Vanessa Bird, The Aesthetic Consultant On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Never let things go to your head. Yes, you may find you are invited to speak at more and more events but don’t let that success make you complacent. Each event requires the same level of preparation and attention to detail as the last and the audience deserve to hear you at your best. Even if you can use some parts of a previous talk, be sure to amend it to suit the audience in front of you. Bring energy to each talk as if it was your first and your audience will feel it and engage with you.

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 The Aesthetic Consultant® Vanessa Bird.

Vanessa Bird The Aesthetic Consultant® uses 14 years of business and sales experience within medical aesthetics to help aesthetic practitioners and clinics overcome the challenges they face on a business level. Vanessa builds world-class luxury Patient Experiences, dramatically increases clinic revenue and enhances positioning and reputation in the aesthetic medicine arena. An expert in aesthetic business, Vanessa writes for leading industry publications and is a regular on the speaking circuit at UK and European Medical Conferences.

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 was born in the north west of England, 1 of 3 girls to parents who worked in media and newspapers. I had a happy childhood and I was very studious with a particular interest in art, science and creative writing, with the writing possibly inherited from my father who was a journalist and newspaper editor. My father had a collection of classic and vintage cars so I grew up with a love of cars and motorsport. I also developed my creative side by painting and drawing, playing the oboe in the school orchestra and singing in the choir. As I wasn’t sure of the direction I wanted to head in career-wise, I studied for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy at The University of Liverpool before heading out in the world of work. Yes it was a strange choice of subjects to study but I figured 3 years of deep thinking couldn’t do any harm!

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I fell into sales a couple of years after graduation. I needed a job and still didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career so just accepted the first thing the recruitment agency set me up for. The role was selling services to a diverse range of industries, so some days I would be surveying a factory or office and other days a hospital, a dairy or even a nuclear power plant (decommissioned of course). I found the different type of characters I met fascinating but wanted something more ‘glamorous’ . I decided I wanted to be a Pharmaceutical Rep as it sounded more professional. A recruiter told me it would be hard moving directly to Pharma so instead suggested I take a sale role selling medical devices, so I did. I didn’t have much knowledge of the aesthetic medicine sector at this time but once I was in it I was enthralled with what I saw (and still see) as the perfect mix of creativity, health and science. After 11 years of selling high end medical aesthetic devices I identified a need for bespoke business support so in 2019 I took the leap and set up my own consultancy business called The Aesthetic Consultant®. Since I set up I have developed my profile as an industry writer, educator and speaker sharing my knowledge and experience with others as I work with businesses and clinics in the U.K, the Middle East, America and Europe.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have so many interesting stories to tell as my industry is absolutely fascinating. Stories behind why top doctors and surgeons moved into aesthetic medicine. Stories about high tech devices that make a difference to patients. Even stories about parties and events that were breathtakingly memorable. Perhaps one to focus on here was when I worked as a sales rep for leading medical device company BTL at the time they launched a brand new device that had never before been used in the aesthetic medicine arena. Being involved in the preparation prior to launch and in the launch of EMSCULPT itself was incredibly exciting. We had to prepare for the disbelief of doctors who had never before used something this way. We had to prepare for our rivals and how they would try and talk down the technology. We even had to prepare how we would talk about the business opportunity to customers as it was so unique. The excitement and buzz surrounding the launch of EMSCULPT was like nothing else I had experienced as we knew we had something special and it went on to make waves in the industry. It’s rare to be part of something so groundbreaking.

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?

I recall being interviewed for a national sales role with a laser company. I passed my first interview and they flew me out to Madrid to meet the EMEA Sales Director for the second stage interview and I was super-nervous. The woman accompanying me (who interviewed me back one the UK) kept telling me how scary and intolerant of fools the EMEA Director was so I was extremely nervous when I met him. “Do exactly as he says” She said as we walked into his office. We shook hands and he said “Pull up a chair”. I looked around and saw a chair and…. remembering what what UK Manager said I perhaps took it a bit too literally and pulled the chair across the floor from the far side of the room to the desk instead of lifting it up and carrying it. The room was filled with this awful scraping of metal on tiles as the chair dragged across the floor and seemed to go on for a lifetime. The EMEA Director just stared at me in disbelief. I immediately thought I had failed the interview so relaxed and just answered his questions. Guess what? I got the job!!!!

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?

There are so many people who have helped me get where I am today. Whether it was supporting me as a friend, or mentoring me as a colleague or even just showing me how things worked being the scenes in a clinic, they’ve all provided valuable help and assistance so it would be unfair to single out just a few. One thing I can say is that the network I now have is incredible and I am very grateful for being part of a wonderful group of people.

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?

Setting up my own consultancy business was incredibly scary at the time. I was successful as a sales rep so stepping way from that security and success and setting up a consultancy firm with no experience of running my own business caused many sleepless nights! However I am a planner so sat down and over a period of months worked through my idea and who my target audience would be and why they might want to work with me. I leaned heavily on my network too whilst brainstorming and planning things. They would give me pep talks, see my strengths when I feared I didn’t have any, and give advice on different aspects such as branding, pricing, marketing and accounting. They were a shoulder to cry on when I was having a wobble and really did support me. I would say for anyone considering doing something similar, firstly sit down and identify your strengths and experiences and how these would benefit your target customer. Who is out there already doing it? What USP could you develop to make you stand out? Then pull on the experience and support from your network. Listen to what they say. Take their advice. Then build that into your future success.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

I love sharing my knowledge and experience and helping others. That’s why I set up a consultancy. I want to inspire and motivate people, encouraging them to be creative and develop themselves and their career. We are our own worst critics and lack self-confidence so sometimes it takes someone else to make you realise that and change. If I can do this through talks and presentations and spark a new direction or idea in someone then I have made a difference. We all have something to share.

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?

I’m already booked as a speaker for some upcoming industry conferences and private company workshops so I am working on something unique and informative for each of them depending on what their particular audience needs. It’s important never to duplicate the same talk, but instead give the audience a fresh new take. In April I was a speaker at the biggest anti-ageing conference in Europe and now I am currently working on submitting an abstract for next year. I hope to do more international speaking engagements as I love meeting new people and hearing about the similarities and differences in our industry depending on where they are in the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

‘“Work expands to fill in the time available”. This was a quote from one of my Professors when we were discussing Philosophy of Time and Space. Basically he was explaining that if you have 3 weeks to complete an essay it will take you 3 weeks to finish it. If you have 2 hours in an exam it will take you 2 hours to finish it. It’s the exact same essay but all that changed was the time available. I always try and remember this when working on projects and ensure I set myself shorter deadlines throughout to keep me on track and stop me procrastinating.

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.

  1. Slow down when you’re presenting. We have all been guilty of this at some point, myself included. Nerves or excitement gets the better of us and we rush through our talk. Enjoy the process, take your time and remember, those natural pauses aren’t a sign you don’t know what you’re talking about, they are simply a way to enhance your presentation.
  2. Be confident. You do know what you’re talking about and have something to share with the audience so do not doubt your own ability. Why not make a list of all the positive things you bring as a speaker. List your experience, any specialty you have, your skills, your knowledge and keep adding to it. You’ll soon realise how much value you bring.
  3. Plan ahead. Sometimes the fear of something going wrong on the day can cause us anxiety so prepare and plan ahead. Make sure your slides (if using a presentation) are spell-checked and run in the order you need them to. Make a few copies of your presentation in various formats (PowerPoint, Keynotes, PDF) and different screen ratios and also bring a version of each on a USB just in case something happens to your laptop or a cable fails. Allow plenty of time for travel and delays. Pre-plan your outfit and make sure you feel confident wearing it. Some time spent preparing will really ease those nerves and you can focus on the talk itself.
  4. Stop comparing yourself with other speakers. We all have different styles and mannerisms so trying to duplicate another speaker will not feel natural to you or your audience. Sure, if you see something you like that another speaker does, try it out and if it fits in with your style and feels natural then incorporate it. But don’t copy someone else completely. Your audience want to listen to you, not a cheap copy of someone else. Be individual and unique.
  5. Never let things go to your head. Yes, you may find you are invited to speak at more and more events but don’t let that success make you complacent. Each event requires the same level of preparation and attention to detail as the last and the audience deserve to hear you at your best. Even if you can use some parts of a previous talk, be sure to amend it to suit the audience in front of you. Bring energy to each talk as if it was your first and your audience will feel it and engage with you.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

There’s something about standing up in front of an audience that makes us believe that others will be critical and judge us. We think they will judge us on what we are saying, whether we should be on stage in the first place, what we are wearing, how we are speaking, whether our hair looks good…. One thing I always tell my clients to do is put themselves back into the audience for a moment. What do they do as an audience member? Do they sit and listen to the speaker? Do they follow the slides and make notes? Or do they blank all of that out (the very reason they came to the talk in the first place) and instead focused on someones shoes, the way their tummy looks or the fact the speaker’s roots need touching up? I bet the latter didn’t even feature for them. Nobody cares what your hair looks like or whether you sneezed in the middle of a sentence. If you content is engaging and informative then the audience will be absorbed in that and not the colour of your outfit. So my advice is to remember that the audience want to learn from you and will be focused on what you show them on screen and what you say out loud. Everything else fades into the background.

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 like to see more face to face engagement. Post-pandemic we started to host meetings via video and don’t interact face to face the same way as before. Even when we do, we find ourselves checking our mobile phones instead of concentrating on the person sitting on front of us. If you can, schedule a meeting with someone in person rather than via video link and when you do, switch that phone to silent and focus completely on the person you’re with. We thrive off interaction and human contact so let’s focus on bringing that back again.

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!

Dame Joan Collins! Without a shadow of a doubt she has mastered her art as an actress, a writer and a star and is one of the few who really command attention when she walks into a room. The stories she would tell and the experience and knowledge she could share would be invaluable.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

I am on Instagram @theaestheticconsultant and also on Linked In (search Vanessa Bird The Aesthetic Consultant). It would be great to connect on both platforms.

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Vanessa Bird, The Aesthetic Consultant 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.

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