Marc Woods

Marc Woods -  Leadership Inspiring Stories  Speaker


About Marc Woods - Paralympian, Author and Cancer Ambassador:

Marc Woods competed internationally as a swimmer for 17 years; winning 12 Paralympic medals from 5 Games and a further 21 from either World or European Championships. In the past he has held world records for 200m, 400m, 1500m Freestyle and as well as being part of the team that held the world record for 4 x 100m Freestyle. At the London 2012 Paralympic Games worked for the BBC as a commentator and presenter, as well as performing in the opening ceremony.

Marc now spends his time presenting at business conference around the world. His speech takes you on an inspirational journey - giving insights into personal responsibility, leadership, teamwork and motivation. It is a journey that took him from cancer patient to multiple Gold medallist. Along with some of the personnel now working with British Cycling he was a pioneer of the notion of marginal gains.

Marc has written three books. Most notably Personal Best, a combination of his inspirational life story and personal development advice, and more recently Beyond the Call, which supported by research from New York University, looks at how to create conditions within an organisation that make discretionary effort more likely.

Amongst other things he is an ambassador of Teenage Cancer Trust, a director of the Youth Sport Trust and ambassador for CANSA (South Africa's Cancer Charity) and patron for Bone Cancer Research Trust.

His clients come from all business sectors and include IBM, Pfizer, Sainsbury, O2 and Santander.

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What Marc Woods Talks About:

Challenge and Overcoming Adversity

The story:

Marc had his left leg amputated because of cancer when he was just seventeen years old, He had been a county swimmer before the diagnosis and the day after he had his stitches out he went swimming again. Within a year he was swimming quicker with one leg then he did when he had two.

His dream was to simply be the best that he could be and just 18 months after he finished his chemotherapy he was selected to represent Great Britain. He subsequently competed at European & World Championships and Paralympic Games. In his 17 years of competition he won a staggering 12 Paralympic medals from 5 Games, 4 of those medals being gold.

The 'take homes' on overcoming adversity:

  • Through choosing to be the 'best you can be' it is possible to turn a negative into a positive driving force;
  • Focus on the things under your control and blank out those which aren't; and
  • To stay on track, take time to understand what motivates you.

Facing Change and Taking Personal Responsibility

The story:

As a teenager Marc would describe himself as lazy. Faced with a daunting situation he took personal responsibility to get on with his life to the best of his ability. In his presentation Marc describes having to learn to walk again and how taking the time to do that as well as he possibly could still positively impacts on his life today.

The 'take homes' on overcoming adversity:

  • We can't always choose what changes but we can choose how we deal with it;
  • Taking personal responsibility for change is in itself a positive action;
  • Encouraging and listening to feedback is critical; and
  • Take time to review.


The story:

During his presentation Marc plays a video of his thrilling relay race in Atlanta where the team came from seven meters behind only to lose by twelve one hundredths of a second, The gold medal was within touching distance... and then it was gone.

After reviewing everything it wasn't until Marc watched the video of the race that he noticed something, There they were all four of the team in he medal podium; two with beaming smiles on their faces; two looking devastated. It was then that he realised what was wrong. They had competed as four individuals and not as a team. Two wanted to win and two were happy with 2nd or 3rd.

Following this disappointment Marc describes how a culture of teamwork was developed and in the second clip which Marc plays the team comes through to win the gold in Sydney. He also describes how the notion that everyone gas a role to play in winning, regardless what their day to day job, was communicated to the broader support team and how this ensured a further Gold medal in Athens.

The 'take homes' on overcoming adversity:

  • If a team doesn't share a common goal and objective they are unlikely to achieve their true potential;
  • Do you know who's on your team? Take time to agree to objectives and get 'buy in' with your team; and
  • How to get 'buy in' from support staff.


The story:

When Marc was first asked to lead the team he willingly did it but it was only through making mistakes that he realised that he needed to develop his leadership and communication skills. In particular he needed to improve his listening skills and thereby his ability to obtain buy-in from his team mates. Marc describes turning a dysfunctional team around by creating an open environment where people were passionate about being the best that they could be.

The 'take homes' on overcoming adversity:

  • Leadership skills can be learnt;
  • Leaders must be passionate; and
  • Leaders have to listen.


Motivation and inspiration are a given within this presentation. Marc speaks with passion, humour and humility. Utilising superb BBC TV footage his story takes the delegates on a journey from cancer patient to multiple medal winner.

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 Recent Publications

Marc's story is itself remarkable, but the way he draws out so many personal and professional parallels in such an entertaining way means that the audience's attention is 100% all the way through. I think every one of the 400 of our staff who attended gained something personally and I can see our company growing stronger as a result.


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