Author: Fredrik Haren

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I am know as the “global conference speaker” who delivers keynotes around the world (spoke in 24 countries last year). But standing on stages and traveling the world is what you see, but what about those days when I am not traveling, and not speaking?

I thought it could be of useful to see what those “non-speaking” speaking days can look like.

Today was a typical such day. (This was written Monday 14 May)

8:30 – 9:30 – Had late and long breakfast with my 2.5 year old daughter who wanted to learn how to “make tea”.

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9:30 – 10:45 – Did an Inner Theme session ( with a speaker from Dubai who had flown in and wanted help to find clarity on the topic he should be speaking on. (we finished the session in the taxi to my client meeting to give him maximum time with me.)

11:00 – 12:00 Client meeting for a speech I am delivering on Saturday for a global bank’s IT department.

12:00 – 14:45 Lunch, 30 minutes walk in a park and a 90 minute massage. (When I am not speaking I try to give myself plenty of time off from “work” to give me time to think, reflect and contemplate.

That is also where I drafted out the outline for this blog post.

14:45 – 17:30  Attended my son’s swim championships. I am father first, speaker second and have been on “50% (unpaid) paternity leave” for the last 4 years. I rather make less money and spend more time with my children when they are young than have all that extra income but wish I had known my kids better. Seeing my son’s face when he swam for the first time in a championship is priceless.

17:30 – 18:00  – Did the last changes to the slides for a presentation I am doing in Shanghai on the 17th.

18:00 – 19:30 Eat dinner with family and put kids to sleep. I especially find that last 30 minutes before the kids fall asleep to be the most valuable parenting hour. Having them fall asleep knowing I am there.

19:30 – 21:00 Drinks and chat with the owner of a speaker bureau who is also a good friend. The business of speaking is a business of relationships and when working with a bureau for a number of years you develop a friendship that is beyond business. The business of speaking is, at least for me, actually never about the business. It’s about people, about spreading a message, about making the world change for the better.

21:00 – 10:30 A late night discussion with two speakers visiting from India, about how we can help develop the professional speaking business in Asia. Helping grow the speaking business in general is something I am very passionate about and something I put many hours of un-paid work into. I have been speaking for almost 1/4 of a century and I am now in the phase of my life where you give back.

Thus also the reason I am writing this blog.

10:30 – 11:30 Watching a movie with my wife.

Checking and replying to emails I did while in taxis going to and from different meetings during the day.

Now, there might not be a lot that looks like “sales” or “work” during this day, and that is the point. When I am not speaking I try to give myself time and space to meet inspiring people, to have time for my family and to help develop the speaking industry. Later this week I am flying to China for a big keynote for a global conference. But today was about what I do when I do not speak.

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Is there a word for “invisible voice”? Invoiceble”?

What I mean is people who attend conferences and think that their voices can not be heard when they talk.

It is often the AV-people, the event organisers, and very often the hotel staff. Of course, often it is the delegates at the convention.

People who think that if they just lower their voices and whisper no-one will hear them talk and they will not disrupt the speaker on stage.

They are wrong.

They can be heard.

I am not saying that AV-people and event managers do not need to speak during a convention, but I am talking about all the un-neccesary talking that goes on.

The picture is from a speech I did on Friday in Abu Dhabi where one of the event managers was talking almost 50% of the time during the afternoon. Chatting away with other event staff while obviously being bored with the actual convention.

What they do not understand is that this chatter and obvious uninterest in the speaker on stage is contagious and people in the audience hear it and get affected.

As speakers we should NEVER be part of this behaviour.

It’s easy to think that we are “backstage” and that no-one notices us when we are sitting in the back of the convention room, but very often the AV-booth etc is in (!) the ballroom which means you are not back-stage – you are part of the convention, part of the ballroom experience.

So show respect for the other speakers – and for the audience – and do not speak in the ballroom until it’s your time to speak from the stage. No matter how chatty, social and nice the hotel staff, AV-staff or event managers are.

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So this happened today, imagine it happened to you:

6:00 Wake up at the 5-start (!) Hotel Plaza in Rome and look for the iron in the room.

Can not find one.
Pick up the phone to call room service for an iron to iron my suit and shirt before the speech this morning. (Conference starts at 9:00)

No line on the phone. (turns out phones are not working in the hotel this morning)

6:15 Still no line. Walk down to reception to ask if they can have an iron brought up to the room.

Grumpy old receptionist replies: “We do not offer this service.”

Me: “You do not offer an iron to guests?

“No, Sir. We do offer a ironing service, but they do not come in until 8:30 so I can not guarantee when they will be done.”

Me: “Can you make an exception and lend that iron to me, or the iron that your staff uses?”

I explain to him that I need to be in the ballroom at 8:45 LATEST and that 150+ guests from all over the world have flown in to this hotel and I am going to speak to all of them and can not do that in a suit that is not ironed…

He replies: “We can not lend you an iron. Security reasons.”

I try to explain to him that HOSTELS offer irons to guests so they might want to re-consider their policy if they want conferences in the future. But it is of course fruitless.
So, what would you do?

a) Wait for 8:30 and hope that they can iron your shirt in 15 minutes. (With the service level so far i do not trust that at all.)

b) Attend the first part of the conference in your traveling clothes from the back and then go get the suit before you speak at 10:15? (Makes you look like a fool, or at least like an amateur.)

c) Continue to reason/argue with the man to get him to change his mind. (Good luck, See picture of stubborn, grumpy Italian man …)

d) Other solution.

Of course there is always another solution.

I asked my “friend” in the reception where the nearest other hotel is and he points me in a direction with a puzzled grin on his face.

I take my suit, smile, and say “Thank you”.

I then walk a few hundred meters to this other hotel, walk in with a confident smile and explain my situation: “I am staying at Plaza hotel, am speaking at 9 AM and they do not offer an iron to their guests and their ironing service is not open until earliest 8:30 which is too late for me. Can you help me?”

“Of course, Sir. It will be done by 8:00 o’clock.”

Me: “Thank you.”

I walk back to my hotel, past my grumpy receptionist who now has an even more puzzled look on his face as I come back to eat breakfast without carrying my suit.

At 8:00 I pick up my suit, go down to the convention area and get a feel for the room, mingle with clients and get ready to speak all while wearing a well ironed suit and without any last minute stress.

Lesson: There is always a solution. (Bonus lesson: Never take good service for granted in Italy, but look and you will find it…)