One sunny Spring morning about two decades ago, when I was a litigation partner in a law firm, I spotted an entry in my business calendar: “Kissing With Confidence course”. And so I found myself in a boardroom one morning with a chap called Russell Wardrop. I already thought that I was a pretty good presenter but boy did I learn a lot that day. Russell was inspirational. (He still is.) The course was brilliant.
Of course what none of us in the room knew then was that this was in fact the first paid course Russell had delivered, having recently formed the funkily named Kissing With Confidence skills development business. Russell had been delivering presentations and debating at world championship level for fun over many years. He’d decided to turn his passion into a full-time career.
I think I caught Russell’s attention on the course. So we became acquaintances and caught up from time to time to chew the fat.
Scroll forward a year - Kissing With Confidence was becoming well established, Russell was struggling to deliver all the training himself and was on the hunt for a young disciple. I reckoned that this would be a great way for me to hone my own presentation skills – useful to my law firm as I was out and about delivering talks to clients and speaking at conferences as part of my business development activity.
There followed many months of evening and weekend training sessions with Russell as he coached and moulded me into shape. And then came delivery day. My first paid Kissing With Confidence gig. It was a general communication skills session arranged by the local enterprise company, Business Gateway, for local businessmen and women. The audience was an eclectic mix of small local business people – including some staff from the local chip shop, run by an enlightened owner keen on personal development. I survived the first gig. Nobody threw anything. And I got a huge buzz from it. I was hooked.
I progressed to bigger and better gigs over a couple of years and then the chats with Russell over a coffee became more serious – when was I going to leave law and join Sharon and Russell full-time. I sat down with Suz and we talked it through. While traditionally I am pretty risk averse, it was so clear to me that this was something I really had to do. I didn’t want to keep on being a commercial litigator for another couple of decades, retire and always wonder – what would it have been like if I’d taken up that offer. As the research shows, people regret far more on their deathbed the things they didn’t do than the things that they did do.
So I accepted. I resigned from the legal partnership, and on the first of October 2006 I started my new career. It is unquestionably the best decision I have ever made in my life. So for the past eleven years I’ve been continually honing and developing my own training, coaching and facilitation skills, attending courses, reading books, devising and refining new content for our programmes and working with some amazing businesses around the globe. Last year I had the privilege of helping some directors with their pitch presentation related to a deal worth about £4 billion. What a buzz. It seems like a long way from that first Business Gateway gig fifteen years ago.
Even after more than a decade of coaching, speaking to and training over 20,000 people, I still get a great sense of anticipation before a coursed begins, a huge buzz as the day unfolds and a big dopamine rush when the audience applauds at the end. And it’s hugely satisfying to read the delegate reports from Rainmaker Programmes as they tell us they are using the skills learned on the programme and winning hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of work as a result.
So to all those reading this who have been on the receiving end of a programme delivered my me, I thank you for allowing me to indulge my passion. Here’s to the next decade.