Life of a professional speaker

Svanholmen Island, Sweden.

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I am writing this on my Island in Sweden. It is the last day of our five week stay here and today’s post, just like the last few posts, will be influenced by the fact that I have been sitting isolated on this island for a long time.

My most recent posts have been about why not speaking so much makes you a better speaker. This post is about why reducing your inspiration will get you better ideas.

The word “Inspiration” has three meanings.

1) “The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”

And that is why I choose to travel so much around the world — to see, experience and learn new things from different cultures.

2) “A sudden brilliant or timely idea. As in: ‘then I had an inspiration’.”

The funny thing with ideas is that the most brilliant ones do not come when we are inspired as per definition number 1. Great ideas do not come when we are inspired – they come when we are nothing but inspired.

Which brings us to the third definition of “Inspiration”:

3) “the drawing in of breath; inhalation.”

This is how I look at creativity — the process of having great ideas consists of two steps:

a) Breathe in as many new things as you can.

Then…

b) Breathe out.

The breathing out part is what many people forget. Because to have great ideas, you can not just keep filling your brain with inspiration. You also need to give it time to process all those new and inspiring things that it has received.

And you do that by doing nothing.

Pick any great idea from history and google how or when the person who had that idea had it. There is a huge chance that the eureka moment happened when the person was relaxed and doing nothing.

JK Rowling was sitting on a train and got the idea for Harry Potter.

Archimedes was sitting in a bathtub when he noticed that the level of the water in the tub rose as he got in, and realized that this effect could be used to determine the volume of the crown.

And so on.

Ideas are best bred in silence.

So, for the last five weeks, I have been doing a lot of nothing. Sitting on a bench overlooking the sea and just waiting for ideas to come.

And it works!

My brain has been boiling over with new ideas for new things for me to work on, write on and speak on.

The funny thing is that it took almost 4 weeks of sitting on the island before the magic started to happen, and then the last 10 days or so, my brain exploded with ideas!

I think many people miss out on how creative they could be because they do not give themselves enough time of “breathing out time” for this magic to happen.

Imagine if they did.

Many people will tell you that they do not have the time to take time off to just sit on a rock somewhere and wait for ideas.

I SAY: If you did take that time to just sit on a rock, you would come up with much better ideas that would make you much more productive for the rest of the year.

It is like what they say about meditation: “Everyone should meditate for 20 minutes, except the people who do not have time to do it; they should meditate for 40 minutes“. 😉

Bill Gates took time off his busy schedule when running Microsoft to go on “thinking weeks”.

Richard Branson spends a lot of time on his island.

Edison is said to have left his lab to go fishing from time to time because that is where he got his best ideas.

If these people could to it, so could you.

 

P.S.

Now here comes an important add-on. Only sitting on a rock will not give you great ideas. You also need to make sure you give your brain plenty of new inspirations to work with.

So tomorrow, I am leaving this beautiful island to go back to travelling the world.

In the next few months, I will travel to Singapore, America, Denmark, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Croatia, Switzerland, Hong Kong and a few more places I can not remember right now. I know that those trips will bombard my mind with things I had no idea about – things that will then become new ideas the next time I take time off to do nothing.

Creativity – a constant motion of breathing in inspiration and breathing out ideas.

 

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Bangkok, Thailand.

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I am actually in the middle of a 2-month summer vacation with no speeches, but today, I am making an exception as I am in Bangkok to give a speech.

I flew in from Sweden to this City of Angels one day before my speech to enjoy some great Thai food, some relaxing Thai massage and some refreshing mangoes and young coconuts by the river.

The reason I am taking a break from my vacation is that the client I am speaking for is such an interesting company. Today, I am speaking for the Asian managers of Booking.com.

Booking.com is the worlds largest hotel room booker.

Some awesome statistics about the company:

+700 000 = Number of hotel rooms you can book on the site
+47 000 000 = Number of customer reviews on hotels
+850 000 = Number of hotel nights booked every day (!) through the site

As a person who spends a lot of nights per year in hotels around the world, it is an honor and a privilege to get to speak for this innovative and dynamic company.

So in honor of my client, today’s blog post will be on the theme of hotels.

Over the last 20 years, I have stayed in some awesome hotels. Like The Commune (a hotel over looking the Great Wall of China and consisting of a bunch of over-sized designer villas), or the famous “Ice Hotel” in the north of Sweden that is literally built out of ice and melts every spring.

But my most amazing hotel experience did not happen in a hotel.

I once arrived late at night in Stockholm only to find out that, due to a misunderstanding, there was no hotel room booked for me.

Normally, this would not be a big problem. I would just go online and book myself a room, but Stockholm is one of those cities where there can be zero hotel rooms available when there is a big conference in town.

This was one of those times. It turned out there were 2 (!) rooms available within 1 hour of travel from Stockholm. One was a hotel suite at Grand Hotel for 650 Euro per night. The other room was at “Danderyd Hospital”.

It turns out that the hospital was renting out the rooms in the maternity ward (!) if they had few expecting mothers.

So for one night, I stayed in a room that had a baby crib in it and in the morning, I had the most amazing hotel breakfast I have ever had: eating cheese sandwiches together with a bunch of women who were holding their new-born babies!

Being a speaker, you surely get to experience some really cool things.

Finally, let me end by giving you some insider-tips regarding hotels from a global speaker’s point of view.

1) Do not let the client be too nice to you.

Many times, the client will choose to put you up in the “nicest/best” hotel in town. That is a very nice gesture (from their side) and a very nice perk (from the speaker’s point of view).

But resist it.

I recently did a speech in Chennai where I was booked in a very nice hotel by the client, but it took more than 45 minutes to get there from the airport. And then in the morning, it took 1 hour to get from the hotel to the venue which, ironically, was just next to the airport.

Putting me up in the closest hotel to the venue would have given me almost 2 hours more of relaxing time in the hotel, instead of driving around in crazy Indian traffic.

For a speaker, “proximity” is the biggest luxury of all when it comes to hotels.

2) Let the client book the hotel, but book the flights yourself.

I usually book my flights myself to be able to have a flexible way of getting to and from speeches, but I normally let the client book my hotel.

Why?

a) They usually get a better deal since they have booked many rooms for their conference

b) There is less costs to invoice the client, and less things for you to keep in your head

c) They normally know more about the city than you do so they know which hotels are good

3) Take advantage of the hotel-perks.

In some countries (or I should say some airports), getting a taxi can be a nightmare. I have had some awful waiting-in-line-for-taxis-for-over-one-hour-experiences in, for example, Shanghai and Brussels.

If the client is ok with it, ask them to book a hotel car pick-up so that there is someone waiting for you with a sign carrying your name on it as you exit the airport, and you will be on your way to the hotel a few minutes after landing.

If possible, try to get the mobile phone number of the driver as airport pick-up is a great service that can turn into a very annoying service if the guy there to pick you up is not there when you come out.

4) Try to get the client to book you in the same hotel where the conference will be held.

Many conferences take place in hotel ballrooms, or in conference centers that has a hotel in or next to it.

But many times, the delegates for the conference will stay in many different hotels around town since not all delegates might fit in the hotel where the conference is happening.

As a speaker, you should kindly suggest that you get a room in the hotel where the conference takes place, so that you can:

a) easily check out the speaking venue when you arrive
b) can go up to your room if you need
c) do not have to worry about getting from your room to the venue
etc.

It might sound basic that the speaker should stay in the hotel where the conference is, but you would be surprised how often the conference organisers miss this.

But it is easy to forgive them for not thinking of this, since for the person organising the conference, this is just a VERY minor detail amongst millions of other things they have to think about.

But for you, it makes a huge difference.

Make sure you ask for this early so that they do not need to re-book someone else to a different hotel.

Svanholmen Island, Sweden.

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As you can see by my latest two posts, I am on “vacation mode” and this post will be on the same theme.

I hear many entrepreneurs who justify their crazy work loads with the argument: “I am going to work like a maniac for XX years so that I can sell my company and never will have to work again in my life.”

For me that is as clever as saying: “I am going to starve myself for XX days so that I can go crazy on the all-you-can-eat-buffet-dinner.”

I strongly believe that a much better strategy for how much you work – and how much you eat! – is to spread it out and not overdo it.

Being a speaker is a dream job in many aspects, but perhaps the biggest perk of all is that you can look at it as a job that is done by many semi-retired people.

Personally, I will have 5 months off this year to be with my kids.

At the same time, I am one of the world’s most globally booked speakers.

And I do not intend to retire (I do not even own a retirement account!) because as a speaker, you can literally do your job until the day you die. Not very many jobs let you do that. Edward de Bono, for example, is 82-years-old and is still giving keynote speeches.

Because as stupid as I think it is to work too much, I equally think it is stupid to totally stop working at a certain age and spend the rest of your life “in retirement”.

Now, I think everyone who works 8 hours per day 5 days per week until they retire should change that to 6 hours per day, 4 days per week until they are so old they can not work anymore.

I think that would create happier families, workers and societies. At the same time, I think it would probably produce more productivity counted over the lifetime of a person.

Now, do not get me wrong. I love entrepreneurs — people who have an idea that they strongly believe in and that they want to see come true. But I have met so many entrepreneurs who say “I love my job, but I hate my life.”

When I sold my company in 1999 (after working way too much for a few years), I pledged to myself that I should be a “Lifetrepreneur”.

The definition of an “Entrepreneur” is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses”.

The definition of a “Lifetrepreneur” is “a person who organises and operates his or her life in the best possible manner.”

Lesson: Being a speaker is the perfect job if you want to achieve high “life-work balance”. The fact that most people call it “work-life balance” just shows how many people have forgotten which of the two should come first.

Question: Are you spending as much time as you would like on work, or are you spending too much? If too much, then what can you do to create the right “life-work balance” in your life?