John Nichol was a prisoner of war during the Gulf War after his Tornado aircraft was shot down. He recounts his dramatic experiences of Operation Desert Storm in his talks. Describing himself as ‘an ordinary guy who just happened to find himself in extraordinary circumstances’, John’s message is one of optimism, inspiration and personal motivation. He is adept at helping corporate audiences deal with issues such as upheaval and change, and is able to be thought provoking and yet still humorous at the same time.
Flt Lt John Nichol speaks on the following topics:
The first the world saw of RAF navigator Flight Lieutenant John Nichol was when his photograph appeared in the world’s media when he became a British prisoner of war in the Middle East. John appeared on television alongside the pilot, Flt. Lt. John Peters, after their Tornado aircraft was shot down, forced to appear by a brutal Iraqi regime.
The daylight-bombing raid over Southern Iraq upon which John had embarked had gone terribly wrong. Hit by a SAM 14 surface to air missile, navigator and pilot had been forced to eject over the Iraqi desert. The traumatic weeks of capture and torture, which ensued, gave John a unique insight into the human capacity to deal with even the most severe and disruptive change.
Partly as a result of his outgoing personality, partly as a result of the experience itself, John Nichol is now able to present a fascinating insight into what happens when our innermost reserves are tested by external demands. His account of what happened takes his audience from the highly organised training and teamwork of a RAF jet squadron to the isolation of being shot down and held in solitary confinement.
Since the Gulf War, John’s military career took him on active service to the Falkland Islands and to Bosnia as part of the UN peacekeeping mission. The account of his ordeal in Iraq, ‘Tornado Down’ has sold over 300,000 copies, topping the bestseller lists, whilst the documentary of his time as a POW was a BAFTA nominee. Describing himself as ‘an ordinary guy who just happened to find himself in extraordinary circumstances’, John’s message is one of optimism, inspiration and personal motivation. His personal triumph lies in having discovered his potential to cope with extremes and achieve goals way beyond his perceived horizons.
John leaves his audience in no doubt – such potential exists in all of us.
“John, many thanks for speaking at our leadership conference last week. It was a delight to meet you and hear your unique and inspiring life story. I think you could tell from the extensive discussions after your presentation that our business leaders were truly engaged and curious to learn even more about what you went through. The insights gained from your personal experiences have direct parallels for individuals and leaders in the business world.” UnumProvident, Leadership Conference
“Your presentation was excellent and very moving. It would have been very easy to stray into glorification of war, self-pity or to paint yourself as a hero – you didn’t fall into any of those traps – you came over as humble and very honest and earned the full respect of the audience for this approach. The Q&A session at the end was excellent, many thanks.” IBM, Annual Conference
“Thank you for a most entertaining, stimulating & thought-provoking presentation last week. There has been great positive feedback from the delegates. You pitched the presentation perfectly and the tone of your talk was just right for an after-dinner speech. You will have noted from the duration and intensity of the Q&A session afterwards that you generated a massive interest in our people.” Southern Water, After-dinner Speech
“The audiences at the four awards events at which you presented for us were transfixed by the story you had to tell. Given the diversity of the audience, you tailored your approach to meet the brief we gave you and this really ensured that your message clearly resonated with the young people we wanted to motivate. The presentation was well balanced in terms of humour and drama and, crucially, left the audience in no doubt that no matter the circumstances life may put you in, it is within the individual to take on the challenge and overcome it. Truly inspirational and I would recommend you without hesitation.” Construction Industry Training Board
“John Nichol has made a big impression. He exceeded our expectations and has become a talking point within the organisation. His presentation was very thought provoking: no one can fail to be motivated.” Nortel Networks
“I have seen a lot of “motivational” speakers and it is an understatement to say that you were a complete hit! To get that level of interaction and attention from our team after nine hours hard graft speaks for itself. Your talk was inspirational and very motivating, as well as incredibly humbling….it certainly framed the day superbly, and will definitely be talked about for many meetings to come!” Director
“In a conference hotel outside Birmingham the audience has worked itself into a lather of exhilaration, their minds worlds away from sales targets. The music surges as Mr. Nichol walks off stage and the crowd goes wild. A straw poll found the consensus among the audience feeling “uplifted” and “able to take on any challenge”. – The Economist
“Thanks so much for your brilliant presentation – the feed back has been extremely positive. I think the delivery was inspiring and it is very rare that such a session is followed by so many questions. Pitched at the correct level, it has made my teams think about of their outlook on life. Well done and hope to work with you again” National Managers' Conference
“Dear John, thank you so much for doing such a great job for us today. We have had lots of positive feedback about your inspiring and really engaging talk. It made our day. Many thanks.”
Who or what was your motivation to keep going?
A true belief that at some point the ordeal would come to an end. I had no idea how long it would take – it could have been months or even years, but I always believed that I would eventually return to my loved ones. To have given up that belief, would mean giving up all hope.
Whilst you were in captivity assuming you had no wrist watch, how did you measure the passing of time?
Time was simply measured by darkness or light – there was no concept about the exact time of day. Counting days and keeping the track of dates became incredibly important because it was a means of retaining some form of control. After seven weeks of isolation and captivity, I knew the correct date of my release!
Upon your release did you ever feel that life was easier in captivity rather than being in the constant glare of publicity?
Not for me – but the publicity was certainly surprising as I had no concept that the world had been watching my ordeal across the media. Indeed it still amazes me that 21 years after the event, people still recognise me and talk about “that picture” where I was shown as a prisoner-of-war.
What is the biggest life lesson or change that this experience has given you?
Life deals you some pretty strange cards! You may not want to deal with the challenges life gives you, but in reality, you have little choice. And for most of us, it is life’s testing times which make us grow and realise our incredible capacity to cope in what can be, the most extreme circumstances.
What was the turning point of your experience?
Firstly being released and realising I had survived a pretty horrific experience. But in the next few months, discovering that my own simple story had touched the world and that people were incredibly keen to hear about my experiences.
Were there times you thought you would not survive?
Plenty. I was nearly killed on a couple of occasions and at one point resigned myself to my impending death – there was no “life flashing before my eyes”; I simply felt immensely calm and wondered what the “after-life” would be like….or if there was going to be one!
Why do you think it is important to book an external speaker?
The job of a speaker is to inspire, inform, entertain and enthral the audience – a good external speaker with an exciting personal story is ideally placed to fulfil that brief. I like to see my audiences sitting on the edges of their seats, totally engaged by my story, but also absorbing the explicit messages the client wants me to deliver.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I am currently writing my 13th book recording the astonishing stories of the fast-diminishing band of World War II veterans – I hope it’s a great success.
I continue to work with my corporate clients; hosting their events and entertaining and inspiring the audiences but I’m also branching out by helping other speakers (both business and professional) polish and improve their own presentation techniques. I have been speaking to audiences big and small for nearly twenty years now and have witnessed some of the very best, and sometimes the very worst, examples of public speaking. Regardless of whether you are a highly paid celebrity, or a manager briefing a small team, the concept that you can simply jump on stage “and wing it” when speaking to an audience, needs to be avoided at all costs! Most people need some sort of help, advice and guidance to hone their speaking skills.
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