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This is the tale of how I got the booking for Booking.com’s big, global conference to show you have you can get them too.

It was one of those bookings that every speaker wants to get: 7000 delegates, from 200 offices in 78 countries. I am right now in Amsterdam as one of 23 external speakers for BAM17 (Booking Annual Meeting 2017), the annual conference of Booking.com. The conference arena is fully taken over by the company and it is vibrating with energy from all the young and energetic employees from all over the world who have come to attend this annual event.

Booking.com is the world’s leading booking site for tourists and they have this amazing tradition where they, once per year, fly all the employees from all their offices around the world to a big, two days conference to network, mingle, learn and party.

A lot of companies arrange global companies for top management, but Booking.com is flying all (!) their staff (regardless of position!) to one huge, global, corporate get-together. (They just leave a bare bone minimum of staff left to keep the lights on.)

It’s a conference that ticks all the boxes on the kind of conference speakers want to speak at: global conference, vibrant client, fun industry, large audience etc.

So how did I get this global conference booking? By, two years ago, speaking for the local, regional Booking.com-conference for South East Asia in Bangkok, speaking to about 100 middle managers. At that event my client told me about their big, global conference and I made a mental note that, one day, I would speak at that conference.

A few months later I find out that my former client had moved back from Asia to the corporate HQ in Amsterdam. I sent him an email congratulating him to his new position and added a few lines about how I would, one day, love to speak at their global conference.

One year later I get two separate emails from two different people at the Booking.com HQ inviting me to speak at BAM (Booking Annual Meeting). The team behind the annual meeting had asked people at HQ for names of speakers that they could recommend. My client had mentioned me to two separate people on the organising committee, who both contacted me. Turns out the theme of this year’s conference was “imagination” which fits very well with my themes of Business Creativity.

The booking.com booking was confirmed.

So what is the lesson here?

Well, first to have a keynote theme that fits well with the themes of big, global conferences.

But more importantly: That the best way to get a global conference booking is to do a regional conference booking. And the best way to get a regional conference booking is to do a country booking.

Just like the best national teams qualifies for the World Cup, the best speakers who get to speak at the most important, largest, global conferences often get selected from the pool of speakers who have been speaking at national, or regional, conferences.

That, of course, means that you have to be judged as being the best of those in the running.

So that means that when you go up to speak at that small, regional or national conference you should go up with the mentality that you are auditioning to speak at the big, global conference. So if (!) someone in the audience of that small, local conference is, in any way, involved in organising, or in contact with the people who are organising, the global conference they will remember you.

I got a big speech for another huge company’s global client conference after speaking at another, small, local event for their Chinese clients – and event that had just 20 (!) attendees – but one of them just happened to be involved in organising the big, global conference …

I look at every speaking opportunity as an audition to get a bigger speaking job.

That mindset took me to speak at 23 different global or international conferences just last year. And that mindset got me to start 2017 off with speaking at two big international conferences.

What’s your mindset?

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In one of his most famous speechs Ronald Reagan stood infront of the Berlin Wall on June 12 1987 and said: “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”.

I do not specifically remember him holding that speech (it’s apparently did not have such a huge impact at the time, but has later been seen, by some, as a speech that helped, in part, push the Berlin Wall to fall.)

I am mentioning this line from Reagan’s speech because today a man came up to me after my speech and said: “Thank you so much for your speech, it was the best one I have ever heard. You were able to break up the barrier between the speaker and the stage!”

Turns out that the man who came up to me was the sound guy …

A man who, in his job, has listened to hundreds, and hundreds of speakers.

I thanked him for his kinds words and asked him what he meant with that part of “breaking the barrier”.

He sighed, and complained about how so many speakers arn’t able to reach out to the audience they are speaking to.

He explained that it was not about the sound (his job was to make sure that they were heard, after all).

But no matter how well the mic is transmitting your words, it will not help unless you, as a speaker is not breaking through to the audience.

I asked him what he thought was the best ways of breaking the barrier between the audience and the stage. He had after all heard so many speakers in his career.

He said:

1) Energy.

So many speakers go up on stage and just say the words that they had planned to say, but without the energy needed to get the audience to feel that they should  really pay attention and listen

2) Lack of purpose.

So many speakers do not seem to know why they are up on the stage to begin with.

3) Drifting away

So many speakers go up on stage, start their speech, but then drift away in directions that they had not planned to go, leading to confusing, non-logical, or scattered messages.

I also asked him what it was in my speech that had made him like it so much, and how I had been able to remove that invisible barrier of distance between speaker and audience.

He replied:

1) Humor

Makes sense, laughter is the great barrier killer after all.

2) Audience participation

Taking cues from things that someone in the audience is saying and play with that for a while is a great way to create a feeling of “togetherness” between the speaker and the audience

3) Making the message simple to understand.

By making the message clear and simple the audience can easily understand it, and spend time on thinking about what your message has been, instead of spending time on thinking about what the message it about.

Lesson: Take it from the sound guy: if you are not able to reach out to the audience you might as well not have a mic at all.

 

 

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Every star has the “it” factor, but what is it that gives someone that “it”?

That was one of many conversations I had tonight with dr Boy Abunda over a three hour long dinner.

If you do not know who Boy Abunda is I can guarantee that you are not from the Philippines. In the Philippines he is Oprah, David Letterman and Ellen DeGeneres combined. He is “the King of Talk” and has interviewed everyone from Deepak Chopra to Miss Universe over an almost 30 year long career.

But tonight he was not interviewing anyone, if anything I was interviewing him.

Because a part from being a tv-talk show host he also runs a series of other companies including a talent management company that mangers all kinds of celebrities, from basketball players and actors to a celebrity dentist (!).

And it was from the perspective of both interviewing stars and celebrities, as well as helping to create them (as a talent manager) that I wanted to hear Dr Boy Abunda’s view on what it is that creates the “it-factor” – this elusive characteristic that makes someone have “star quality”.

I asked him to define this “it-factor”.

His first respons was that it can’t be defined. “That’s why it’s called the “x-factor”.”

That, of course, was a correct observation.

But I wanted to get an answer to a question that was not easily answered. I wanted to get closer to the truth. Catch the rainbow around being a star, if you wish.

So Dr Abunda kept thinking.

And then he replied: “It’s what radiates from you.”

“What is it that radiates?”, I inquired.

His answer surprised me and then delighted me.

He said: “Your story.”

He then elaborated: “People who have the “It-factor” have a deeper awareness of who they are. They are comfortable in themselves, in who they are and what they stand for.”

He continued to explain how he told the talents which he managers why no-one should ever try to copy some-one else’s singing style or acting style in an attempt to become a star, because it will never work since you do not have the background that made the person you are copying who they are.

The same is true for speakers.

Look at great speakers, learn from great speakers – but do not copy great speakers.

Instead dig deep into who you really are as a speaker, a person, a human being – as a soul. Then build yourself up as a speaker from there.

(Dr Abunda then added that this radiation that comes from knowing deeply who you are has to be nurtured with the tools of the trade, kind of like how a diamond has to be cut to shine to its fullest potential.)

What does star quality have to do with being a great speaker you say? And I say: A lot.

The ability to walk up on a stage and capture an audience requires a skill that is quite similar to possessing this “it-factor”.

Lesson: So as a speaker, try to dig inside to find your true story, the one that makes you radiate, so that you then can reach out with your message because people are drawn to what you have to say.

Bonus information: I also asked Boy Abunda about all the people he had interviewed and what made someone good to interview, and he replied that some people “have the gift of clarity”.

I found that profoundly insightful – and, I might add, very clear. 😉

The ability to get a message a cross in a way that people easily understand and take to their hearts is perhaps the most important skill a speaker can have. And to have it is truly a gift.

In all the speeches that you give, try to deliver them using the gift of clarity.

And then combine the two messages from Boy Abunda and you will have something truly powerful: A person who radiates while delivering a message that is communicated clearly.

I think you will agree with me that if you heard about a speaker who did that you would rush to get a chance to hear that speech.