Author: Fredrik Haren

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Today I had the pleasure of having fellow professional speaker Gabor George Burt over to my house which inspired me to write a blog post about collaboration.

I first met Gabor when we shared the stage at a huge conference in Ukraine where we spoke for 5000+ business people. We kept in contact and when he visited Singapore today we met up.

One of the things we discussed was a conference in Dubai that he is organising and where he has proposed me as one of the keynote speakers.

During our talk Gabor shared a few ways he collaborates with other speakers.

Designing as well as keynoting events. (Like the upcoming event in Dubai that he is designing and which he invited me to speak at.
Collaborative client engagements. (Where he partners with other speakers/thought-leaders to co-facilitate leadership workshops for clients, thereby providing them with a valuable combination of know-how. He does this, for example, with Ken Schmidt, global speaker and former Harley-Davidson executive)
Joint articles. (For example his current collaboration with Jamie Anderson on co-authoring articles about the role of humor in leadership)

And so on.

All the examples above that he told me about inspired me to want to collaborate even more with other speakers. But it was a story he told me around a small change he initiated at one conference he spoke at that really got my attention.

He told me how he had been one of the speakers at the World Marketing Forum and how the organizers had arranged separate evening programs for all the speakers, even though they were all staying at the same hotel.

When Gabor realized this, he suggested to the organizers: “Why don’t we all have dinner together, so we can get to know each other and share stories?”

So they did. And of course they all really enjoyed it.

As Gabor said: “In our job we have the advantage of sharing the stage with some fascinating people – we should use that. Use that be inspired to learn new things, to hear new stories, to be more stimulated.”

And it’s so true.

Many event organisers seems to think that speakers are like bulls and that you can not put two speakers to close to each other or the speaker egos will clash. (And yes, the speaker industry has some mega egos) But most speakers are genuinely curious and want to learn, so by putting the speakers together you actually help inspire both speakers.

Putting a bunch of speakers in the same care is just a small, symbolic example of collaboration, but it shows how a mindset of learning from each other and looking at other speakers as colleagues – not competitors – works to your advantage.

Speakers might often be lone wolfs, but we can all still benefit from hunting in a pack …

 

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Here is an introduction that a speaker submitted to a client to be read before the speaker went up on stage.

Can you see what is wrong with it?

(I have changed some of the facts to protect the identity of the speaker)

Introduction:

Location: Sheraton, London

Introduction of Mr Speaker by Mr Smith, Senior Partner, Law firm X.

“Mr Speaker is the CEO of the General Inspiration Inc and author of the book “Value Driven Leadership”.

For the past 3 decades Mr Speaker has worked with helping companies develop successful value driven leadership practices. 
When he first began his professional career back in 1980, he worked for two multi-national IT computer firms, first HP, then IBM.

In 2000 he had a breakthrough moment of conscious realization.  Being “comfortably miserable” in his job, in other words, he was making a good salary, but didn’t love what he was doing, Mr Speaker decided a big change was needed. Gathering all his courage, he stepped off the mothership of multi-national financial security, and left the IT Industry. On his journey of self-discovery he found his calling in life, transitioning into a deeply satisfying career as a professional facilitator.

Instead of working with bits and bytes, he now works with values and behaviours, making a difference as a global speaker and thought leader on leadership. His passion is inspiring leaders to reach their full potential building values-driven organizations.
3 years ago Mr speaker took another courageous step in life and moved from Stockholm to London at the request of his old mother, to become an in-person, as opposed to a skype son, to his mother.  Needless to say, we can tell family and adventure are values which mean a great deal to him.”
So what is wrong with this introduction?

Well, all of it …

(Ok, not all of it, but a lot of it)

Why?

Because an introduction is not supposed to be an introduction to the SPEAKER, but an introduction to THE SPEECH.

And yes, an introduction should help to build credibility for the speaker so that the audience better understands why they should listen to the speaker, but much more important is the fact that the introduction explains to the audience why the organisers decided to include the upcoming topic at this conference.

That the speaker was miserable in his previous corporate jobs but happy now, risk alienating the audience which is full of people still in corporate life.

That his new career as a facilitator is “deeply satisfying” should be shown, not told. Samt with the fact that his “passion is inspiring leaders”.

The fact that the speaker has moved to take care of his old mother, is cute but has nothing to do with the speech.
Here is how I suggested rewriting it:

“Our next session is on “Value Driven Leadership”, something that is very important for us here at Law firm X, and something that we need to constantly be reminded of, especially after the latest developments in our industry..

We are very happy to have Mr Speaker here to share his views about this topic as he literally wrote the book on the topic.

Mr Speaker is the CEO of the General Inspiration Inc and author of the book “Value Driven Leadership”.
For the past 3 decades Mr Speaker has worked with helping companies develop successful value driven leadership practices.

He will share with us what value driven leadership is, how it can be used to drive reliable growth and which companies are doing it right – and what we can learn from them.

Let’s give him a warm welcome.”
Now the introduction is about the session, while still building credibility for the speaker. And it also builds credibility towards the organiser, by showing that the topic is important for the organiser, ie important for the conference the attendees are attending.

The last sentence about giving the speaker a warm welcome is a subtle but effective way of getting the speaker off to a good start since a warm welcome (even if it is “fabricated” creates a positive affinity towards the speaker.)

So remember, the next time the organisera ask you how they should introduce you reply: “I don’t want you to introduce me, I want you to introduce my speech, and I want you do do that by explaining to the audience what the speech is about, why you selected my to speak on it and why the topic of the speech is important to the audience.”

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Today I was contacted by a speaker friend of mine, Joanne Flinn, who asked if I wanted to support an initiative. She wrote: “Promoting excellence in speaking and diversity in voice, Keynote, the directory for Women Speakers in Asia is being launched 7th Dec by Primetime, the professional women’s association here in Singapore.”

The initiative is about getting more women onto stages as speakers and panelists, and she asked if I would support it.

I said I would love to!

She said there were three levels that I as a male speaker could support them: 

1 NICE: Say: it’s fair and the right thing to do

2. SHOULD: it brings broader perspective. It’s time for biases and glass ceilings to go.

3. MUST: This is critical and much needed. This is a must.

She then said: “In Australia, there is 3++. Some men are pledging ‘I won’t appear on a panel/platform solely comprising men.’”

I replied: “What would a 4. or a 5. be if you had one? ” (Because I really wanted to support this initiative.)

 

She came back to me and said:

“4. PUTTING MY MONEY WHERE MY MOUTH IS: Yes, I’ll offer my spot. Place and pay competent women as you do competent men on panels and platforms. Ask me, I’ll refer.

5. BACKING THIS WITH TIME AND COMMITMENT: This is a must. I’m mentoring women to make this happen.

So I became a 5.

I have now offered to mentor, for free, any woman who is part if this initiative because I think it is crucial that we get more diversity on the stages of our conferences.

And I also pledged that: “From now on, if I am asked to sit on a all-male panel I will give up my seat so they can find a woman instead, and I will happily help them find her too if they don’t know where to look. More women on stages will, in a small but symbolic way, help set the stage for more women in leadership positions over all.”

Is there a problem that there is such a over-representation of men on conference stages?

As a father of two daughters I think it is. I want them to grow up in a world where men and women who are experts on a topic both get selected to be on stage.

I am happy to be part of this initiative and hope it will create a much needed change of better diversity at conferences.

(Picture from a panel discussion at the convention in Lisbon where I am speaking today. All middle aged white men. As a middle aged white man I rather play a tiny little part of the solution than to just be part of being the problem…)