Life of a professional speaker

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Most of  my post on this blog is about how to become better as a speaker, but some are about the life of a global professional speaker. This is one of those posts.

As we are now closing 2016 I have done an inventory of my global speaking year.

2016 Summary:

  • Countries spoken in: 23 different ones in 2016. (Bringing the total number of countries I have spoken in to 63.)
  • Continents spoken on in 2016: 4. (Asia, Europe, Africa and North America).
  • Number of speeches delivered: 64. 
  • Months off: 3 (January, July and August, to be on paternity leave with my kids),
  • Number of global (or international) conferences that I spoke at: 23 (more than 1/3 of all my speeches).
  • Percentage of speeches done outside my home country of Singapore: Ca 65%.

Here is a video to hopefully give you a glimpse into what that year looked like, felt like and was like. I hope it will inspire you to speak more globally too.

ps. If you are interested, here is a list of the countries I spoke in 2016:

Austria
Bangladesh
China
Egypt
Germany
India
Indonesia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Hong Kong
Macau
Malaysia
Nigeria
Philippines
Singapore
Spain
Sweden
Taiwan
Thailand
Turkey
USA
UK
Vietnam

And here a list of the global, or international conferences I spoke at:

BMW Engine Global Management Conference
APLMA Annual APAC Syndicated Loan Market Conference
IATA Africa/Middle East Conference
Anoto Global Management Conference
Tata Communications Global Marketing Conference
FWD Asia Management Conference
LIMRA Global Conference
Nu Skin Asia Management Conference
LSB Global Conference
Kaufmann Fellows Global VC Conference
Grant Thornton Global Partners Conference
Templeton Global Investor Conference
DLA Piper Global Services Conference
Qmatic Global Customer Conference
EY Global Mobility Conference
ATD Asia Pacific Conference & Exhibition
EO Global Conference
Home Instead Global Conference
DLA Piper Global Lawyers Conference
The Queens Leadership program
OMB Asia Management Conference
EY Asia Pacific/Global Tax Conference
Morison KSi Global Conference

I am now looking forward to 2017, which I already know will be another global year that will (at least) take me to speak on 4 continents, and most likely 5.

I wish you a happy new speaker year – and may all your speaking wishes come true.

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Speaker war story about how to handle being sick when being a speaker.

I have been a little under the weather on and off for the last few months.. The funny thing is that it has been coming and going and always when I feel I am getting better, I became worse again. I guess it is a mixture of “airplane flu” from flying a lot and of “kindergarten flu” from having two kids bringing home all kinds of germs from their classmates

But generally it has not slowed me down. But a while back I was hit by something else.

I boarded the plane tofeeling a bit sick. On the plane I started to feel worse.

The first leg of my journey was an agonising 8 hours journey from hell with a blistering headaches that no migraine medicine had any effect on.

On the second leg I started to feel even worse.

I must have looked really sick as 5 (!) different crew members approached me to check if I was ok and one of them even came running with a thermometer – that happened to show that I had not only a bad migraine but also 38.7 C fever.

For the whole 15 hour duration of my trip (including transfers) from Singapore to Europe I must have slept 13 hours.

When I arrived t my destination the night before my speech the crew had prepared a wheel chair (!) for me as I exited the plane.

My male pride prevented my from accepting it – but after walking, what felt like 5 km of airport corridors I started to regret that choice.

When checked into my hotel room I went straight to bed and continued to sleep.

Then it got worse.

I woke up in the middle of the night by my bed being SOAKED in sweat (we are talking wet as in being dropped into a bathtub) And not only one side of the bed, but both sides of the queens size bed …

I got up and got some big towels to lie on to sleep on something dry.

A few hours later I had to get up again and get a new set of towels.

I was scheduled to speak at 9 am. and due to do a sound check at 7 am.

Amazingly, I woke up at 6.30 feeling 100% ready to go!

I got ready, did my sound check and delivered a speech that the audience and the client was very happy with.

How does that happen?

I still do not know.

Like i wrote in a recent blog post, it seems like the body is “aware” of when it can be sick – and when it has to function.
I am very happy it all worked out great yet again.

Lesson:

Being a professional speaker is a privileged profession. When we are not on stage our work is extremely flexible and we can choose to take off time in the middle of the day to pick up our kids from school, go see a lunch-time-movie – or go take a nap for a few hours because we are feeling tired.

But when we are scheduled to be on stage we better all fired up to perform.

That means we have to really learn to master the art of saving, channeling and focusing our energy.

I am very, very glad that I was able to do that on my recent trip to Europe. A trip that had me at 1% energy for 20 hours of travelling – and at 100% energy for that one hour I was on stage. (Then it went back to 10% energy again flying home…)

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I have been a professional speaker since 1994, I have done more than 2000 paid speeches, and I can not remember the last time I canceled because I was sick. (Actually I might never have done it, but I certainly can not remember doing it.)

So does that mean I have never been sick?

Of course not. I am sick right now, as I am writing this. A bad case of colds, fever and generally non-working brain. I have done nothing of value today and if this text makes no sense I will blame it on my malfunctioning brain.

But here is an interesting observation I have done over my 20 year speaking career: It seems like speakers get sick when they do not have an assignment.

It seems that speakers seem to be able to “put off” being sick, until there is a whole in the calendar. In the last month I have spoken in the USA, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Lithuania, the UK – and a series of speeches in Singapore of course. But now I have a few days without speeches before I go to Barcelona next week, and just like that I got really, really sick.

Could I have given a speech today if I had a booking? Yes – I have been delivering speeches while not being in perfect physical condition before – but let’s  just say I am very happy I do not have to.

I think the body feels that it’s “ok” to be sick, and then it relaxes and then the sickness strikes.

I also think that the body pumps itself up with adrenalin before a speech and “lives” on that energy long enough to get the speaker through the scheduled event. (Think how Hillary Clinton collapsed into a waiting car after attending the 9/11 memorial service.)

So why am I sharing this on a blog on being a professional speaker?

Because I think it is crucial that speakers plan in “non-booked-periods” also during the “busy season” of September to November (when speakers tend to have crazy schedules).

And more importantly, it’s important to block off longer periods of “down time” after a busy period as to re-charge the batteries and get back to “full charge” again.

Lesson:

They say people who never take time off to exercise sooner or later have to take time off to be sick.

I think it is equally true that speakers who do not take time off to get some down-time, sooner or later will find themselves down one way or another.