Tag Archives: mindset

Ten (More) Parallels Between Running and Public Speaking


Back in the summer of 2016, I decided to take up running and wrote a post about how running is similar to public speaking.

Due to some changes in my personal circumstances, running became less of a priority and until recently I hadn’t run for months.

But with my alternative way of approaching goal setting (which you can read about here), I am starting to make running a part of my life. It was whilst out running recently that I came up with ten more parallels between running and public speaking:

  1. Change your mind about your ability

No doubt you have beliefs that impact on the way that you live your life. For me, one of the beliefs that has continued throughout my life is that I’m not very sporty. I never imagined I would be able to class myself as a runner. But one day I just changed my mind. I made the decision to get out and run and I just did it. And now, even though I don’t run that fast, I still run so I assume I can call myself a runner! Change can happen in a moment and it’s so simple. If you fear public speaking, the first step is to decide not to fear it any longer. If you think you’re no good a pitching and presenting, change your mind about your current ability and then take steps to improve.

  1. You are capable of more than you think you are

I have completely surprised myself over the last 2 weeks, running further and faster than I ever thought would be possible (my achievements may not be spectacular to anyone else but for me it’s amazing!) By not setting myself a specific target for each week, or even for each run, I have been able to exceed anything I would have thought I was capable of so I have decided to take this approach into my business and life in general. And you can too. If you think you can’t give a presentation or pitch your business with confidence, think again! We are all capable of so much more than we think we are so give yourself a chance to find out just how much.

  1. Familiarise yourself with the start and finish line

I’m sure you are familiar with the streets around your house, and so am I. As a result, no matter which route I’m running, if I start at my house I feel at ease because I know where I am and what it’s like to run on those streets. My run might take me into unfamiliar avenues, over unfamiliar terrain or through unfamiliar areas, but as I get closer to returning to my home, the environment becomes more familiar and I feel confident as I approach the end of my run. It’s the same with public speaking – if you familiarise yourself with the start and the end of your presentation you can begin and end with confidence.

  1. Stop and take a breath if you need to

For my last two longer runs I have allowed myself to stop at the halfway point, take stock, do some stretches and breathe deeply. This has helped to focus on the homeward journey and re-energise me so that I could run better than I would have had I not stopped. One of the biggest challenges for many people who speak in public is that when they’re nervous they talk more quickly and forget to breathe deeply. This makes them seem more nervous and makes the experience unpleasant for the presenter and the audience. Remember that it’s okay to pause for a moment to breathe deeply or take a sip of water before carrying on; both you and your audience will appreciate it.

  1. The thought of it is often worse than the reality

Sometimes I put off going for a run and tell myself I can’t be bothered or I think it will hurt or it might rain or any one of dozens of other excuses I feed myself. But once I make the commitment to go, I usually feel fine after the first few minutes after which I get into a flow and a rhythm. And most people I know find the same thing with public speaking – the thought of it is often worse than the reality. Almost everyone gets nervous before giving an important presentation but if you’ve done your preparation you’ll generally find that after the first few moments you’ll feel fine and get into the flow so it’s important to know that and trust that it will be fine once you get started.

  1. Even if it’s a bit uncomfortable, keep going

As I am new to running, I don’t find it that easy or comfortable and a few days ago I also had a stitch to contend with. But I wasn’t prepared to let myself down by stopping so I embraced the discomfort and kept going because I knew that it would be worth it in the long run. When you’re giving a presentation, you may experience some discomfort but it’s obviously important to keep going – you don’t want to let your audience down or yourself. The discomfort will be worth it in the long run when you experience the personal satisfaction of having delivered a great presentation and you receive applause for a job well done.

  1. Wear a comfortable and appropriate outfit

One of the most important pieces of running kit is appropriate shoes and I will happily spend a lot of money for a pair that are supportive and comfortable. What I haven’t yet invested in is clothing designed for running so the other day one of the tops I was wearing kept riding up my torso. It was underneath another top so my belly wasn’t completely bare but it did get quite cold! It made me think about how important your outfit is in public speaking too. I have seen people experience embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions on stage or become completely distracted from what they were saying because they were worried about their appearance. If you are giving a presentation, choose your outfit carefully – it must be flattering, comfortable and appropriate for the situation.

  1. You’ll have good days and not so good days

The first day I started running again I was really surprised at how good I felt. I seemed to have energy, my legs felt strong and I was able to run further than I thought I could. My next run felt like I was wading through treacle; I still managed to run but I didn’t seem to have the same energy and it didn’t seem to flow. This happens with public speaking too – sometimes you’ll deliver a fantastic presentation where you feel your message is flowing and the audience is engaged and appreciative; other times it might feel a bit clunky and as though you didn’t connect as well with the audience. This is normal, even for professional speakers. Don’t let it put you off and don’t worry about it; just accept that some presentations feel better than others.

  1. Watch your posture

If I’m getting tired towards the end of a run, I notice that my body tends to slump forward and I have my head down which makes it harder to run efficiently and to feel good about it and stay motivated. As soon as I adjust my posture and hold my head up, I get a burst of energy and feel confident that I can keep running for longer. When you’re presenting, make sure you stand tall, with your shoulders back and your head up. You will not only look more confident but you’ll feel it too – exactly the way you want to feel when speaking in public.

  1. Smile and enjoy it!

Whilst at the moment I enjoy the feeling I get when I actually finish running, my ultimate aim is to enjoy the entire activity of running. And the more I do it and the more I improve the more enjoyable it is becoming. To help that along, I have started consciously smiling when I run and what a difference that makes to my enjoyment levels; I almost manage to ignore the burn in my legs. It’s the same with public speaking – even if you don’t feel like smiling, when you smile and show you’re enjoying yourself, your audience will enjoy themselves and you’ll feel good too.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_


If Goal Setting Doesn’t Work, Try This


At this time of year there are hundreds of blog posts and articles from all sorts of people telling you how to set and achieve your goals. And hundreds of other articles outlining all sorts of reasons why you’re unlikely to achieve your new year’s resolutions.

I don’t know about you, but around this time of year I really enjoy spending time reflecting on the year that has just come to a close and making plans for the coming year. I am fortunate to have a great friend and accountability partner and we have spent several hours together discussing our plans for 2017.

What is really interesting (and quite frustrating to her I’m sure) is how different we are when it comes to goal setting. She is very structured and likes to set achievable goals with achievable time frames. She is the type of person who will beat herself up if she doesn’t achieve a goal.

I, on the other hand, like to be more fluid with my goals. I’m not saying it always works but it’s a better approach for me as I’m not driven in the same way to achieve specific goals. And I also like the idea of not limiting what you think you can achieve, because in my experience you can usually achieve more than you think you can!

As an example, I have a vague goal of improving my fitness and energy levels in 2017 so on Boxing Day I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I went for a run today?” I don’t consider myself to be a runner and haven’t actually ‘run’ for many months; however, I figured I would just get out the door and see what happened. As I was running I felt okay and started to think “Wouldn’t it be great if I could just keep running for as long as I feel okay?”

So I kept running. At around 3.5kms I noticed my legs were starting to hurt but I thought “Wouldn’t it be great if I could run 4km today without stopping?” So I kept running. Once I reached 4km I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could run 5km without stopping?” (5km is the furthest I have ever run without stopping and I’ve only done that twice in my life – once last July when running with someone else and once in a ‘fun’ run more than 20 years ago!)

So I kept running. Once I got it into my head that it would be a great thing to do, I actually ran past my house and did an extra lap around the block to bring the total distance up to 5km. I completely surprised myself at my ability to achieve this. And that’s what I love about this way of setting goals. If I had have set off with a goal of running 5km that day, I doubt whether I would have set off in the first place!

So this year I’ve decided to set out my plans for the year as a series of questions. For example:

  • Wouldn’t it be great if my book was published this year? Yes it would!
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I could learn to surf this year? Yes it would!
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I was booked for more international speaking gigs this year? Yes it would!

I took a similar approach when I stopped drinking alcohol for a year. I didn’t proclaim that I was going to stop drinking alcohol for a year, I simply thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I stopped drinking alcohol for a while?” As the year progressed I changed the question several times until I was at about 11 months and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could say I had stopped for a year?” And I did. I’m going to try the same approach with junk food this year!

So if SMART goal setting doesn’t work for you (Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound), why not try a different approach?  What do you want to achieve or focus on this year? If you’re experiencing any resistance to your goal setting I encourage you to consider turning it into a question. For example if you want to get over your fear of public speaking, consider starting with, “Wouldn’t it be great if could speak up at a meeting this week?” Then you can move on to, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could visit a public speaking group just to see what it’s like?” And once you’ve done that, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could try out a short speech in front of a small supportive audience?” Yes it would!

Obviously, you also have to make the decision to do it and take action, but I find it’s so much easier to just take that initial first step with a more vague question pondering the possibility rather than a hard and fast statement of the goal. For me, this way of working towards what I want to achieve is far more appealing than specific time bound goals, and the great thing is that I never beat myself up for not achieving something because I always seem to be moving forward. Of course, you might think of this as a cop out, but I find that by using this approach I often achieve more than I would have originally thought possible.

So, if you’re like my friend who prefers to set and achieve SMART goals and that works for you, go for it. But if you want to try an alternative in 2017, why not ask the question “Wouldn’t it be great if… (fill in the blank)?”

Here’s to a year of exciting possibilities!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_