Month: May 2015

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20 May 2015 – Oslo, Norway.

This post is about the importance of getting the right introduction before you go on stage.

I just got to see the final program for the conference that I was speaking at later today. In the draft of the program, I had been introduced as “Fredrik Haren – Author and Speaker”. But it turns out that they (without telling me) had changed it last minute and instead printed “Fredrik Haren – one of the best speakers in the world”.

Now, you might think I should be flattered by such a compliment, but overly positive descriptions of a speaker might actually have the opposite effect of what was intended. Instead of making the audience curious of you as a speaker, an introduction that is too positive makes the audience react with a “well, we will see about that” attitude.

I was once introduced as “Here comes Fredrik Haren, one of the most creative people in the world, let’s give him a big hand!”. It was up-hill from the start.

In the same way, I do not want to be introduced with the words “Fredrik Haren has been awarded ‘Speaker of The Year’ in Sweden…”, even if that is an award I have actually received.

In the first two examples, the description they used did not come from me. It was something the organisers decided to write about me, and something I would have preferred that they did not call me.

Now, lines like those above are great for when you or the organisers are SELLING you as a speaker. But when you are going up on stage, you should’t focus on selling yourself. You should focus on selling the message of your speech.

It is great if the emcee can build you up a little, so that the audience knows why they should listen to you, but ask the emcee to spend more time talking about the theme of your speech, and why it is relevant to the audience than talking about all the great things that you as a speaker have achieved.

For my speech in Norway today, I made sure that the emcee talked about the need for Norwegian companies to look outside Norway to have a more global mindset, and then I asked her to make a short connection to how I, the speaker, was right now in the middle of an around-the-world-speaking-tour.

That made a subtle build up of me as a speaker (“He must be good if he is asked to speak around the world”), while at the same time, keeping the focus of the introduction on the theme of the speech (“Why Norwegian companies need to have a more global outlook”).

Lesson: Make sure that the person who introduces you (in person or in the program) builds up an anticipation for your SPEECH – not for you as a SPEAKER.

P.S. And remember: “You never get a second chance to have the emcee give you a good impression.”

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9 May 2015 – Shanghai, China.

“You did more in one hour than what we have been able to do in years!”

These grateful words came to me today from the mouth of the global head of branding of one of the largest professional services firms in the world. I had just stepped off stage after delivering a one hour keynote speech at the company’s Asia Pacific Partner Conference.

I smiled and said, “Thank you”.

She added, “Your speech also changed the way I look at the world.”

People sometimes ask me why a company would fly in a professional speaker from a different country just to have him or her speak for one hour.

The answer is simple: Because they see results.

If you are a trainer, you can aim to teach a skill or to instill knowledge in your audience. But if you are a speaker, you should aim to rock their world. You should try to change their minds.

Now, not every keynote speech succeeds in altering the universe of the audience, but every keynote speaker should at least try. Because a great speech can change the world.

People have gone to war – and to the moon – because of great speeches.

Now, the stakes when giving a keynote speech at a corporate kick-off might not be as high as when Churchill was rallying his citizens against Hitler or when President Kennedy got the Americans to want to send astronauts to the moon.

But at a global or international conference for a global company, the stakes can still be high. A successful speech that changes the mindset of the top 150 global managers of a billion dollar company can mean millions in saved costs or increased revenue.

In the case of the conference today in Shanghai, my speech got the Asian leadership to understand why the company needed to become more global in the way it is run, something the global management unsuccessfully had tried to communicate for a few years. Now, after a one hour speech, the audience was on board.

If you look at a keynote speech as an event where, in this case, 150 top managers got a one-hour message that helps them get on-board the global strategy – then suddenly the idea of flying in a keynote speaker doesn’t seem so strange.

Perhaps that is how professional speakers like myself should sell ourselves: not as “giving a one-hour speech” but as “delivering 150 hours of top management transformation” 😉

Lesson: When planning a keynote speech, ask yourself, “How will this speech transform the minds of the audience?”.

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May 7, 2015 in Singapore.

This is an email I received in my inbox today, 7th of May 2015, asking me if I can deliver a speech in Europe for a regional conference on (wait for it…) May 19th!

“Let me shortly introduce myself. My name is (Name of Client) and I am working for (Name of Company).

We are a leading insurance broker and risk advisor being active in more than 100 countries.

Once a year we have a regional event for our European and Middle East/Africa managers – in total around 100 colleagues. For our joint dinner on May 19, we are looking for an innovating, motivating and inspiring speaker.

Kindly ask you to let us know if you would be available and interested to join our event as a speaker for dinner on May 19th.

Many thanks in advance and best regards from Vienna.”

Here is a company planning an international conference for hundreds of people and they are booking their speaker for this conference less than two weeks (!) before the event.

The interesting thing is that this is becoming more and more common. When I started as a professional speaker 20 years ago, companies would book speakers months in advance, and sure, some companies and event organisers still book way in advance. But overall, companies are now booking with much shorter time frame.

Not long ago, I was booked with a one week time frame where the CEO had decided 8 (!) days before the conference happened that he wanted to have an Asian Regional Conference.

On the first day of the conference, the CEO stood up and said: “We normally plan conferences months in advance, but I wanted to show you that we can do things much faster, and we HAVE to do things much faster in the future to be able to survive.”

So to prove that the company could move much faster than they thought it could, he had forced them to do a conference in a week.

Not all CEOs are that extreme, but planning of conferences has for sure become quicker.

What does this mean for a speaker?

It means that we have to understand that one of the reasons companies decide so late which speaker they should bring in is that the theme that they want to cover in their conference might have also recently changed. Be sure to have an extra briefing call (or meeting) the day before the speech to be up-to-date with the latest developments in the company so you know what the company is going through right now.

It also means that we have to be more flexible with our own planning, and that we should not stress out if our calendar has some empty slots in it a few months from now.

Lesson: The business of professional speaking has more and more become a “just-in-time-world” as the world of business is changing the way they plan their conferences. Clients want their conferences to be current and relevant – and in an ever faster changing business environment, that means they might wait to book a speaker until the very end to make sure the speaker fits with the theme of the conference. As speakers, we need to understand the rationale behind this behaviour.