Author: Fredrik Haren

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Today I bent down to help carry a box of books that my client had bought and ripped my pants through the whole groin area -we are talking a 30 cm hole at least…
Here is the worst part of the story: it was 15 minutes before my speech was scheduled to begin and at 10 am (= before shops open in Singapore). And venue was 20 minutes away from my home so could not send for new pants…). Luckily I had an extra pair of pants in my suitcase since I was flying to Shanghai later in the day…
Had I not had that I might have had to deliver my speech with my jacket over my bum… or while wearing a strangers pants, or made my clients move the speech by 20 minutes (all options doable but not perfect).
But now everything turned out fine.
I am telling you this story to show how the speaking business is really one of the least complicated or difficult businesses to be in (as long as you are not afraid to potentially making a fool of yourself in front of a few hundred people…)
A speaker friend of mine in Sweden recently posted how he by mistake put the antenna of the lapel sender in his own ear (!) while trying to take it off and it hit him so unfortunately that he had to go to the hospital to stop the bleeding…
Again, the work place hazards of this job is just ridiculously minimal.
Posting this as a reminder to everyone who is or think about becoming a keynote speaker that the job of being a speaker is not only a privilege and one hell of an inspirational job – but it’s also one of the least dangerous jobs I can think of. :-). Let’s appreciate that when we fly around the world and spread our message. Today I did it for a few hundred people at PayPal, now off to Shanghai (with a brand new suit in my bag) for another speech tomorrow

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The idea that speakers are competing for a few speaking assignments and that there are only a few speaking jobs that speakers compete for is just crazy.

Today I am speaking for 600 lawyers from all over the world who have gathered for a conference in London. They flew people in from 71 cities in 51 countries and there were just 3 external speakers at the event.

At first glance it might look like it would be very, very, very difficult to get a job like that since there are tens of thousands of speakers in the world and this company obviously did not care where the speaker flew in from (since they flew me in from Singapore), and thus all those speakers were competing for these three speaking slots.

But this mindset of scarcity is wrong.

Yes, there are a lot of speakers in the world and yes, only one or two speakers get to speak at most conferences – BUT – and that is a huge “but” – there are tens of thousands of conferences around the world every month looking for speakers whom they can pay to come and speak.

A few weeks ago I listened to Niels Brabandt, an international speaker, who put things into perspective. Niels was commissioned by a pharmaceutical company to study how that company worked with speakers.

In this survey they discovered that this company alone used 42 000 (!) speakers every year for all their conferences around the world. And they paid for every single one of those speakers.

Let me say that again: ONE company paid for speakers 42 000 (!) times in ONE year.

Now imagine how many big, global companies there are in the world. And how many government organisations, and small and medium size companies, and events and conference organisers, etc etc all looking for speakers.

Every time I hear someone say that there are not so many speaking opportunities around I ask them to go down to any big convention centre, or any big conference hotel and look at the agenda for the day to see what conferences are going on right at that very moment. Then go back tomorrow and see who is there. And next week again. And so on …

There is an abundance of speaking opportunities all over the world and if you just realise that and stop having a “scarcity mindset” you will realise that the only thing you need to do is to go out and network, build relationships, talk to people and get them to know about you and your amazing speech.

The reason you are not getting enough speaking assignments is not because there are so few opportunities to speak, nor is it because there are too many other speakers competing with you – it’s because the people booking speakers do not know about you. (Or, if they do know about you, but don’t book you, you should consider improving your speech since there obviously might be a reason for why they don’t book you – and that reason is most likely that your speech is not good enough…)

Speakers complaining about the difficulty of getting speaking gigs reminds me of how shy boys will complain that there are not enough girls out there to get a date … Trust me, there are an abundance of girls out there, you just need to go out there and start talking to them.

And as a speaker you need to get out there and start connecting with the tens of thousands of people around the world who book speakers.

If one company alone is booking 42 000 speakers a year there must be million and millions of paid speaking opportunities in the world every year. Go get your fair share of them.

(Picture from my speech in London just before 600 lawyers from around the world entered the ballroom, but this picture with empty chairs is here to symbolise all the ballrooms around the world that right now is in need of speakers.)

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Let me give you some background to this post.

Today 30 of the leading business developers in IKEA met in Kuala Lumpur to do a 3 day workshop on what IKEA should try become in South East Asia 20 years from now.

When you consider that IKEA is the world’s leading furniture company (but has no stores in huge countries like Indonesia and the Philippines) and that South East Asia is one of the regions in the world that will most likely change the most in the next few decades you can imagine the kind of challenges, opportunities and possibilities that was being discussed at the event. (I can of course not share any of the insights, but I can tell you that it was fascinating to sit in and listen.)

I was scheduled to speak between 17.30 and 18.30 after the group had been workshopping all day since 8.30. The idea of bringing in an external speaker at the end of the workshop day is usually to either infuse some new thoughts or some new energy into a group (or both).

If there is anything I have learnt about doing speeches at the end of workshops it would be the need for the speaker to understand the “group energy” that has been generated during a day of people working together. It doesn’t matter how much you have been briefed before the event, after a full day of workshopping the energy in a group is impossible to predict, it has to be experienced.

The biggest mistake a speaker could do would be to come in at the coffee break at 17.15 and just plug in his or her computer to the projector and go on with his speech. That would be like someone coming in at the last few minutes of an Agatha Christie mystery play trying to figure our who the killer is.

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur at noon and after having lunch I quietly entered the room where the workshop was being held. After being introduced to the group (so they did not start to wonder “who is that guy?”), I sat down in a corner of the room at started to observe the group.

What is the group dynamic in the room?
Are they having fun or are they frustrated?
Who is the informal leader(s) in the room?
Who is the joker/clown (ie. who could you make jokes with?)
Where is the group right now when it comes to energy? (i.e. if your role is to infuse new energy into the group you first need to know what energy there is in the group before you begin.)
Who is the sceptic, and who is the positive one? (so that you know who not to provoke in the beginning and who to get support from.)
What is the “group energy”? (i.e. as a group how are they feeling right now?)
How tired are they? How much energy do they have left? (and what kind of energy is it?)

Things like that.

After sitting in the room for a couple of hours you know so much about the group that you can go in there and play on these group energies.

A professional Formula1 driver or a slalom skier will go through their track/slope before the race to get a “feel” for it.

A professional speaker needs to do the same with the group we are going to work with.

We have to get to know them before they get to know us.

So arrive early and get to know them.

As a bonus effect you get a chance to learn some very interesting things that your client is working on. In my case today how IKEA is going to tackle the very dynamic region of South East Asia with 600 million people.