Author: Fredrik Haren

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If you ask me the most difficult speaking assignments as a professional speaker are dinner speeches where you are asked to deliver a business speech during a dinner. So how should one approach a speaking opportunity at dinner?

Before I answer this question, let’s look at WHY being a dinner speaker is more difficult than speaking during a conference:

When people are attending a conference their brain is in “work mode”, that means they are open to learn new things.

But when the conference is over and the event turn into a evening dinner, then the mind goes from “work mode” to “party mode” and then people are more interested in talking than in listning.

(In this post I am talking about giving a BUSINESS speech during a conference dinner, not about giving a social dinner speech).

So now let’s answer the question: how should one approach a speaking opportunity at dinner?

1) Always try to speak as early as possible. (preferably BEFORE the starter is served.)

The earlier you speak the lower the risk that the group is in “talking mode”.

2) Try to get a SHORT speaking slot.

Dinner speeches should ALWAYS be short. Usually shorter than the organisers are suggesting. Try to convince them to cut the speaking slot to a minimum,

A 20 minute dinner speech feels longer than a 45 minute speech at a conference.

3) Add more humour.

A business speech during a dinner is there to add knowledge and insights to the group (if they wanted a social speaker they would have invited a stand-up comedian or any other entertainer.)

Having said that people are expecting to be entertained if their dinner is to be interrupted. So add as much humour as you can into your speech (more than you would have in a conference speech).
Finally let me share a bit about the characteristics of the different kinds of speaking slots during a dinner:

Speaking slots during dinners are, in a way, similar to the different dishes during a dinner.

“The Appetiser” – the opening speaker during a dinner. There to give a taste of the evening. Normally the CEO or highest boss. Short, short, short.

“The Main Course” – When you speak just before or during the main course you can give a slightly longer speech that is more “heavy” in content.

“The Dessert” – If you are scheduled to speak after the dessert your message needs to be “sweeter”, not so so heavy. (See above about how people are more and more entering “party mode” as the evening plays out.)

A dessert speech might be less heavy on content, but just like a good dessert leaves a taste in the diners month that lingers on after the meal, in a similar way a good dessert speech inspires some kind of a message into the audience that lingers in their minds when they leave the dinner.

Tonight I was invited to speak at the dinner for the most important clients of Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore.
“The Appetiser speaker” was the global group CEO.

“The Main Course speaker” was Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore.

“The Dessert speaker” was me.

Of course the main speaker, and the guest of honor was the Deputy Prime Minister who gave his views on the economic outlook for the world, for Asia, for ASEAN and for Singapore amongst other things.

Then during the dessert I held a speech about the need for change that hopefully inspired the audience to think bigger thoughts.

My speech started at 8.50 and ended at 9:10 PM.

To speak to a big group of senior business leaders at the end of a dinner, at 9 PM is a challenge, but by trying to make it light and entertaining my speech was hopefully a good balance to the more heavy, Economic outlook speech by the guest of honor.

Hope you have gain some insights of the fun but difficult assignment of delivering a business speech during a corporate dinner.

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A 3-star Michelin restaurant never worries about competition from a local diner or a fast food joint, so why are 10 000 USD speakers worrying about competition from 1000-2000 USD speakers?

The last couple of days I have been mentoring two 10 000 USD speakers as part of my “inner theme speaker mentoring program”.

When I say “10 000 USD speakers” I mean that is their fee for one speech, and though I would never define a speaker based on his or her fee alone, I choose to talk about these speakers in those terms in this post (instead of, for example, mentioning the themes they speak on) as to not reveal their identities.

Both of the 10 000 USD speakers that I mentored mentioned that the reason they were not getting as many speeches at they wanted at the moment was that they were seeing competition from cheaper speakers.

I think this mindset is very dangerous.

A 3-star Michelin restaurant is, in a way, in competition with a local diner or a fast food joint, but it is more relevant to say that the 3-star Michelin restaurant is in completion with OTHER 3-star Michelin restaurants.

And I think it is the same with people who book speakers. If you are organising a top notch global conference and are looking to book speakers for your event the fact that a speaker is charging 10 000 USD or 1 000 USD is not going to be the deciding factor for which speaker you book.

The deciding factor will be: “Will this speaker deliver a world class speaker experience?”

And if the answer is “Yes!” then the fee is not a problem.

But if you, as a 10 000 USD speaker, start to compare yourself with 1 – 2000 USD speakers, you are going to start to doubt yourself, you will begin to compare yourself with the wrong competitors and you will be pulling yourself down – instead of pushing yourself forward.

(This is of course only true for the speakers who really ARE 10 000 USD speakers (i.e. has actually consistently charged that much to happy clients), not speakers who “think of themselves as 10 000 USD speakers” ….)

In this blog post I am, of course, using the “10 000 USD speaker” just as an example, it doesn’t matter if your speaker fee is 1000, 5000, 10 000 or 50 000 USD, my point is that as a speaker you should benchmark with other speakers who charge the same as you  – or who charge more than you.

It’s about taking pride in what you have achieved as a speaker and about aspiring to always grow to become a even more sought after speaker.

And yes, there can sometimes be downward pressure from speakers offering to speak for a lower fee, but it is my experience (and I have been doing this for more than 20 years) that the reason a speaker looses a potential speaking gig is very seldom because “another speaker offered a lower price”.

It’s because the speaker was not perceived as being of high enough standard. (Which you could argue is just a different side of the same coin, but I think the lessons drawn are totally different.)

Very few 3-star Michelin restaurants loose customers because other restaurants in town are cheaper. They loose customers because the perceived value is not there and clients go to other 3-star Michelin restaurants instead.

So if you see your bookings start to go down as a speaker, do not blame the competition or price pressure from cheaper speakers. Blame yourself and ask yourself: “How can I upgrade myself to a 3-star Michelin Speaker again?”

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Once in a while I post a “speaker war story” to get an idea of the world of being a global speaker. Then I go back to writing posts about how to become one.

So this war story took place in Dublin.

I was in a journey from Quebec (where my last speech was) and Gothenburg (where my next speech would be) and to get from Quebec to Gothenburg had turned out to be a bit more challenging that it looked on a map. I started in Quebec and flew Quebec-Montreal-Dublin-Stockholm-Gothenburg, a 17+ hour journey that would have me arrive the night before my speech in Gothenburg.

The problems started at my flight from Montreal to Dublin where the flight was almost 1 hour delayed because they were “waiting for a few connecting passengers” (The fact that a plane full of passengers who were on time might miss THEIR connecting flights in Dublin did not seem to cross the airlines mind.)

My flight was scheduled to land in Dublin at 10.05 AM, but being 1 hour delayed we landed at 11 AM.

My flight FROM Dublin to Stockholm was at 11.50…

50 minutes from “wheels on the ground” to “gate closed” might seem like a lot of time to catch a connecting flight, until you remember that I had to:

1) Pass passport control and customs in Ireland

2) Could not use “connecting flights gate” as I did not have a boarding pass for the next leg of my flight so I had:

a) to exit into the arrival terminal and

b) walk to the departures terminal

3) Check-in and get boarding pass.

4) Then had to go through security

5) and go through immigration (or as it should be called “emigration”…)

Oh, and 6) This is Dublin airport – one of those airports where they have stupidly decided to build the gates AWAY from the entrance to put in a series of what seems like 100’s of shops and restaurants so that it takes 5+ minutes after security just to run to the first gate.)

And to do all of that in less than 30 minutes before they close the gate.

Of course I made it.

So how? Here are som tips:

a) When exiting a plane walk briskly to pass the others who were on the plane to get first in passport control (queuing is what makes you miss flights)

b) Ask for help to save time.. Stop any airport employee to check if you can boarding cards inside the terminal or have to go outside.

c) Walk – do not run! – through customs and when you approach passport control (it’s seems to be a “thing” for people working there to mess with people who are in a hurry)

d) When you come to check-in: SMILE (a confident smile with a hint of begging), to get the check-in attendant to go the extra mile and call the gate and ask them to re-open it…

(Oh, and explain that you have no bags to check-in (to make her think you understand you are a frequent flier who knows it is possible to get you on that flight even if it is closed already.

Oh #2: Always pick a woman and always pick the woman who looks the happiest/friendliest. That will increase the chances of them helping you.

e) When she give you the boarding pass and says “Run!”, smile at her and say: “Thank you so much!”

f) At security, scan the different lines for which will be the fastest (and if possible look for security personal who are there to let “late passengers” cut infront of the line, if you are really late. (I did not do that this time, no need…)

g) When you come up to the security check, do NOT look stressed or annoyed about how long it takes, and take out belt, shoes, iPhone and computer etc (i.e. everything and then some so they do not get annoyed at you and decide to “randomly” select you.

And there you have it. How to make it to a flight that DEPARTS 50 minutes after you LAND.