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The pictures in this blog posts are for two speeches that I have done in the last month or so.

One from a classic old hotel in Rome for a speech for Visa’s clients from EMEA.
And the other one from the iconic Waldorf Astoria on the Bund in Shanghai a few days ago where I spoke to the top managers at the global management conference of Permira.

Both conferences had about 200 attendees (which means they were not a very large conference) and both conferences had substituted the traditional backdrop for a LED-wall stretching the full length of the big stage.

Big LED-walls are of course not something new, but they used to be used only for big conferences with 500-1000 people in the audience because of the cost of setting them up.

I am writing this post because at both the Visa conference and the Permira conference the event managers joyfully told me: “The cost of getting a LED-wall was virtually the same as to get a traditional backdrop”.

I guess that means that we speakers have to get much more used to speaking in front of an LED-wall. (And as a speaker I can see that happening: In the last 6 speeches I have done 3 had LED-walls and 3 had printed back-drops.)

So what is the difference, you say? Not a huge one, but a few things to think about:

1) Less chance that the laser-pointer will work (the light on the laser pointer is just not strong enough to show up on the LED-wall) so if you are going to pinpoint something on stage be sure you have an alternative way of doing it.

2) More light behind you (so make sure you do not only do a sound-check, but also a light-check, especially if you are using a flip-chart where it becomes very important that the light facing the stage is strong enough)

3) If you are not using slides: Make sure you have a background picture that re-inforces your message, or that you at least approve of the back-ground picture they will be showing during your speech (Like in the picture to the left where they threw up a huge picture of the Chinese Wall behind the panelists, if you are panelist you would like to know that beforehand.)

4) If you are using slides: Ask to see the back-ground framing-picture that will be used around your slides (your slides will be “picture-in-picture” on a much bigger picture, be sure you know what that picture is. (I guess I am saying, do not only do a sound-check and light-check but also a “background check” 😉

5) Especially notice if there are any animations happening in the background picture and decide if you want the background to be animated or not (most of the time they will have an animated background as well as a static background. Personally I would choose the static background DURING the speech, and let the animations happen between speakers.)

6) If it is a big conference, or if you find out about the LED-wall early enough to make changes to your slides, check if the client wants you to leave the “safety” powerpoint slide and instead want you to go for the slide-deck that shows up on the full wall. (So add that question about “what kind of technology will be used for the backdrop?” to your briefing call list of questions.)

7) Realise that our audiences is quickly getting used to huge, animated, lit up stages – even for small conferences – and that puts different demands (and expectations) on us as speakers. No, it doesn’t mean we HAVE to have flashy animations in our speeches, but it does mean that audiences will expect it more and more.

That’s my thoughts on professional speaking this week based on what inspired me the last few days.

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I am know as the “global conference speaker” who delivers keynotes around the world (spoke in 24 countries last year). But standing on stages and traveling the world is what you see, but what about those days when I am not traveling, and not speaking?

I thought it could be of useful to see what those “non-speaking” speaking days can look like.

Today was a typical such day. (This was written Monday 14 May)

8:30 – 9:30 – Had late and long breakfast with my 2.5 year old daughter who wanted to learn how to “make tea”.

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9:30 – 10:45 – Did an Inner Theme session (www.innertheme.com) with a speaker from Dubai who had flown in and wanted help to find clarity on the topic he should be speaking on. (we finished the session in the taxi to my client meeting to give him maximum time with me.)

11:00 – 12:00 Client meeting for a speech I am delivering on Saturday for a global bank’s IT department.

12:00 – 14:45 Lunch, 30 minutes walk in a park and a 90 minute massage. (When I am not speaking I try to give myself plenty of time off from “work” to give me time to think, reflect and contemplate.

That is also where I drafted out the outline for this blog post.

14:45 – 17:30  Attended my son’s swim championships. I am father first, speaker second and have been on “50% (unpaid) paternity leave” for the last 4 years. I rather make less money and spend more time with my children when they are young than have all that extra income but wish I had known my kids better. Seeing my son’s face when he swam for the first time in a championship is priceless.

17:30 – 18:00  – Did the last changes to the slides for a presentation I am doing in Shanghai on the 17th.

18:00 – 19:30 Eat dinner with family and put kids to sleep. I especially find that last 30 minutes before the kids fall asleep to be the most valuable parenting hour. Having them fall asleep knowing I am there.

19:30 – 21:00 Drinks and chat with the owner of a speaker bureau who is also a good friend. The business of speaking is a business of relationships and when working with a bureau for a number of years you develop a friendship that is beyond business. The business of speaking is, at least for me, actually never about the business. It’s about people, about spreading a message, about making the world change for the better.

21:00 – 10:30 A late night discussion with two speakers visiting from India, about how we can help develop the professional speaking business in Asia. Helping grow the speaking business in general is something I am very passionate about and something I put many hours of un-paid work into. I have been speaking for almost 1/4 of a century and I am now in the phase of my life where you give back.

Thus also the reason I am writing this blog.

10:30 – 11:30 Watching a movie with my wife.

Checking and replying to emails I did while in taxis going to and from different meetings during the day.

Now, there might not be a lot that looks like “sales” or “work” during this day, and that is the point. When I am not speaking I try to give myself time and space to meet inspiring people, to have time for my family and to help develop the speaking industry. Later this week I am flying to China for a big keynote for a global conference. But today was about what I do when I do not speak.

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Is there a word for “invisible voice”? Invoiceble”?

What I mean is people who attend conferences and think that their voices can not be heard when they talk.

It is often the AV-people, the event organisers, and very often the hotel staff. Of course, often it is the delegates at the convention.

People who think that if they just lower their voices and whisper no-one will hear them talk and they will not disrupt the speaker on stage.

They are wrong.

They can be heard.

I am not saying that AV-people and event managers do not need to speak during a convention, but I am talking about all the un-neccesary talking that goes on.

The picture is from a speech I did on Friday in Abu Dhabi where one of the event managers was talking almost 50% of the time during the afternoon. Chatting away with other event staff while obviously being bored with the actual convention.

What they do not understand is that this chatter and obvious uninterest in the speaker on stage is contagious and people in the audience hear it and get affected.

As speakers we should NEVER be part of this behaviour.

It’s easy to think that we are “backstage” and that no-one notices us when we are sitting in the back of the convention room, but very often the AV-booth etc is in (!) the ballroom which means you are not back-stage – you are part of the convention, part of the ballroom experience.

So show respect for the other speakers – and for the audience – and do not speak in the ballroom until it’s your time to speak from the stage. No matter how chatty, social and nice the hotel staff, AV-staff or event managers are.

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