Month: October 2015

I have heard many speakers give the advice that the best way to connect with an audience is to pick ONE person in the audience and speak to her. To lock in eye-contact with the one person in the room that looks the happiest to be there.

The argument is that by getting good vibes from that one person will spread to the rest of the group, and if you just speak too a big mass of non-identified bodies, then you will not communicate the same intimate feeling from the stage that you would get if you connect with one person.

I am not a big fan of that advice.

First of all I think you should scan the audience for as many facial expressions as possible. Look for happy faces, sad faces, angry faces, bored faces. It will tell you how the audience is feeling. And If you are going to have a conversation with a group of people you need to know how the group is feeling.

(Identifying the “happy face” in the audience might put you in a totally wrong mood if the rest of the audience is very stressed, for example. (Let’s say most of the audience just lost their job for example, then connecting with the happy person who got to keep his job might be the totally wrong thing to do.)

So do not pick one person to speak to – speak to the whole group. (and try to get eye contact with as many people as possible as you do that.)

Now having said that, I do think you should speak specifically to one person in the group. And that is the person who booked you.

Very often the person who recommended me to the speaker committee will be in the room when I give the speech. That is the person I speak to.

Because that is the person who went out on a limb to get me to speak.

If I screw up, then he (or she) is toast.
If I do a great speech, then that person reaps the rewards.

The very best review you can get as a speaker is when the person who recommended you comes back to you and says: “Everyone came up to me and asked: where did you find this guy!?”

It is not every time that you will know who recommended you to speak, but if you find out who it was, then make an effort to be introduced to that person and make sure you do a separate “speaker brief” with him or her.

Why did he (or she) think that you would be a great fit for this conference?
What did he (or she) like about your speech the last time they heard you?
Is there anything this person thinks that you should know about the audience?

To it right and you will deliver a great speech to the one person who thought you would be perfect for this conference. And by doing that there is a very big chance that the rest of the audience will like the speech too.

Lesson: Who got you the speech? Find that person. Learn from that person. Speak to that person (Both before the speech, and then speak TO that person when you are delivering your speech.) and you will be a hit.

Today I got one such email. It read.

“People loved Fredrik’s speech. Many of them kept asking me how we got him as he is so unique and got a very special sense of humour. Our Summit ended on a high note because of Fredrik”.

Mission accomplished.

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Every professional speaker has a knee jerk reaction to the (very common) question: “What do you speak on?”

But not every professional speaker has the answer to the much more important question: “Why do you speak?”

Today I did a coaching session with Eric Feng, who is a very talented and extremely ambitious speaker.

Eric is doing a lot of things right in his speaking career and has achieved much more at a relatively young age than many much older speakers.

But he met with me because he wanted help to decide on which topic he should focus on (he speaks on a few different topics at the moment, like public speaking, business presentations, charisma).

Or that is what he THOUGHT he wanted to discuss with me.

But instead we decided to go deeper.

In a 2-hour long session I helped him to look inside himself to understand why he decided to be a speaker in the first place.

I wanted to get to his core. Find the theme that defines who he is.

Your Core Theme is not the theme that you sell to your clients, it MIGHT not even be a theme that you communicate to your clients.
Your Core Theme is for yourself.

It’s your guiding light that reminds you why you get up in the morning, why you have this urge to communicate.

I have to admit that during the middle of the session with Eric we were struggling. We were getting close, but for some reason we were not able to get deep enough.

Then Eric, in passing, told me a story about how he, as a kid, had stayed late in school and pretended that he was the teacher to teach himself a little bit more. He had this burning desire to teach.

When his class mates asked him why was he talking to himself, he replied “I am teaching myself”.

And when his classmates then replied “Can you teach us too?”  he started his mini remedial classes in school.

As a young child Eric was already passionate about not only his own learning, but also the learning potential of his peers!

When I heard him passionately tell that story I knew that we had found it, or should i say “rediscovered” it.

The reason he speaks is because he has a passion for the potential of Learning and Development within All Humans.

That is Eric’s Core Theme.

Not “public speaking, business presentations, charisma”, those are “just” themes he speaks on.

When Eric found his “Core Theme” everything he does in his speaking business became clearer. His vision, his priorities, his focus.

And that is why it so important to find it.

My Core Theme is not official. By that I mean that I do not openly communicate it to others. But I have one, and it has guided me in all the decisions I have made in my speaking career for the last 15 years.

It’s like a compass, and when you have one it will lead you in the right way.

Judging from the email I got from Eric after our session, he appreciated the value of going into the core. 🙂

He wrote: “Thank you so much for taking the time to walk me through the process. This conversation will definitely be a turning point in my career. You helped me get clear of what matters most and for that I’m grateful.”

Question: What is your Core Theme? Why do you speak? I am much more interested in finding out that answer from a speaker than hearing what he or she speaks on.

 

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A surprisingly large amount of people seems to think that a keynote speaker is a person who goes up on stage and behaves as some kind of “management guru”, that you have to walk up on stage and dominate in an alpha-male-kind-of-way.

And it sure used to be like that. That’s what people thought speakers “had” to be like.

But something has changed.

And I know that this might be hard to believe when you attend conference after conference filled to the brink with alpha-male-guru-speakers, but hear me out.

TED is a conference and website (www.ted.com) that gathers some of the world’s greatest thinkers on its stage. It is arguable the worlds’ leading site for watching speeches.

Now here is the thing: There is hardly a single traditional “alpha male” out of the 50 most popular speeches on TED.com.

Sure, Tony Robbins made the list, but so did Stephen Hawking and Hans Rosling – two men who are very intelligent, smart and passionate – but who perhaps are as far away as we can come from being Alpha Males…

As a matter of fact the majority of the men on the top-50-list of most watched speeches are non-alpha males. Not even Bill Clinton made the list. But Monica Lewinsky did (with a speech on the Price of shame.)
21 out of the 50 most watched speeches are from women, including Maysoon Zayid, an arab-American woman with cerebral palsy. A very innspiring and funny woman, who in almost every way is the opposite of the “physically strong, dominant, white, middle aged alpha-man” that many people “see” when they hear “keynote speaker”.
The fourth most watched speech is a speech on the power of vulnerability. The 11th most watched one is on the power of introverts. (Both delivered by women.)

I am convinced that we are entering the “age of Gentle” – in a world where people in higher degree than before are empowered to do what they want, instead of what they are told to they do not want speakers who tell them what to think in an authoritative style – they want speakers who can inspire them in a gentle manner.

To be “gentle” means to be a a person who is mild in temperament or behaviour; kind or tender.

Almost all of the top 50 most watched speeches on TED.com are from smart, knowledgeable, passionate speakers who communicate their message in a mild temperament, kind way. Every single one of these speeches has at least 5 000 000 views. Those numbers do not lie.

The number one speech, with a staggering 35 000 000 views, is by Sir Ken Robinson, a man with a speaking style that is entertaining, funny and thought provoking. He has the ability to get respect from the audience, not by using a dominant or domineering style – but by arguing logically, making fun of himself and speaking softly.

By being gentle.

Ladies and Gentle Men: The future of speaking belongs to the gentle men and women who speak.

 

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