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If the thought of speaking in public makes you feel sick to the stomach then you can probably relate to these entertainers and entrepreneurs.
They felt the fear too, but prove that you can develop winning tactics for overcoming it.
Many of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs and entertainers seem like naturals when it comes to networking, public speaking and performing. They can wow audiences and seem to connect effortlessly with guests at parties, and events.
Well, we’ll let you in on a little secret: many of the world’s most successful people struggled to become comfortable in front of audiences.
For small business owners as well as billionaire business tycoons and pop icons, setting aside fears can take an immense amount of effort, counselling and support. Regardless of the sizes of their businesses and fan-bases – and the popularity of their brands – there is a common thread among all the entrepreneurs and entertainers you’ll see below. Each person found their business and personal brand grew exponentially when they put themselves on stage for the entire world to see.
1. Warren Buffet
Warren Buffet, an investor worth $73.1 billion, used to have a debilitating fear of public speaking. In college, he’d plan his classes in an effort to avoid any course that might involve speaking in front of others. At one point, he tried to face his fear head-on by enrolling in a public speaking class, but he dropped the course before it had begun.
In his 2009 biography The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, he said he was so terrified of public speaking, “I would throw up”.
At 21, Buffet decided that he needed to change. He enrolled in a Dale Carnegie course with a handful of other participants who struggled with the same public speaking phobia.
The course helped him shed his fears of expressing himself in front of others. Of public speaking, Buffet has said: “You’ve got to be able to communicate in life and it’s enormously important. Schools, to some extent, under-emphasise that. If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.”
He overcame his fear of public speaking by finding a group of like-minded people to learn and grow with. Today, Buffet’s advice on investing and other financial matters makes headlines around the world.
Even veteran performers suffer from stage fright. Despite performing in front of millions of people during her career, Adele has struggled with being comfortable on stage and admitted she was “scared of audiences”.
“One show in Amsterdam I was so nervous, I escaped out the fire exit. I’ve thrown up a couple of times,” she said, during an interview with Rolling Stone.
The pop star opened up about her tactic for calming her stage fright. She said she found strength in Beyoncé’s alter ego Sasha Fierce. Combining Sasha Fierce with the memory of late country icon June Carter, Adele created ‘Sasha Carter’ – a composite that gives her a boost of confidence to take to the stage.
3. Richard Branson
The founder of the world-renowned Virgin brand is another example of an entrepreneur who had to overcome public speaking fears. The business icon says he, “loathes making speeches, and always has”. He recalls a school assignment where he had to speak in front of his classmates, and a bell would ring every time he stumbled over his words. Decades later, Branson says he still breaks out in a sweat when he remembers that task.
Now Branson has a few simple tips for people who struggle with networking and speaking:
• Imagine yourself in a comfortable situation, like being at home surrounded by family, while you are speaking onstage.
• Practice often so you can get comfortable with talking to large groups.
• Prepare before you speak to others so you are fully confident in what you are going to share.
4. Ana Flores
Ana Flores is the founder of the #WeAllGrow blogging network. Flores has to speak in front of others and network on a daily basis. She has had some major speaking assignments as well, such as the address she gave on gender diversity at the White House.
Like others on this list, Flores was once terrified by being in the limelight. Her advice for overcoming your public speaking fears? Never say ‘no’ to a speaking assignment on topics that you believe in and are comfortable with, and make sure that your passion for a topic comes from within so that your speech is genuine and moving.
5. Mark Zuckerberg
Even Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the world´s most popular networking website Facebook, had to face networking and public speaking fears. When Zuckerberg first stepped into the limelight he received criticism for being a poor presenter. In some interviews he’d sweat profusely or stumble over words to the point where it was distracting for viewers. As a young entrepreneur he had a lot to learn about getting in front of crowds.
Observant viewers noticed that Zuckerberg underwent a public speaking transformation after the Wall Street Journal’s D8 conference in 2010. He started radiating calm and confidence in front of crowds, and his messages became stronger and clearer than before. There’s no clear evidence about what he did to bring about the transformation, but as he relaxed more in public his personality has begun to shine through.
So there you have it – five accomplished entrepreneurs and performers who had to use creativity, courage and gusto to tackle their stage fright and to take their businesses to the next level.
Women are starting and building small businesses in Australia in “staggering” numbers, but they can’t do it alone, said The Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs during the launch of Inspiring Rare Birds’ Ambassador Program in Canberra.
Minister Bishop and The Hon Michael McCormack MP, Minister For Small Business were guest speakers at the event to welcome Rare Birds’ newly appointed ambassadors for Canberra: Stefanee Lovett, the Managing Director of Capital Hill Advisory; Amanda Whitley, the Founder and Director of HerCanberra, and Mick Spencer, the Founder and CEO of ONTHEGO Sports.
Minister Bishop said she felt sure the program would provide “amazing results” in the capital. “The number of women who are starting, running, building small businesses is absolutely staggering, but they do need support,” she said.
Photos from Inspiring Rare Birds Ambassador launch in Canberra. Selected images by photographer Martin Ollman. To book him for your next event you can email him at email@example.com
The event was held in Parliament House and attended by more than 150 guests, including Senator Bridget McKenzie, Senator For Victoria.
Minister Bishop, who is also Australia’s first female Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, said she had made the empowerment of women a pillar of the federal government’s foreign policy and aid programs. “We know that if women are given opportunities to shine they can drive economic growth, prosperity and stability around the world,” she said.
She applauded Inspiring Rare Birds’ Founder and CEO Jo Burston for creating an organisation that is, “committed to supporting and providing advice to female entrepreneurs through education and training”.
She said this aligned with what government was seeking to do through the national innovation and science agenda, “giving support to female entrepreneurs in the science, technology and mathematics fields, and beyond”.
“Women are by nature, by ability and capacity, great entrepreneurs,” she said.
Minister Bishop said she also believed “explicitly in the power of mentorship”.
“I’ve seen specific examples of how mentoring programs can lead to some extraordinary outcomes,” she said. “I know that your organisation is committed to providing female entrepreneurs with that level of support, will drive that spirit of enterprise, individualism, entrepreneurialism that I believe is the future of economic growth and prosperity in this country.”
Minister Michael McCormack said women were under-represented as entrepreneurs, in startups and tech fields, and in the investment sector. “The number of Australian women operating their own businesses has steadily increased over the past 20 years, but in line with other OECD countries, they remain under-represented as entrepreneurs,” he said.
He described Rare Birds’ vision to see a global community of one million women entrepreneurs by 2020 as “admirable”. “It’s inspiring to see both male and female leaders within the Rare Birds’ network building momentum and encouraging women to pursue their business and innovative ideas.”
“It’s this kind of vision which will make a difference and have far and wide-reaching benefits,” he said.
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It’s the dream for many entrepreneurs: a solid, low-maintenance membership model that produces a constant stream of revenue.
Scores of entrepreneurs have managed to get it right, but usually not without a few glitches along the way. Take Lynda Weinman, who founded the online learning portal Lynda.com with husband Bruce Heavin in 1995. Introducing a subscription model almost broke her business.
So how can you maximise your chances of getting it right from the beginning? Understanding your audience is key, according to Birchbox subscription service co-founders Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna.
To do this you need to start by asking yourself three questions:
1. Who are your potential members?
Let’s say your audience is dog fanatics and you want to create a platform that’s packed with training articles and videos, along with information about different dog breeds, diets and ownership tips. You’re thinking of charging $5.99 a month for access to selected parts of your website.
To find out if your idea is viable, gather as much information as possible about the demographic of your audience. How are old they, what’s their income, education, title and geographic location? The more data you collect, the more insights you’ll have into what your users need from their membership.
2. What are your audience’s challenges?
Your dog fanatics might tell you that finding organic food for their pet is difficult or that their dog gets lonely when they’re at work or away from the house for hours on end. Having this kind of information can help you:
- Refine your membership offering.
- Plan for enhancements to your platform.
- Allocate time and resources within your team.
- Budget for future technology upgrades.
3. How are you going to solve these challenges?
Once you have a picture of who your members are likely to be and the challenges they face, you can develop a membership package that helps solves these problems. Look at those offered by your competitors and if there’s a gap in the market for what you’re proposing. Creating a SWOT analysis can help you identify this more easily.
From here you can explore suitable price points and – if you’re planning on offering a tiered membership comprising of different products and/or services – define which programs offer the greatest potential for revenue growth.
To implement your membership program you’ll need a marketing program that focuses on attracting new members as much as it does retaining them. You can read more about this in the 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmark Report.
What if your membership model doesn’t work?
If you find yourself losing members, don’t panic – there are ways to get your audience back and grow it:
- Talk to your members – your relationship with them is crucial.
- Make sure your team is highly focused on providing attentive, personal customer service – they need to care about their work.
- Revisit your data and pay close attention to indications that your members’ needs may be changing.
- Consider improving the quality of your membership service.
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