Andy Harrington of Presentation Profits On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Your story of why you care. Most corporates will have a slide that says, this is the name of our company; this is how long we’ve been in business. This is the list of our prestigious clients. These are the awards we’ve won. And frankly, nobody really gives a shit. But what they care about, what you should replace that with is a story of where did you come from? Why do you care about this message or topic? Why do you care about delivering this service? Why do you care about the people that you serve? Where does all that come from, your origin story of why they should trust you? And then maybe after that, you can talk about where you are today and give it some context.
At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Harrington.
The UK’s answer to Tony Robbins, Andy Harrington is a world-leading expert in public speaking. A Sunday Times bestselling author with his book Passion into Profit, he has shared stages and worked with big names including Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson, Donald Trump and Nadja Swarovski.
He is passionate about teaching people to share their messages with the world in a way which helps their audience and increases their sales so they can build a thriving business.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I don’t have this big background of coming from money or anything like that. There wasn’t much money. My parents broke up when I was 13 and I had no indication it was coming. It felt like my whole world was just completely pulled from under my feet. What I thought to be true was no longer true. And so, I ended up spending a lot of time on my own, feeling lost for a long period of time.
I was quite an extrovert when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time with my dad playing sport, rough and tumble, all that kind of stuff, and then I lost it.
The introverted part of me seemed to get over developed after that, but it worked out well in the end as it meant I became a very deep thinker.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
In essence, I went to see Tony Robbins, not for me, but for the person I was in a relationship with. She had experienced a lot of trauma in her life and was involved in a couple of big court cases where she was giving evidence for the prosecution. As a result, she broke down emotionally. I couldn’t solve it and I didn’t know how to help her.
So, I went to see Tony Robbins in America and he chose her to work with at the front room in one of his live interventions. This changed her life. I thought, “Wow, this is amazing. I wonder if I could do something like this.”
That was quickly replaced in my mind with, “Andy, you can’t do this. You can’t be like him. He’s massive. Well, his teeth are bigger than you.” And so, I didn’t do anything with it.
About six months later, we did another Tony Robbins event and I ended up doing an intervention with him. Again, I got picked out in front of thousands of people. I stared into his eyes and I remember being so emotional and filled with gratitude that he had changed our lives. I thought in that moment, ‘I’m going to do it’.
So that’s how I started teaching and training people and my content evolved over the years into teaching public speaking and presenting because that’s where I thrived.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Before I embarked on that career, I’d done a little bit of training for an insurance company, Churchill. The very first time I ever presented for them, there was a wonderful lady who was an Indian sales manager.
One day, talking about her sales training, I said to her, “You must be really busy doing that. Haven’t you got somebody else doing it?”
She said, “Are you volunteering?”
I said, “Well, no, but yes. I mean, if you give me some time, then I’m sure I could give it a go.”
About three months later, she comes to see me on my desk and says, “Hey, you remember that sales training. Do you still want to do it?” I said, “Okay.” And she replied, “Great. You’re on in five minutes.”
So, I found myself about five minutes later in a Churchill training suite with the flip chart, a pen and five people. And let me tell you this, five people was pretty daunting, 50 is much easier. Five is awful because they were just there to ask you questions and stuff.
I didn’t know what to do with my hands, so I was fiddling with the flip chart pen, taking the lid off, putting the lid back on. I even used it as a pen, once.
And then, unbeknownst to me, at some point, I’d obviously got ink over my hands. I looked in the mirror to see a massive black smudge of ink right in the middle of my forehead that had probably been there through most of my talk!
So, that was my first experience of delivering a talk. I went from that to speaking at arenas to tens of thousands of people. Anyone can do it if they stick at it!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When you’re first presenting, you tend to overjudge the audience and how they’re reacting to you.
I remember one guy who had this big frown on his face the entire time I was presenting and I thought, “Oh, he’s not very happy.”
I did the presentation and he came up to me afterwards. I was thinking, “Oh no, he’s going to tell me I’m no good or whatever.”
He’s still got the big frown his face and said, “That’s the best presentation I’ve ever heard anywhere.”
The big frown must have been his way of focusing, right?
But it’s funny how you read people and you can misinterpret some. So, I’ve learned not to do that. I’ve learnt to let people experience it the way they want to experience it. Frown or no frown!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
As I mentioned earlier, Tony Robbins really inspired me to become who I am today. Tony Robbins once said to me, “The greatest way you can honour me is to outgrow me.”
One of the things you want to be doing as a leader is to inspire people to become better than you. The hallmark of a successful trainer, speaker or influencer is how people take on what they have been given and use it in their own unique way.
I thought it was really cool that Tony Robbins would say that. I mean, he is six foot seven, so I’m never going to outgrow him physically but I always say that to people now too.
The greatest way you can honour me is outgrow me, outshine me, out-earn me. My goal is to organically make sure that I keep improving and adapting so that my students don’t surpass me too much and that I keep on developing myself.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
You can pretty much learn anything if you set your mind to it, providing you follow a successful process of doing it that’s been proven to work. You can achieve anything you want. The trouble is most of us get in our own way. If you believed that there is no failure, only feedback, then what would you be prepared to do? What would you be willing to try to do to move your life and the lives of others forward?
What drives you to get up every day and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?
Well, I don’t get up every day to do my talks. I actually speak typically once a month for four days and that’s it. My whole business now is automated to the point that I don’t need to present every single day. But what gets me up and keeps me giving that message is the idea that if I were to die tomorrow, there might be people wanting to come. I think the hallmark of a successful person is the number of people that are touched or moved by your passing. We can talk about the Queen as an example of that and the outpouring of love and emotion her death inspired. That’s the real hallmark of how much difference you’ve made is how much your life passing affects other people. And I’d like to believe that if I was to pass, I’d have touched enough people’s lives that they would want to come and pay their respects and see my wife and kids and say, “Hey, he was a good, good person. Didn’t know him very well, but what I did know about him was great and that he made a difference. He touched lives. And I just want to say I’m grateful for that and I’m grateful that he was around.” So, it’s kind of that really, which sounds quite morbid.
I think it’s an important thing is to recognize that we’re not going to be here forever, and I want to leave behind a ripple effect for others, that means that my life had meaning beyond the now.
The empowering message is that what human beings can achieve is pretty remarkable. I teach people not to be afraid of the solution, but to be more afraid of the problem. Because most people are more afraid of the solution than they are of the problem because they live with the problem every single day. They live with their results they get every single day, which means they’re comfortable with those. But the solution for most people carries with it a fear of failure, rejection and hurt.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
Well, one of the most exciting things that we’re doing is building our Professional Speakers Academy. It’s an incredible incubator for so-called ordinary people with an extraordinary message. And what I mean by that is most of us are fairly ordinary, but we’ve had extraordinary things happen through us or to us. And those are amazing stories. Those stories show how people have coped with that and the lessons they’ve learned. That’s wisdom that we pass on to other people.
And that’s who’s dominating the speaking market today. It isn’t the person that’s climbed Mount Everest or won a gold medal or swam across the Arctic Circle. I’m sure there’s a place still for that but people don’t want to hear the metaphor of how I climbed the mountain. They instead want to be given instructions of how they climb their specific mountain, which might be the mountain of how do I overcome grief; the mountain of how do I improve and grow my business; the mountain of how do I fix this social media problem; the mountain of how do I market myself. Whatever their mountain is, what people want is real world tangible knowledge and knowhow and steps that are actually able to be implemented.
Today, the reach all of us can have is essentially unrestricted. So-called ordinary people can reach out with their message of hope and help, and truly get to their target market. This is something they couldn’t do because the only people who could reach out were people who could get on television or radio or get a newspaper to write about you. But today, all of us have that ability to reach out to those people with our message, providing you have a real message that breaks through the noise, and isn’t another voice in just the sea of sameness.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Yeah, I like the quote by Dr. Seuss, which is why try so hard to fit in when you’re born to stand out?
We want to fit in, of course, but that should never be at the detriment of your ability to be unique and stand out from the crowd and be an individual. Finding the balance is important. But most of us, we have such a desire to be loved, to be validated, that often we will downplay our uniqueness or we will hide our gifts, just so that we don’t rock the boat or because we want to avoid other people not liking us. And the problem is, with presenting, speaking and sharing your message and leading, you’ll always be dividing people between followers and non-followers, between fans and non-fans.
And another good quote, which I think might be a Churchill quote, is, “If you have enemies, good for you. It means you stood for something.” Which means you’ve got to have enough conviction in your own message that you don’t need other people to validate it, but you share it because you feel intrinsically it’s right, and that people who don’t agree with it, you can let them not agree with it. You don’t have to change their opinions because their opinions are just theirs. And you don’t have to change what you believe to be right.
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.
Yeah. So, first thing is, you have got to have a really good beginning. So, when you are presenting, you’ve got to have a good opening that opens up the minds of your audience, because in the beginning, their minds are closed. They’ll be sceptical and not responsive or receptive, especially if you’re not already known to people. So essentially, you’ve got to presale people on your message before you share your message. You’ve got to presale people on the why it’s important to listen to that message now and begin to open them up by answering. In essence, the first part of your content should be answering those questions of why. Why should you listen to this message? Why is this message ideally for you? Why should listen to it now? And why the hell should you listen to me?
Part number two is your story of why you care. Most corporates will have a slide that says, this is the name of our company; this is how long we’ve been in business. This is the list of our prestigious clients. These are the awards we’ve won. And frankly, nobody really gives a shit. But what they care about, what you should replace that with is a story of where did you come from? Why do you care about this message or topic? Why do you care about delivering this service? Why do you care about the people that you serve? Where does all that come from, your origin story of why they should trust you? And then maybe after that, you can talk about where you are today and give it some context.
Number three is that you’ve got to have a methodology or a framework for people to implement the advice you’re giving. You can’t just give them a series of bullet points. It can’t just be stories. There has to be a tangible method or series of steps that they can follow. Otherwise, it’s just a nice message. But what the hell do I do with that? There has to be some implementation plan.
Number four is that you’ve got to be a real presence on the platform. I say platform because it might be virtual, as much it might be physical. And that means that you’ve got to perform at a level where your message is coming through you, not from you, where you’re in flow. You need a real message. It shouldn’t just be some safe, benign message that is corporately acceptable, but something that actually gets beyond that and breaks the norm and touches hearts and minds to the point that actually people might begin to pay attention and more importantly, might begin to change. Whatever your message is, essentially, that message is calling people to a higher place of making a change and it should be a change that impacts the person, other people and the world in general to make it a better place. And if you’ve got that, then you have, in essence, a message that has good ecology to it, which is good for everyone.
And finally, while you’re teaching, you’ve got to be transforming. You can’t just teach people, otherwise they’ll know what to do, but they won’t bloody do it. So, you’ve got to transform thinking, which means transforming beliefs. So, you’ve got to figure out, what does my audience actually believe right now that’s keeping them stuck in the old paradigm or an old way of thinking? And then what you got to do is develop stories and content that actually addresses those false beliefs and begins to reframe them in a way that they believe something new. And then you’ve got to reinforce that new belief with evidence to back it up. And then, if you do that, whilst you’re teaching new things at the same time, then those new messages land and people don’t get in their own way.
As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?
The fear of speaking in public normally happens because you believe the audience might know more than you. So, one way to overcome that is to make sure that you remind yourself of how much you know and remind yourself that the audience out there essentially wants you to succeed. But in terms of actually performing at your best; all performance at the highest level happens in a zone of high performance. So, the question really becomes, how do I access my genius? How do I access my zone of high performance? But if you look at any performing art or sport; if you carefully watch, you’ll see that all high performance happens in a state of no thinking. Because the highest level of any performance, you can’t think about the dance moves, you can’t think about the words to a song, you can’t think about that ball coming at you at 90 miles per hour — if you’re playing cricket or higher than that, if you’re playing tennis. It has to be instinctual.
And to access that state of no thinking you need to put your vision in a peripheral vision. If you watch a top basketball player, they’re bouncing the ball up and down; they’re not looking at the ball. They can see it in their peripheral vision. And so, that allows them to read the game. If you’re driving a car, you’re in peripheral vision. You are reading many, many things happening simultaneously, but you’re not actually thinking about any of them directly. That’s pure genius. Pure genius comes from doing things without thinking about doing them. And the way you trick your mind into doing that is to put them into peripheral vision. And that will open the track door to your unconscious mind because peripheral vision accesses unconscious mind thinking, which is where all of your knowledge, knowhow and instinctual experiences reside.
If you try to think about your message, if you try to put your message into words and write it down before you say it, you’re going to get completely scared. That’s not the way to do it. The best way to do it is to put your message into pictures rather than words, because a picture paints a thousand words. So, in essence, all you’re ever doing is talking into images that conjure up many, many thoughts. And the final technique you use is to use rhetorical questions. And what I mean by that is, rather than go statement, statement, statement, statement, statement, in essence, you say something you want to say and you say, now what do I mean by that statement? Because they have that question in their head, what do you mean by that? So, you say what do I mean by that, and you give a greater definition.
So you make a statement, what do I mean by that? Make another statement to answer that question, and then say, why is that important? Answer that question. And then say, but how do you do it? Then answer the how question. So, you’re only ever answering your own questions and that makes it sound conversational. The key is to ask the question rhetorically that they’re actually thinking in that very moment. And that makes them go, wow, this sounds like he’s in my head.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would probably inspire more women to speak up and have a bigger voice. I think in leadership specifically, and this is what speaking really is, there’s a much greater need for women to have a voice than men. And if men are making all the decisions at the highest levels, men are primarily driven by testosterone, which makes them take risks and makes them want to win. Women are primarily driven by oxytocin, which makes them want to care, it makes them want to connect because it’s the love hormone — but you need both. Men provide a drive to win, to be better, to be ambitious. Women have that too, but women are primarily driven by connection. Those two together, if you have a masculine and a feminine energy, both have a strong voice, then you get sustained growth rather than a boom and bust.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Yes, I’d love to have lunch with my dear little boy Aston, who didn’t make it, because he would be seven now. And I never got to speak to him, so it’d be good to hear him somehow. It’s a fantasy obviously, but I never got the chance to sit down alongside him. Just to know him as a seven-year-old, just to know how he feels and what he thinks about the world and his dad and whatever, it’d be good just to sit down and do that.
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This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Andy Harrington of Presentation Profits On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.