Month: November 2016

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In the speaker industry there seems to always be a big focus on making it BIG by going to the USA.

That is were the BIG conferences are, where the BIG audiences are, where the big money in speaking is.

And yes, that is true. The US is the place to be for being a speaker right now.

But if you are playing the long game, then Asia is the place to focus on as a speaker.

Asia has 60% of the worlds population.

Asia’s share of global GDP is already around 40% (USA’s share is well below 20%…)

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And Asia is where the growth is happening.

Yet, very, very few professional speakers have chosen to focus on Asia.

And yes, it is true that the speaking and conference market in Asia has not been as developed as other industries, but it is quickly changing.

I moved to Asia more than 10 years ago, after having had 10 years of success as a speaker in Sweden/Scandinavia. I moved because I saw potential in the Asian speaking market.

When I arrived there were very few Asian Conferences since the people in the different Asian countries could not speak good enough English which meant there were really no reasons to have a conference since the delegates could not speak to each other. (I remember a conference I did in China in 2007 for a client who had invited their Asian clients where they had 20 (!) translators translating the sessions into different Asian languages.)

But the quality of english in Asia has drastically improved.

And now more and more Asian conferences are taking place with people flying in from all over Asia.

And these conferences are growing and growing every year.

I can see it on the size of the audiences – and on the size of the projector screens…

When arrived in Asia ten year ago you would be happy if you got a well lit screen. Over the years the quality of the screens (and everything else around the organisation of a conference) has improved and now I have seen some of the most professionally put together conference I have ever seen happen in Asia.

The conference I spoke at today is a perfect example of this trend. Today I was the (only) keynote speaker at the EY Asia/Pacific Tax Symposium.
968 delegates from 363 companies and 36 countries attended the conference at the gigantic Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.
EY has organised this event for ten years, and this year was the largest so far.

And the computer screens were just gigantic!

I measured it and got it to be a total of 22 meter wide (and about 4-6 meters high). All high definition computer screens (not projectors).

If the quality of the conferences, the number of delegates, the budget for organising these conferences in Asia is increasing every year than where will the Asia speaking industry be in five years time? In then years time? It is just going to be huge.

And what speakers outside Asia do not understand is that Asian audiences do NOT want someone who just flew in from Europe or America to tell his (or hers) western examples and western stories!

They want someone who understands, knows and connects with Asia – and with the rest of the world. They want speakers who have a GLOBAL mindset (not a western – or an Asian – mindset.)

As a global speaker who comes from the West, has lived in Asia for over ten years – and who spoke in 24 different countries on 4 continents in just in the last 12 month alone, I have built an Asia based, global speaking business not around what the speaking world looks like today – but what it will look like tomorrow.

And many of my assignments this year have been Asian conferences or global conferences held in Asia (or Global conferences held elsewhere where they wanted a speaker who had knowledge of both east and west.)

As a matter of fact in 2016 I did 24 different global or international conferences like that. around the world.

I am amazed that not more speakers have built their long term strategy around where the growth of the business world – and speaking industry – is most likely to happen.

The focus of commerce, business and power is shifting to the East. So is the speaking industry.

If you want to be a global speaker you have to understand, know – and speak in – Asia.

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Here is an analogy that I came up with today: Speaking is like surfing and the audience is the wave.

Let me explain what I mean:
Get ahead of the audience and you crash. (Just like a surfer will crash if he or she gets ahead of the wave.)

Get behind the audience and they get bored and move on, leaving you dead in the water (Just like a surfer will be left behind if the wave moves on without him or her.)

But ride the audience just perfectly and the energy that is in this big group of people will propel you forward and give you the ride you are looking for. (Just like how a great surfer will ride a wave.)

It also means that just as a surfer need to become one with a wave, we as speakers need to become one with our audience.

Today I caught a great wave.

I did a speech for the global marketing team of Tata Communications who had gathered for a conference in beautiful Kerala, India.

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Before my speech my client had warned me about how the speaker that they had had the day before had not been able to connect with the audience and how that had resulted in a bad session with a disconnected group of people not listening to the speaker.

Hearing that the previous speaker had had a tough time might not be what you would like to hear just before you go up to give a speech, but for me it worked as positive fuel. It reminded me of the need to connect with the audience and ride through the speech together with them.

So what did I do?

I focused on really feeling the energy of the room, listened in on the mood of the group and pushed the audience just so far as they would let me.
And just like how a surfer needs to paddle fast in the beginning to catch the wave a speaker needs to build up just enough momentum in the beginning of the speech to get just a little bit ahead of the audience – but not too much – so that the audience will want to carry the speaker forward.

It worked.

The feedback from the client afterwards was : “I think this is the first time ever we have had a standing ovation at one of our conferences. (Fredrik is) scary likeable, and it was an amazing session.”

I am happy the client was happy – but a great speech is really a cooperation between the speaker and the audience.

They might have thought that it was an “amazing session” – but I also thought it was “an amazing audience”.

I am surprised when I read advice to novice speakers telling them to “pretend that the audience is naked” or “pick on person in the audience who looks like she likes you and speak to her.”. To be advice like that is making the speaker pretend that the audience is something it is not. I think that is terrible advice.

Instead I think speakers should try to get as much feel as possible about how the audience is really feeling, how it is reacting to the speakers message, how they are processing what you say. In other words: “dance” together.

Here is an observation: “A speech will never be greater than its audience.”

The audience is playing an important role in building the experience that a speech will deliver.

When you realise that as a speaker you get better at feeling the energy. And you get a deep respect for the massive power and influence that an audience has on a speech. Just like a surfer will have big respect for the power of the wave.

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Many people tend to think that to be a great speaker you have to be an extrovert. And yes, some of the characteristics of extroverts are great if you want to be a speaker; like the tendency

– to love attention and to get energy from big crowds of people
– to network before and after a speech
– to love to speak with/to other people
and so on.

Some of the best speakers in the world are extroverts.

But some of the best speakers are also introverts.

The fact is that introverts are in many ways better suited to be speakers. Here are some reasons:

– Introverts only speak when they have something to say. 😉
As a keynote speaker you usually have 1 hour – or less – to get your message a cross. That means that you have quite a limited time frame to play with. As an introvert you will be more careful with the words that you use and thus might be better suited to write a speech that is concise and to the point.

– The speaking is the cherry on the cake – the bulk of the job is research – and research is lonely work.
With a few exceptions you need to have done your research to be able to be a good speaker. Having a book is a great way to get credibility as a speaker, but writing a book is, for the most part, a very lonely process. You sit, by yourself, in front of the laptop and write, write and write. All of that writing and researching is generally better suited for a person who is comfortable on his (or her) own.

I have spent 1000’s and 1000’s of hours reading, researching and writing the material that becomes my speeches. The fact that I like sitting by myself with my computer on some deserted beach, or on my island, is a plus.

– Introverts like to observe their surroundings

The job of a professional speaker is often that of a messenger, of informing an audience of something that they need to know. For a job like that it helps to have a personality which likes to observe.

I remember when I once attended a Tony Robbins training. There were 1000’s of people jumping up and down and totally getting drawn into the message that was being communicated on stage by Tony. I was in the far right hand corner observing the audience (I was there to see how Tony Robbins worked with a group.). I suddenly looked around where I was standing and all around me where perhaps 10 other professional speakers, all standing in the far, right hand corner so that they too could observe the audience…

So see what is happening in a room it sometimes helps to not be the center of attention.
The same is true for trying to understand what is happening in the world.

– The job of a professional speaker is 90% travel.
If you speak internationally or globally the job is actually more of “professional traveler” than “professional speaker”.

I am writing this at the airport of Kochi, in Kerala, India. I left 8 PM Monday and will be back home 8 AM Wednesday. That is 36 hours.
Out of those 36 hours I will speak 1,5 hour. Network with the client for 1.5 hours (inclusive of lunch). That means 3 out of 36 hours are “social”.

The rest is all “lonely work”.
– Time on flights: 10 hours.
– Time in taxis: 5 hours
– Time in airports 5 hours
– Sleeping at resort: 7 hours.
– emailing and writing at resort: 4
– Sitting in the back of the conference checking out the crowd: 2 hours.
= 33 hours (out of 36 hours) is “alone time”.
If you are not an introvert that might kill you.
If you are an introvert, you like it. It gives you – me – time to think, reflect and write.

– You have no colleagues.
Almost all speakers work for themselves. They might have an assistant, not uncommonly a virtual one, but the whole concept of “colleagues” is usually lost on a speaker.(The reason why speaker associations are so popular with speakers is that it’s a way to actually get some kind of “collegial feeling” in a profession that is mostly run by solopreneurs.) That means that people who “need” colleagues might not like the workday of a professional speaker.

Again, I am not saying that extroverts are not great speakers.

I am saying that to make professional speaking your profession (especially being a global speaker which involves a lot traveling by yourself) it might actually help if you are an introvert.

Take it from an introvert who has been speaking professionally for 20+ years: if you are an introvert and want to be a speaker: go for it.

(Picture from me working by myself for a few hours in a hammock at the resort in Kochi,  after delivering my speech, while waiting for my driver to arrive.)