Life of a professional speaker

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How are you supporting the ones that come after you?

When I became a professional speaker at the tender age of 27 I really did not have any mentors. The idea of going to other speaker’s to ask for advice didn’t really occur to me.

I tried once and approached one of Sweden’s most successful speakers at the time to ask some questions, but he brushed me off, not interested in helping “a kid” like me.

That brush-off I will always remember.

Maybe that is why I feel a need to help up and coming speakers, and why I feel it’s right to share so much about how I look at building a speaking career.

Helping other speakers is something I have done from the start, and after I got involved in speaker associations I have intensified that work.

One of the people I helped recently was a women who on her spare time was practising kick-boxing. She had taken to kick-boxing late in her life but managed to go from novice to black-belt in six years.

She explained to me that you get the different belts (white all the way to black) because you become better and better in doing harder and harder sequences, ie you get better and better at learning how to kick-box.

But you do not become a “Master” until you start teaching OTHERS to get black belts.

The masters are the ones that teach.
The masters are the ones who share their knowledge.

To be a master it’s just not enough to be good at what you do – you also need to help guide the next generation.

And as I have the ambition to be a master at professional speaking I have dedicated to help others.

I am a mentor in APSS and have also outside of that mentor program mentored 100+ speakers around the world.

I am on the EXCO (executive committee of APSS (www.AsiaSpeakers.org)

And in a few weeks (11-12 May 2018) the Asia Professional Speakers Convention (www.AsiaProfessionalSpeakersConvention.com) will take place in Singapore. 30+ speakers will share their best advice to 200 speakers from all over the world, and I am the convention chair.

As convention chair for this years convention I have introduced a “Next Generation of Speakers-ticket” where we offer the two day convention at just 50 SGD per person (90% rebate from the adult price). The ticket is open for youth and students 17-25 years old. The idea is to offer a VERY subsidised convention fee to help a group of young people learn what it means to be a professional speaker. (If you know someone who would be interested in going email admin@asiaspeakers.org to sign up.)

Helping the next generation, to me, also means to inspire really young kids, even if that is just taking a day off to be in my daughter’s school during “book week” to come and explain to the kids what it means to be an author (which I did last week and where the picture is from.)

All the examples above are things I that I do to inspire more young people to become speakers/authors/thought leaders.

The funny things is that the more I do these projects, the more rewarding I find them. In one way, I feel them to be some of the most valuable and meaningful work that I do.

I do not care if you just started your speaking career or if you – like me – have been speaking for decades, there will always be a person with less experience than you. Someone who is looking to learn from you. Today my message in this post is: reach out to one of those people and help them.

Share your knowledge.
Teach someone less experienced.
Be a master.

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A couple a days ago I was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Professional Speakers Association of Namibia (PSAN). It made me very proud.

Not because I think I am in any way famous. (I know am not).

But because I believe I was inducted because the members of PSAN wanted to acknowledge my passion for spreading knowledge around how to speak professionally.

As professional speakers we must remember that we get selected because of our passion and knowledge about the topic we speak on, and how we deliver that message – not because of who we are or how famous we are.

Of course for “celebrity speakers” – speakers selected because they are famous – that is not true. Celebrity speakers can be terrible on stage and lack a strong message and they only get selected because “they are famous”, but celebrity speakers is not the norm.

For most professional speakers the truth is that we do not get selected because we are famous, but because we are known for being good by the people who book speeches, or the people who know those people.

There is a big difference between “being famous” (which means “known about by many people”) and being “known about by the right people”.

As a professional speaker for 22 years who have been invited to speak in 67 countries I have never really bothered about being “known by many people”. I off course try to spread my message to as many people as I can, but I do not spend a lot of time, energy or effort trying to make myself a “house hold name”.

But I do want the people who are part of the speaking community (event organisers, fellow speakers, people who book speakers) to know who I am an respect what I do and how I do it.

And perhaps that is why I became proud when a group of professional speakers in a country like Namibia decide to induct me into their Hall of Fame. Or how I felt happy when the world’s professional speakers associations last month decided to give the “International Ambassadors Award” to me.

As a professional we do not need to be know by “many people”. We do not need “fame”.

We just need to be known by the right people, for the right reasons.

When it comes to speakers we need to be known for the love for our topics, dedication to the craft, commitment to becoming better as speakers and an interest to always want to learn new things etc.

The right people need to feel our passion.

So do not go for “fame”. Go for “flame”.

 

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Today I got a question from a journalist that I have never gotten before. It was quite profound, and in answering her question I learnt a new approach to doing interviews/research for my books and speeches.

The interview happened in Ulaanbaatar and the journalist worked for Forbes Magazine. In a 1,5 hour interview we talked about business creativity, change and how Mongolian companies could become even better (amongst many other things).

The interview was going very well (I thought) but after one hour she stopped herself and said out loud (more to herself than to me): “I am not asking critical enough questions!”

It was like she was doing a check on herself to make sure the interview was going in the right direction.

(One thing I have learnt about the Mongolian way of thinking is that person with a nomadic mind is always checking if he/she is in the right place.)

We had a short discussion about the need for journalists to be asking though questions and then the interview continued.

At the end of the interview we got to the part where she asked me a question I had never gotten before. She said: “So, have you learnt anything from ME today?”

A journalist asking if the subject from the interview has learnt something from the interviewer (!)

What an innovative approach to looking at an interview.

I smiled, and told her how stopping mid-interview had inspired me to, from now on, never do a whole interview in one go.

Instead I will schedule a small break (it could be a micro break of 10 seconds, but still) to make myself stop. To make myself reflect. To make myself pause.

I will do it to make sure the interview is going in the right direction, that I am getting the material that wanted/will be happy with, and to ask myself if there might be new, additional questions that I should be asking.

Such a small, little simple technique to improve the quality of an interview.

Just like players during a football match use the break mid-game to change the strategy if needed.

Or why not go one step further and, like boxers during a boxing match, have multiple rounds of small stops where you stop to analyse what is going well and what needs to be changed. That way you can adjust your interview and be more sure of getting the result you want during the interview instead of realising afterwards that you “should have” asked something else.

That is what I learnt about becoming a better speaker (and writer) in Mongolia today.

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