Vanessa Cuddeford is the Founder & Performance Coach of ‘Present, Perform, Persuade’
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I was a news reporter and anchor for ITV News, I’d been doing the job for almost 10 years and had always been confident on camera, but the growing pressure of the job meant I was suddenly hit by stage fright. It became so bad that I considered giving up my career. Maternity leave gave me an opportunity to reassess, and I used that time to understand why I was struggling and work on overcoming my fears. What I realised is that I was far from alone. Many people feel fearful speaking in public, they just don’t necessarily do it every day on television! But most jobs involve some element of public speaking. I returned to presenting after maternity leave. By now I was feeling confident again. I saw an opportunity to combine my presenting career with training and coaching for women who also struggle speaking up in meetings and presenting at work. My company ‘Present, Perform, Persuade’ has now been running since 2018. In that time, we’ve helped hundreds of women learn to speak confidently. We run online and in-person training and coaching. It goes beyond your average presentation training, but really gets to the heart of overcoming imposter syndrome and feeling confident to share your thoughts.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I sought help from lots of different areas to overcome my own speaking fears. I read a book I had on cognitive behavioural therapy. I worked with presentation coaches and sought advice from colleagues, but there was no single magic bullet to help. In effect, I built up my own toolkit that enabled me to return to work and enjoy confidently presenting. That’s when I thought I could create something unique that would help others speak confidently and get their message across so they could advance in their own careers, but also crucially feel confident too.
How did you achieve awareness?
I remember hearing a joke that said a recent survey of people’s most common fears placed speaking in public above death! Which means that at your average funeral, the person giving the eulogy would rather be in the box. It made me laugh, but also realise the truth of it. 50-70% of people don’t like presenting! Yet a lot of people have to present in some way throughout their career. I realised that I could really help people speak with gravitas, and crucially put their fears in perspective.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
I’ve been lucky in that I was able to set up with money lent to me by family. My business began online, and so I didn’t have huge overheads. Fairly quickly it became profitable, through word of mouth and a strong online advertising funnel. Last year I brought on two other coaches to help me and I’m looking to bring on more this year.
What are the key successes?
Helping hundreds of women speak confidently and realise their own dreams.
Some of my clients want to stop avoiding speaking up, others want to stop dreading giving presentations. Some want to achieve the dream of being a thought-leader in their sector and perhaps give a TED talk. Many of my clients have gone on to give TED talks, with one even addressing the UN. Success is individual for each client but the key access for me is facilitating each client to overcome their fear, further their career, achieve their dream and feel more in control and confident.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
When people begin coaching and training businesses, I think they imagine they’ll spend most of their time doing the thing they love. In fact, a huge chunk of time is spent in marketing and finding the clients. This was tricky for me at first as I was doing it all alone. But I found the right support, built a successful advertising funnel, and have now reached a level of success that I can employ a superb team who help with that part of the job.
What are your plans now/for the future?
I want to keep growing and reaching more and more people! We have recently created a training programme for men as well as women.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
What you perceive to be your weaknesses can be turned around and become your strengths. I thought my presenting career was over when I struggled with stage fright. In fact it opened the door to something wonderful and has enabled me to help hundreds of others and feel I’m giving back. For me, it’s about having a passion for what you do. If you truly care about the people you’re serving then that passion will carry you through the tricky times
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Being very clear on what you offer and the outcome you provide your customer. We help high achieving women overcome their speaking fears and advance their career. It’s as simple as that.
If you stay true to the outcome you want to help people achieve and prioritise that, everything else falls into place.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Michelle Obama for her enthusiasm and positivity.
Malala Yousafzai for using her voice to speak up for what she believes in.
BBC journalist Lyse Doucet for her immense compassion in all her reporting.
My mother, my sister and my friends inspire me every day with their resilience and kindness.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
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