Here’s a small piece I did for the travel section of the Times that appeared on December 6th 2014, on the “Mandela trail”, if you are interested in finding out more about the great man’s life when next in Cape Town


If you could put up one of those joky office signs at the North Pole, or by a frigid glacial lake on the side of Mt Everest, saying “You Don’t Have To Be Mad To Work Here But It Helps”, you might find Lewis Pugh – ocean advocate, maritime lawyer, pioneer swimmer and motivational speaker – standing next to it.


I say that personally as someone who has breast-stroked 30 metres (yes a whole 30 metres!) in an unheated, outdoor pool in London in January with snow all around – a weird and unpleasant sensation that literally felt like I was being stabbed.

So I take my swim cap off to Lewis who – among many aquatic achievements – has swum across the North Pole (an almost superhuman achievement:  1 km in 18 icy minutes and 50 freezing seconds), and in a high-altitude mountain lake in Nepal, clad only in trunks, cap and goggles.

I was very lucky to meet Lewis recently in Cape Town, where he shared his top five tips (plus a bonus tip!) for speaking in public

(1) Tell a story. It’s the best way to get a message across. Remember – that’s how we have connected since the beginning of time. Forget PowerPoint! The best speeches were never done with it. MLK did not use it at the Lincoln Memorial. Abe Lincoln did not use it at Gettysburg. Winston Churchill did not use it to persuade the US to provide us with ships, and Nelson Mandela did not use it on his release. The list goes on.

2. Only speak on a topic you are passionate about.

3. Practice, practice, practice. It takes about 500 speeches before you’re any good. (Most professional speakers undertake between 50 and 100 speeches a year.)

4. Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.

5. It’s like sport: get into the zone. Sit in a quiet room before you go onto stage and focus.

I would add the following. It’s so important!

6. Get in tight! Imagine sitting under an African tree and telling a story to a group of villagers. Some are sitting, some are standing. Some are on logs. But you can see each one of them. That’s how we have told stories since the beginning of time. Not class room layout! Not cabaret table layout. So rearrange the furniture if you need to.

Thanks Lewis!