Month: April 2015

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30 April 2015 – Kiev, Ukraine.

Today Sir Richard Branson flew to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, in his private plane just so that he could speak to 3000+ attendees at the Forum One Conference.

At the end of his presentation he got the question from the moderator: ”Why?”

It’s a fair question. Here is a billionaire businessman with more than 300 companies, who also is personally involved in a number of global not-for-profit-projects and who is famous for privately living an extremely active life. So why does he fly for hours just to speak for a bunch of Eastern European business people?

He replied: “We all know that when we give a present it’s better than when getting one. I have lived a fun, and active, life. I think it is important to share my experiences.”

Great answer – but he could, of course, just have recorded a video and sent it to the organisers or posted it online. But he didn’t.

Why not?

He did not answer that question, but I think the answer is that there are few things that can give such a rush as standing in front of a big audience delivering a speech on a subject you really believe in. The excitement, the inspiration and the feedback that you get from giving a well received speech is hard to beat.

Think about it: What do former US presidents do when they are done being “the most powerful man in the free world”?

Answer: They often hit the speaker circuit.

US presidents and billionaires – people who are better positioned than probably anyone else to do exactly what they want – choose to spend their time speaking.

I find that an interesting observation.

Lesson: The profession of being a professional speaker is probably the most inspiring job in the world.

P.S.
I had the honor of being one of the keynote speakers at the same conference as Sir Richard Branson. What I especially liked from Sir Branson’s talk was his message of thinking grand – and to always keep looking for problems so solve. But what I liked more than hearing him speak was seeing how he was the same inspiring, curious and interested person behind the scene in private as he was on stage (and which we have gotten to know via the media.). He is possibly the person with the most positive energy that I have ever met.

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At the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.

A couple of hundred clients of software company Sabre met at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok today. The delegates came from 38 different countries and represented some of the largest hotel companies in the world.

The theme of the conference was how technology is changing the hospitality industry and Sabre was showing their latest innovations in booking software.

The only external speaker was me.

I was there because they wanted me to speak about innovation and change.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I have been invited to conferences just like this one for 15 years, to companies in all industries (from banks to car companies) and in over 55 countries. I would love to think that the reason I get invited back, time and time again, is because they think I am a great speaker (and that is, of course, true in a way – they would never invite a speaker they did not think was great.)

But my point is that it is not ENOUGH to be a great speaker. There are many great speakers who do not get invited to give keynotes at global conferences, and there are actually multiple reasons for why those great speakers do not get invited.

Today I am going to talk about one of those reasons: The need for a “universal niche”.

As a keynote speaker, you need to have a theme that is “niched” or “positioned” enough so that you can become an expert in it and be seen as a thought leader of that niche.

But at the same time, the theme needs to be “universal” in the sense that it needs be a theme that never goes out of style, which is of interest to any industry, at any time. (Yes, you can of course be an “industry specific speaker” and only speak at, say, wedding conferences, but I think having a universal theme is much safer, more lucrative and easier to sell.)

Many speakers saw their booking rate tumble during the Global Financial Crisis, especially speakers who were selling themselves as being “entertaining” or “funny” – suddenly companies did not want to book them. Their theme just wasn’t suitable for a conference where the company was trying to save money or just had to fire staff.

But I never saw a decline. I had as many engagements as I had always had straight through the GFC. Why? Because my “niche” of speaking on “business creativity” is “universal” — companies need to be creative in good times, and in bad times.

How can I speak at events with diverse themes such as a banking conference, a travel conference, and a car conference, etc.? Because the theme of “business creativity” is “universal”. All industries need to change. All organisations want to innovate.

During the Sabre conference, the internal speakers from Sabre mentioned the word “innovation” or “creativity” more times than I could count – so it was with great confidence that I could go up on the stage and begin my speech by saying “I am very happy to be here because I think my speech will fit very well to the theme of this conference.”

The funny thing is, that is an introduction that I could use at almost every corporate conference that happens in the world today, yesterday and tomorrow.

Lesson: Ask yourself, is your theme “universal” enough that it would fit well at any conference, regardless of what the conference is about, or what industry the conference is for?

If not, is there any way that you can make it more universal?

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April 6 – Singapore, Singapore.

(I am writing this after my kids have gone to sleep during an extended 3 week “Easter holiday”.)

When people hear how much I travel, they often get a troubled look on their faces. “It sounds like an amazing life, but I pity your wife and your children.”

And yes, it is true, I do travel a lot. I was in 32 different countries last year. I spend more time in the air than a commercial airline pilot, and not long ago, I used three separate around-the-world-tickets in 2 months. And so it goes on.

But I also spend a lot of time at home with my kids.

I actually spent MORE time with my kids than someone who works 9-5, has 4 weeks of vacation and NEVER travels for work!

The difference being that the person who works 9-5 gets to see his or her young children a few hours before they go to sleep, whilst many of my hours with my kids are “quality hours” during the middle of the day when the kids – and their dad – are not tired.

If you are interested in the mathematics of the calculation it looks like this:

NORMAL WORKER:

Working 8 hours Mon-Fri + 1 hour commuting to work + 1 hour of lunch away from home + 8 hours of sleep = 6 hours of “free time” that can be spent with kids (or train for a marathon or whatever).

47 working weeks + 6 hours of free time per day Monday – Friday = 1410 hours.
52 weekends * 16 hours of free time = 832
5 weeks vacation = 5 days + 5 weeks * 16 hours per day = 400
= 2642 hours of free time per year.

GLOBAL PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER (ME):

20 weeks of free time * 5 days per week * 16 hours = 1600 hours.
52 weekends * 16 hours = 832 hours
= 2432 hours of free time.

That makes 200 hours of more free time for the “normal worker” but then I have not counted all the days during my “working period” when I have days where I have some hours with my kids. It is EASILY 40 days per year (in reality much more than that). So 40 days * 6 hours with kids = 320 hours.

Conclusion: It is totally possible to be a global professional speaker AND have MORE quality time with your child than if you work “9 to 5” and never travel.

So how is it possible to squeeze in 80 different speeches in 32 different countries on 5 continents in only 7 months of actively working in one year? Well, that I will have to tell you in another post soon. 😉

So “travel the world” or “be with your kids”? Well, you can have it all. That is the life of a global professional speaker.