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What Sir Richard Branson and I Have in Common

There was a great article in Forbes by Sir Richard Branson. The most interesting thing about it was his admission that he hates making speeches, because he gets nervous. Still, he has to deliver a lot of them and, thus, recognized early on that if he were going to become a success, he’d better learn to get good at it. (By the way, I’ve had the good fortune to spend time on his beautiful Necker Island.)

One of the nuggets I picked up had to do with his early conditioning around speaking.

As a schoolboy, he was forced to present a memorized speech and was “gonged” if he stumbled. How horrible! That would certainly make me want to go and hide. My own story centers around how shy and introverted I was and how any type of imperfection was magnified out of proportion in my own mind. By the way, that is my personality still today and I’ve had to make an uneasy peace with it.

The fact is many of us have had some humiliating thing happen when we stand before a group and speak. Perhaps it happened as a child, or perhaps it has been more recent. It’s difficult to get back in the saddle after that.

Branson did because he knew that without the ability to comfortably pitch investors, speak to boards, present to clients, and defend his brand, he’d be out of business instead of becoming the celebrity CEO he is today. Even though he says he still doesn’t enjoy it, he does it, and he gets past his jitters with one tried and true technique: practice.

All my clients hear this from me repeatedly, and it’s how I’ve been able to build and sustain my own business. Practice is the only way to attain mastery of this essential, professional skill. And when I say practice, I mean saying it out loud innumerable times until, as Branson says, “you are even hearing the phrases in your dreams.”

You might never look forward to speaking, you might still become nervous (Branson and I do), but you’ll nail it and reap the benefits very few do.

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