Author: Fredrik Haren

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Today, I was interviewed by a Croatian business magazine in preparation for my trip to Croatia to give a speech later this month. They asked some interesting questions that I had never gotten before from journalists.

One question was: “In the end, how useful do you find these kinds of gatherings like the Combis Conference?”

That was a great question. I replied:

“This might sound grand, but I truly think that there are a few things more powerful than a bunch of people coming together to learn new things. I believe in the concept of collective inspiration. (I guess that is why I have been a speaker for more than 20 years…).”

I often hear people say that the concept of speakers, or the concept of conferences, is dead. That in the future, there will be no speakers, or there will be no conferences. People will just get their inspiration and their information online.

I do not believe that for one second.

Music concerts did not die because we got MTV, or Napster, or satellite radio, or Spotify.

Because no matter how cool it is to be able to listen to infinite amount of music at your fingertips, it will never beat the intimacy, the impact and the emotional experience you get from being at a concert.

And the same is true for speeches.

We can watch thousands of TED talks, or hundreds of lectures online, but sitting in the audience of a great speaker will always be something extra. And sharing that experience with others as a group makes it even more impactful.

That is what I try to hint at with my words “collective inspiration”. That unique human connection which happens when a large number of people experience the same message at the same time.

To have a job where you, as the speaker, are an important part of creating that magic, is an honor and a privilege.

Now, are all conferences awesome temples of inspiration?

Honestly, NO.

But when it happens…when the stars align, and speakers, audiences and message collide in the most positive of ways, then there are just a few things which human beings can do that are more powerful.

Aim for that magic if or when you organise a conference. And if or when you are inspired to speak at one.

 

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Today, I have decided to write a post about how one speaker, Immaculee Ilibagiza, was used as an example by another speaker, Shep Hyken, to teach another speaker, Me, something about speaking.

Shep Hyken is the Immediate Past President of the National Speaker Association of America (NSA). He is also a world class speaker on customer service.

He is in Singapore and this evening, I had the honor of spending 3+ hours with him and Andrew Bryant, the newly elected president of Asia Professional Speakers Singapore.

During our very interesting dinner, we discussed about everything from Donald Trump to Russia. But my post today will be about what one of the best speakers in the world has to say about the best speakers in the world, and what we can learn from them.

Shep is in the Speaker’s Hall of Fame, has been a professional speaker since 1983 (!), and is a world authority on customer service with something like more than 60,000 followers on Twitter.

When he was the President of NSA, he got the chance to go around the world and listen to some of the best speakers in the world.

I asked him to give me the names of some of the speakers that he had heard who, he thought, were the most valuable speakers for a speaker to hear.

Now, something very interesting happened.

Shep mentioned speakers who had been great at giving concrete advice on how to get return on investment, and then he mentioned Immaculee Ilibagiza.

If you do not know who Immaculee Ilibagiza is, know this: She is from Rwanda and survived hidden for 91 days with seven other women in a small bathroom with an area of 12 feet during the genocide.

She speaks about forgiveness, which is a very powerful message, especially when you learn that most of Ilibagiza’s family — her mother, her father, and her two brothers Damascene and Vianney — were killed by Hutu Interahamwe soldiers.

Her speech has nothing to do with getting a “return on investment” as a speaker. It is a totally different kind of speech.

And that is the message.

Some people think that you have to follow a “formula” to be a professional speaker, that you have to be funny, that you have to be charismatic, that you have to be a great story teller, or that you have to have a lot of facts, and so on.

The truth is that there is no formula.

You can be speaking on how to use social media to increase sales with slides full of charts, or be a funny speaker sharing what you learnt from climbing Mount Everest, or speak about the power of forgiveness after surviving a genocide.

As long as you tell YOUR story. The story you believe in, the story you know how to tell, in the way you know how to tell it.

Lesson: Shep’s message was so simple, yet so relevant —

Take every chance you can to listen to great speakers. Learn as much as you can from what makes their speeches great; but do not try to copy them, do not try to become them, do not change your style to be more like them.

Instead, use all that inspiration from other speakers to help you develop your own message. Your own style. Your own path.

Great speakers – and great speeches – can teach you so much about being a great speaker, or giving a great speech.  

The only thing they can not teach is how you are going to give yours.

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In a recent post, I wrote how I counted one hour of water gymnastics as work, and I got a few questions about how that could be regarded as work. So let me explain one of my routines.

As a writer and speaker, you tend to spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen, either researching, looking for inspiration, or writing down thoughts and ideas. Speaking is basically just repeating the very most interesting things you have learnt.

Sitting in front of a computer for hours is not a good thing for your body.

So I try to find ways to force myself to get my body to move.

And yes, it helps to be a father of two (soon three!) young kids who ignore the fact that you are an old man, and make you run around on all fours pretending to be a horse when they come back from school.

But my body needs more exercise than that.

So I have created an exercise routine that is perfect for me, that keeps my body working while my mind keeps thinking about work.

Almost every day that I am not travelling, I spend one hour in the pool doing water exercises while listening to a podcast. The podcast part is important, it makes the hour go by fast and also helps my mind wander in an organised manner.

I normally listen to podcasts that are from speeches so that I can:

a) Learn something interesting
b) Listen to how other speakers present

By listening to other speakers, I can also evaluate how I would have presented a similar story, or example, so it’s a good way to benchmark yourself against other great speakers.

So today, I listened to a one hour speech by Daniel Pink, the author of “A Whole New Mind”. Daniel used to be a speechwriter of Vice President Al Gore, and I always find it interesting to listen to what speechwriters have to say about speeches.

In this podcast, Daniel said:

“Being a speechwriter, I have a certain philosophy about speeches. I believe that every good speech, every where, every time, no matter what your audience is, no matter how big the crowd is, no matter where you are in the world, every good speech has 3 ingredients: brevity, levity, and repetition…”

And then he adds:

“… Let’s say that again: brevity, levity, and repetition.”

Touché!

After one hour in the pool, I get up fit and inspired to go and do some work of my own.

I understand that not everyone has a pool in their house. Before, I used to do it on a treadmill. You can also just get out and walk while listening to something that interests you in your iPhone.

The point is to move your body and your mind at the same time. I find that as the best way to prime yourself for a good day’s work.

Now, if I want to exercise to get my mind OFF work, of course, I would not do this. Then I would play squash, play with my kids or do something that distracts me from work.

The routine I have described above is what I do in the morning to move me into a good mood before going to work, and to help me contemplate on the bigger picture so that I do not start the day getting crushed by small details and urgent emails that scream for my attention.

Lesson: Find your morning routine that gets you off to a great start for work. For me, it is one hour in the pool listening to a podcast to learn how other speakers speak and how other thought leaders think.

P.S.

So what is my routine when I am traveling? I guess I will write another post about that one day.

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