck with me how bad I was at it, and how much I was really dreadful. And but I thought I was going to be great. And so I went first and I wasn't and then everybody else who went after me was much better than me.

Tom Bailey  03:10

And yes, it was a and from that point was was the thought process. I'm never going to do that again. Or was it? I need to get better at that.

Joe Leech  03:19

Yeah, it was a not gonna do that. Again. I just assumed I was bad at it. And I thought it's either one of these things. You've either got it or you haven't. And I just thought, Well, that's it, then I know, it's something I'm never going to do again. I thought I could do it. And actually, no, I can't. And so put the whole kind of public speaking thing on hold. And that was sort of me 18 Didn't think that I could ever do it again. And that was it. I thought I'm done with it.

Tom Bailey  03:40

Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. And and I guess for a lot of people, you know, they'll never pick that back up. And that one moment that fear that that feeling of imposter syndrome, you know, it will stay with them for the rest of their life and they'll miss out

Joe Leech  03:52

  1. It was horrible. And I think what was interesting is you're right, that was the first time the imposter syndrome I call I call my imposter syndrome and even have a name for my imposter syndrome. It's the first time it really hit me in it. Yeah, it was that I will never forget that feeling. It was absolutely frightening and not a feeling I was expecting to have as well. I just kind of went it was like, Oh, this is bad. And it really has stuck with me. And yeah, I did get over it, though. So a good

Tom Bailey  04:17

good to reflect that though. And I guess the one thing I'd like to ask on the back of that is, if you could what you know now if you could go back and you know, put an arm around Young Joe and say, Hey, here's my advice to you right now in the moment what what advice would that be? Do you think?

Joe Leech  04:32

That's a very good question. I I don't know what I'd say to that person. Then really as I think part of the journey was not was not knowing necessarily what to do next. I think was interesting for me at that point, is I think what I'd have said to myself was kind of it will be okay, you will figure it out. You will get better at this that instinct that you kind of had, you can do this was right. That fear that you had that imposter syndrome actually, in reality is your superpower. The fact that you got up and you were nervous and You were scared, it's actually in the future, what's going to make you a lot better and a lot make you a great public speaker. In the end, it was the fact that you were nervous at this point in your life and that you do have impostor syndrome. When it comes to speaking,

Tom Bailey  05:11

I've seen that a lot with these interviews, a lot of the people I speak to our speakers because they were bad speakers to begin with, you know, that gave them more drive and determination to become a better speaker. And it, it ultimately led them to where they are today. So I think the Young Young Joe should definitely take that advice on boy. And And what about your journey? Since then, have there been any big speaking disasters where you'd questioned whether or not this is still the right thing to do? Or is it a fairly straightforward?

Joe Leech  05:37

I mean, I've had, yeah, I've had many kinds of disasters with it really what was interesting for me that was I, what, what really gave me the confidence to know that I could do it again, was I was a teacher, I retrained as a teacher, not kind of I wasn't a state school teacher, I trained myself as an English language teacher. So I went into the course for six weeks. And because it was such an intense six week course, they had to kind of teach you to be a teacher in a very short amount of time. And one of the most interesting approaches they used, which was actually quite horrific and quite scary at the time was you, you would do a teaching, you'd all teach in the mornings, there'd be like five of you and your little group, you'd all teach in the morning, then in the afternoon, you'd all watch videotapes of the lessons, he'd watched a video of your teaching, and you'd all criticize, critique each other. Really? Yeah. And that, for me was the way that I got better, much faster is that we did this every day for six weeks is we will teach in the morning, and then the evenings in the afternoons, we then look at our teaching and look how we can improve it. And we look at ourselves how we spoke, you know, and again, with English language teaching, because clarity is really important when you speak, we kind of learned not to use the arms and the arms and the hesitations, it was a really a great way of getting faster, in a quite protective safe space with with other people who were also on that same journey to improve their teaching skills. And I ultimately went on to teach kids, everybody else I was on that course with went to teach adults and I went to teach kids which was again, similarly very challenging because kids have quite unforgiving of teachers, as we all know, we've all been there. And that taught me a lot about public speaking was a lot about projecting confidence. And if your, your audience can detect a slight amount of uncomfortableness in you, teenagers will absolutely take advantage of that. But then we've all been there. And we've watched people giving speeches and doing public speaking, if they're a little bit uncomfortable, we kind of we feel that uncomfortableness on their behalf. And it's quite difficult often to watch somebody. So that was the biggest thing for me was learning how to project confidence even when there wasn't any confidence underneath. Yeah, because if you didn't, then those teenagers would absolutely rip you to shreds,

Tom Bailey  07:51

and just have interest in so anybody listening that is a speaker or or maybe a star to speaker? And maybe they feel like they don't yet have that competence. What advice would you give to them to help them have more power, more presence more authority when they speak?

Joe Leech  08:08

My question and my thoughts are really the way I did it was to watch tapes of myself speaking. So you you like we've got it like a webcam, you you just practice yourself. But the thing you've got to get over it, you've got to watch yourself speaking back. So you watch a video of you of you doing it and you look at the mistakes you made. You know what worked well, what didn't work, but you're comfortably criticizing yourself, which is, honestly, it's horrible at first. But it's the way you want to get better is you just practice by watching yourself and understanding where you make mistakes. And not giving up. But But that, for me, that was the best, the best way to get better was to critique myself. And if possible, if you can find a buddy or a group of you that can can do that with each other where you all watch each other speaking, it's a comfortable place to fail, because there's nothing like failing in front of some friends and having a good laugh about it. Yeah. Because, you know, you mentioned disasters, I've fallen off the stage before. Wow. Right. And that is the kind of the worst nightmare, but it will mean the worst nightmares. Actually, you know, you're turning up and you're naked. I've never quite been there. But I have fallen off the back of a stage before. And I've had my laptop crash on all my slides. I've had no, I've got an hour's keynote. I've got no slides. You learn from it going badly.

Tom Bailey  09:24

Yeah. And I guess it's just just knowing that those things will happen. And, you know, if you want to go down this this road, as a speaker, there will be things that come up. So it's just making sure you're prepared mentally, but also having backups as well.

Joe Leech  09:38

Definitely. I mean, the thing for me was the first time that I walked into a classroom as a teacher, like, oh, this was not the class I was expecting to teach. I was expected to teach these kids tomorrow. Hold on a minute. I've got not got a lesson prepared. I've got 90 minutes with this group of teenagers. Oh, oh dear. And at that point, it's never as bad as You think it's going to be that's my, that's easy for me to say yeah, having been through it, but it never is. Because if you can tell a story if you can recover, if you can, sort of, not, if you can deal with a challenge, the biggest thing is mistakes will happen. It's how you recover from those mistakes that kind of makes the difference between a nervous bad speaker and a great speaker. Yes, knowing this will happen and just recovering from it.

Tom Bailey  10:24

That's great. And I guess a lot of people who want to go on this journey but decide not to is because they're too worried about what mistakes and what issues might come up along the way, but I guess, know, that they are going to happen and they are part of the journey. And, and just go at it.

Joe Leech  10:38

Go for it. The time I fell off the stage was I thought, you know, that's, that's gonna be humiliating. So because I was talking, talking, you know, not really look, looking at the big screen behind me, my arms are out, I was not really looking where I was going. And I sort of miss stepped, stumbled a couple of steps and fell off the curb the back and it just wasn't, you know, I fell I fell off the stage. And of course, initially, people were like, you know, there's a shock of people, has he hurt himself, and followed by sort of an element of nervous laughter. And then I sort of stood up and put my arms in the air, as if I was okay. everybody cheered? Yeah, that's not what I expected to happen, do you not I mean, I thought it was gonna be embarrassing, but the very fact that I kind of got up and put my arms in the air, people were relieved that I was okay. And what was interesting about about about humor generally is my I mentioned my my roots in neuroscience is humor comes from it evolved from kind of a defusing of a difficult situation. So defusing of an awkward situation, defusing of over emotion, is that humans developed humor to overcome difficult challenging situations. And actually, that was really helpful to me once I understood where humor came from, to understand again, how humor can help you when you are on stage as well, because again, a lot of people think they have to be funny and don't know how to be funny. And part of that journey for me was just was falling off the stage. There's a point where I realized that, hey, I can be humorous. That wasn't particularly planned.

Tom Bailey  12:07

Of course, yeah. And one thing I want to go into a lot of speakers that I met on the on this podcast, telling me that it's really important to have a topic, you know, a niche and quite defined niche that you talk about. How do you find that as a speaker? Is it just based on your experiences? Or do you choose it and go after it? Or do you didn't tend to find that a

Joe Leech  12:28

good question? Yeah, you need to have your stick, you need to have something that differentiates you from everybody else. And the challenge you have, certainly can I have the imposter syndrome? This is where impostor syndrome rears its ugly head. Yeah. Because as soon as you feel like you've got a niche or a specialty, your imposter syndrome or input comes up and says, Well, that's not really a specialty everybody's talking about I could, I know at least five speakers that speak about that subject far better than me. Yeah. And the real eye opener for me, with my speaking came when. So my background is in in a kind of specialist element of design, where it's applying psychology to the design of digital products, to quite specialist. And I find myself early on talking to rooms of, of psychologists, so people had similar backgrounds to me. So they were psychologists who moved into design, and they knew the same things that I did. And so my speaking was never particularly good. And I never quite knew why. And what actually was interesting to me is when I when I went and spoke at a kind of a standard Website Design Conference, how my how I was received was hugely different to what, however, was received amongst my own what I thought were my peers. And what what that really started out for me was realizing that actually, what, what speaking what good speakers are, is that they're also there any kind of good import export business, really, they're looking at a knowledge gap, they are that kind of, they are the one eyed man, you know, in the land of the blind, is what you're doing is you're taking something that the group of people you're speaking to don't know much about. And you are telling them about that. That doesn't mean you have to be an expert in that like I've given talks on cryptocurrency I know nothing about cryptocurrency, but the audience are speaking to novanet Absolutely nothing about that as well. So the key about finding that niche is also most I would start with finding the audience, who is your audience who is the perfect audience for you, and then your niche can come from that. And if you feel like you're an expert in something, then maybe you need to look for a different audience where your expertise can be proven to be useful. Yeah. So again, if you're an accountant, the worst place you can speak is an accountancy conference. You know, the best place you can speak as you know, is at a business conference or a design conference where people want to know about the things that you know, where there's an information gap, not to your peers, where you will be put yourself under a lot of pressure to come up with something new, interesting and innovative. And that's part.

Tom Bailey  14:56

Yeah, that's a really nice perspective and I'm able to talk about that In terms of, you know, finding the audience and making sure that you can add value to that audience as well, because there's a knowledge gap. So I think that's a really, really good way to look at it. And so for those people listening, who are talking about the kind of beginning of your journey, what about those people that are starting to speak? Not yet paid keynote speakers? How do they then break through into that world of actually getting paid to speak rather than just speaking at their local, you know, social clubs, for example? What's that transition point?

Joe Leech  15:30

Yeah, it's a good question, actually. And it's, it's one I wish I'd known a little bit earlier, what the secret is, maybe my secrets, not the same as everybody else's. But what I found was that was was cultivating relationships with event organizers. Of course, yeah. You know, that's basically it. Because event organizers want a couple of, they want a few things from you, right. And believe it or not giving a great talk is not necessarily the highest point on that. What they're after is against event organizers. Similar to the audience, they have an audience of people they sell tickets to. So they want something that's going to stimulate their audience, really, they want a talk from you that's going to be spiky, or provocative, even even in its title, okay, so they want something that's going to sell them tickets. And if you can sell tickets, you're going to get pack eight, simply that really, that's the major difference. If you can get bums on seats, they will pay you. And what that can often mean is for speakers, there are two types of speakers. So I learned this from event organisers, there are two types of speakers they are, there are the names. So again, I mentioned that I work and have worked historically, in the world of tech conferences, that's really been my, where I kind of cut my teeth is what was interesting, as you'd find the speakers from the likes of Google and Facebook and Microsoft were the ones that were where were the highlights, because they were the ones that would be on in the middle of the day. And they will often be the ones that people were most excited about. They are great. It's It's Cheryl, she's an incredible designer at Google, I want to hear everything she has to say about that. And what you find about those people who have come from these large companies is they are not typically great public speakers. They will get people in there. And they'll have some interesting stories about life at Google. And people are like, Oh, that was really interesting talk. Thank you very much. But the relevancy of that talk from somebody at Google, to most people in the audience is low. Yeah. Yeah. And so the second part of getting in with event organizers is understanding Well, really, what is it that people want to be able to take home and put into action on the Monday morning afterwards? So you've got the audience is like, what can they get from you? That means that they are furiously taking notes during your talk? What is that one thing that they can do on Monday morning? What's that aha moment that you can supply to them, that the likes of Google and Facebook speakers are not going to be able to do the Google fix or sell tickets, and they'll have interesting stories, but really, what people is going to stick with people is the speaker that you should try and be, which is the speaker that gives somebody these people something to take home and use on a Monday morning in their job, or in their life, or something they can do straight away, because that's really the second kind of speaker is a speaker that is life changing, or career changing, rather than having, you know, having worked for Google or Amazon or Facebook.

Tom Bailey  18:11

And that's a really important point to hear. Because it means you don't have to be you know, you don't have to have worked for Facebook or Google, you don't have to have been a celebrity or footballer or you don't have to have sailed around the world in X number of days, you know, you can create content that's really incredible and and change people's lives. And that might be your your gift to give back.

Joe Leech  18:31

And I think what's interesting about saying creating content, well is this the other thing people get intimidated by the level I've got, do you know the big mistake, I see a lot of speakers make that they've got, I've got a drop, I've got 40 minutes, I've got to drop 4040 thought bombs. And so the other mistakes I see is really smart people who've got loads of experience and loads of things to share, share 40 things. And, again, that's crippling by the time you get to the third or fourth thing people have just, you know, they can't cope with that sheer volume of insight. Yeah, it's really what you've got to hone it down to is basically one two at the most three key messages that people take home and you just keep bashing people over the head with that over the course of the 25 minutes. If you look at my videos, nothing that I say is absolutely irrelevant to any depth. But what I do do is tell same point from different angles many times so people go got that I can see how I can use that that's relevant to me. I can use that on Monday now I can take that home and the key really want is that those points that stick with people

Tom Bailey  19:31

and then and then not not fill but but bring them to life with stories and anecdotes and case studies etc. Fantastic. And and and then you've got the forgetting curve which will know about you know, eight to 10 of what what you speak and say they'll forget within I think he's 20 minutes anyways, there's no point, you know, given all that information because they won't retain it and that's just how the training works. And we mentioned just before we we hit record you Your setup at home. So my question to you is how did you transition during the pandemic to go from stage speaker in person to now? virtual speaker at home potentially?

Joe Leech  20:14

Yeah, it was. I mean, I think we all face that challenge. I was due to give a keynote on March 25. I think the UK went into lockdown about March 20. I couldn't exact the exact dates, but it was a couple of days, I have two days notice to really do what I had to do. And it was a real challenge. I mean, I was quite fortunate in that I'm a Brit. And so a lot of my speak, what are the people I've worked with have been in the US. So I've done a lot of video conferences, a lot of video training over the years, so I kind of was fairly comfortable with the transition. So I was like, Yeah, I'm up for it, I'm going to try it. And yeah, I had to make that shift quite quickly. And a big part of that was what you see around me here, which was creating a good audio experience a good video experience, because again, we know that it can be quite fatiguing to listen to a speaker, if there's an echo or the sounds not very good. Or, you know, I remember that first conference, where the keynote speaker was kind of in the bottom corner with some headphones on in an Echo Room, and it was really astonishingly difficult to listen to that person. And I was actually I was on the next day in that conference. So it made me I spent a bit of time overnight, kind of doing a little bit of sound treatments in my room, basically, hanging some old curtains up and some clothes around me to help get there. But yeah, really looking at the quality of audio is really the Paramount video, you can kind of get away with this. It's truly horrific. But the quality of audio has to be extremely strong if you make that transition. And that's the big lesson I learned really was was that number one. And then of course, many other lessons we can go into about brevity and types of content and what works and what doesn't, and how to approach virtual speaking versus in person that we all kind of picked up over the course of the two or three years of lockdown.

Tom Bailey  21:54

And interestingly, it does look like we've bounced back to in person. But it does feel like there's a hybrid element that that's here to stay. And to be interesting just to see how that plays out. I think over the coming years. Yeah,

Joe Leech  22:09

I think what's interesting actually Thomas is in talking to because I got I mentioned earlier on cultivating good relationships with event organizers. Again, through through COVID, that was extremely important because that's giving them the giving them the confidence that they can run out of actual event was key. So you know, getting on to and I you know, and it also from my world, too. I spoke at huge number events, I spoke at those events in India and China. What for me is it kind of flattened the world a little bit more where I was having to fly to San Francisco to speak and I was all over the world and international travel, which, again, to many who are starting out speaking that sounds extremely glamorous. I've got a three year old daughter is not no longer glamorous to be doing that kind of stuff. And so it taught me a lot about reach from a virtual point of view is really important. And you know what, now, I don't take international speaking gigs anymore, I don't do it. I do some of us stuff. Because the thing I find was speaking, I spoke I've spoken in Hong Kong and Singapore is you speak in Hong Kong and Singapore, you know what happens? You get work in Hong Kong and Singapore. And that means you've got to go to Hong Kong and Singapore again, you're challenging for you if you've got to be on a different timezone and travel. So a lot about becoming more successful strategically thinking about your geography, you know, if you've virtual great, and you're selling virtual products, great. But if you're doing work, you're a consultant or, or a coach to that kind of thing. You know, you need to really think about and focus on where your audience is, as well. And locked down really hammered that home. Definitely. Yeah,

Tom Bailey  23:35

interesting. Well, you've added a ton of value so far on this podcast, I really appreciate it. I've got one final question, which is, if somebody just want to book you to speak or wants to find out more about you, what's the best place for them to connect with you online?

Joe Leech  23:48

Well, I'm going to answer that with a controversial comment. Okay. I'm giving up. I've given up most of my public speaking. And what was interesting is I kind of alluded to this in the intro. Yes. What was interesting about that is I realized what public speaking did for me and for my business, so I was a consultant, I now am a coach. It's quite hard to know the difference between those two things. But for many years, I thought that that speaking was the thing that got attracted and gave me work. Right. It was the speaking that meant that people hired me, and I believe that to be true. And I got to the point where my daughter was born in 2016. In 2017, I was I spoke at I think, 10 international conferences. And I didn't see much of my daughter that first year of her life because I was away traveling right? And I believed that if I didn't do my traveling for my speaking that was going to be the end of my career. That would be it for me, that I wouldn't get any more consulting or coaching work and the reality was is that wasn't the case, is what consults what speaking gives you as a coach or a consultant or a specialist or in your field is it doesn't, it doesn't it's not a tap for work, like the work that you want to do. But what it is is a way of living We sing your credibility and then we know that, but what it is what I find my speak is my speaking now is I've got three or four videos of my speaking at various conferences that take back about five or six years. That's all I need. Yeah. Because what I find these days is people introduce me and say, oh, you should work with Joe, you know, you're a CEO of a tech company. I work with Joe. And they go to my website, they watch a couple of videos, and we speak and go, Oh, I really like what he talks about. Is there a way of reinforcing your credibility? That didn't necessarily set up your credibility the same way? A book doesn't? And I'm getting I'm a published author. Yeah, is they reinforce your credibility? They aren't your credibility, a really good point, that insight for me was really interesting about how I felt that my speaking was my profession. And I was a public personal public speaker for a little while. The reality is it's not. And so you can book me, but I will probably say no, yeah, yeah. If you want to book me, my website is Mr. Joe, Mr. JL Mr. You could find me there. But I'll probably say no. Because, again, it's got to be a really outstanding opportunity for me to speak to one to make that choice.

Tom Bailey  26:03

Yeah. That's a really, really good point. And and it just kind of rounds off rounds off your journey and you know, shows that you wouldn't you haven't regretted doing the speaking and you've had the benefits now, but it's not continuing to bring that benefit. So that's a really good way to round off that story. Thanks for that one. I'll post the link to your website in the show notes as well in case we want to just check you out or find out more about you. Thanks, Tom. Thanks again, Joe. Really appreciate Tom again, I'm adding such great value to our audience.