How to become better as a speaker

Svanholmen Island, Sweden.


Why do people with “normal jobs” read books when they are on vacation?

Because they want to get a break! Because they want to clear their minds and get away from the day-to-day grind of work.

So what should an author do on his vacation?

Answer: Work.

At least that is what I will argue in this post.

I have spent the last few weeks doing a lot of manual labour: planting, gardening, rowing, etc.

I do not have to do these things.

Some people have a hard time understanding (the very Swedish) hobby of spending your vacation time working on your vacation house. But for me, it’s a no-brainer: I will have no brain left if I didn’t do this.  🙂

Doing manual labour works totally different parts of my brain than those I am normally using.

There are some who think that the only way to become an expert at something is to do it day-and-night. To eat it, sleep it, and never take a break from it.

I belong to another school of thought.

I look at my working-year more like teachers do: two intense periods (semesters) of work, and then longer periods of breaks.

Both my parents were teachers and I grew up seeing the dedication they put into their “teaching semesters”, and the need they had for those long summer vacations. Funny enough, the Swedish word for “vacation” is “semester”.

So from September to November, and February to June, I have my “speaking months” where I travel, speak, do interviews, read, learn and get inspired. But in the summers, I try to get away from all of that for weeks and weeks.

True, having long stints of “off-time” makes me less productive than if I would be working all the time. In my 20 years as an author  I have published just 9 books. But it gives me sanity.

Being an author and a speaker is perhaps the best job in the world if you want to keep an active brain – you are basically paid to think about things that interest you!

But it can easily become addictive: you want to keep thinking of things to write or speak about all the time.

Just like you need to train different muscle groups to get a healthy, all-around, fit body, you also need to “exercise” different parts of your brain, and that includes those parts of your brain which have nothing to do with what you speak about.

In my case, that would be gardening. I normally talk about having a global mindset, about innovation and creativity and things like that. Gardening keeps me grounded, focused on the very local and on just doing what needs to be done.

Lesson: Do your brain a favour and give it something to think about that has nothing to do with what it normally thinks about. It will thank you by making you feel much happier and fulfilled. And you will actually come up with better ideas when you go back into “work mode”.

Almost anyone who has had a proper vacation knows that this is true – but an alarming number of professionals that I work with seem to have forgotten this truth and instead, spend way too much time working.



Svanholmen Island, Sweden.


As you might have noticed, it has been almost a full month since my last post.

The reason for my silence is that I have been very busy doing nothing.

Doing nothing work-related that is.

I have been very busy playing and enjoying life with my family on our island.

As a global speaker, I try to travel a lot around the world. Just last month before my 6+ weeks summer vacation, I was in Singapore, Norway, Brazil, Mexico, USA (twice), Canada, China and Germany.

But a lot of people get the impression that I work all the time. That is not true. Not at all.

I actually do less than half the number of speeches I used to do when I was a “local” speaker in Sweden.

My “record” was 199 speeches in one year, including one day when I did 4 speeches for 4 different clients in one day: 1 breakfast speech, one lunch speech, one afternoon speech and one evening speech.

Nowadays I will do between 60-80 keynote speeches per year.

Do not get me wrong. Going through that phase of delivering hundreds of speeches per year was great. I got those hundreds of speeches under my belt and got to learn how to deal with different audiences, different situations and different kinds of events.

But I am very happy I stopped speaking so much.

Not only is my private life 100 times more harmonious and relaxed, I also think that the quality of my speeches improved.

I became a better speaker because I wasn’t constantly speaking.

A good sign that you are doing too many speeches is that you are getting tired of hearing your own voice when you speak.

That is a sign that you are just doing the speech because someone booked you – not because you have a message that you want to get out.

If that happens to you: STOP! Take a break. Go on a vacation. Clear your calendar.

By making fewer speeches, I look forward to everyone of them. I feel grateful for the privilege to be paid to spread a message you believe in.

And a funny side effect is that I make more money now than when I did 199 speeches in one year.

Lesson: Getting your speaking career off the ground is very much like getting a plane to take off.

In the beginning, you have to increase the thrust but once you reach cruising altitude, it helps to pull back a little.

In other words, it helps to do as many speeches as possible for a few years to work yourself up to become a global speaker, but once you are there, it helps to reduce the number of speeches so that you can focus on getting the speeches that you really want to have. That will give you many years of high quality speeches to come.

I guess it is but fitting to describe the journey of a global speaker using the metaphor of a plane.



Düsseldorf, Germany.

Today I attended a conference on metals and got a lesson on the importance of connecting to a higher purpose.


Now, a “metal conference” might sound like an unlikely place to pick up anything that might be beneficial for a speaker. But if there is anything I have learnt in 20+ years as a speaker, it would be to understand that lessons are all around us.

My client today was Kanthal, a maker of heat resistant alloys. (One of their products can handle air as hot as 1200 C…)

They invited me to be the keynote speaker at their first annual “Innovation Award”. Before I went up on stage, the CEO of Kanthal gave a short speech on why Kanthal had introduced this award.

He explained how the world is entering a time of limited resources and how “conservation of limited resources” will become more important in the future. As a planet grows to 9 billion people within our life time, and as humans constantly crave for a better lifestyle, the demand for resources such as energy, water and food will continue to grow.

To help solve this challenge, Kanthal leads in creating alloys that can withstand very high temperatures, that in turn can create more energy efficient solutions.

Suddenly, the pitch for Kanthal was not about their alloys, but about offering products that will help us overcome our current overuse of the earth’s resources.

To appeal to a higher purpose is something that many companies are doing today because they understand that today’s clients and potential employees want companies to not only “exist” to make money or sell products.

And in no industry is this mission of “a higher purpose” more important than in the speaker industry.

Audiences do not want to hear about your ideas or your theories – they want a speaker to help them see the bigger picture. They want to be enlightened. They want to see the higher purpose.

I do not really talk about how to be a Truly Global Company, even if that is what the companies book me for, when they want me to give a speech based on my latest book “One World. One Company.” What I really talk about is the potential for mankind to become ONE. A world with no borders where we all work together for the benefit of us all.

Yes, that is a grand vision. But that is what we want from a speech.

You better make sure you have a message of a grand vision of your own in your speech – because people are (consciously or sub-consciously) going to be looking for it.

Lesson: What are you really speaking on? What is that bigger picture hidden in your talk?