Life of a professional speaker

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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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Once in a while I post a “speaker war story” to get an idea of the world of being a global speaker. Then I go back to writing posts about how to become one.

So this war story took place in Dublin.

I was in a journey from Quebec (where my last speech was) and Gothenburg (where my next speech would be) and to get from Quebec to Gothenburg had turned out to be a bit more challenging that it looked on a map. I started in Quebec and flew Quebec-Montreal-Dublin-Stockholm-Gothenburg, a 17+ hour journey that would have me arrive the night before my speech in Gothenburg.

The problems started at my flight from Montreal to Dublin where the flight was almost 1 hour delayed because they were “waiting for a few connecting passengers” (The fact that a plane full of passengers who were on time might miss THEIR connecting flights in Dublin did not seem to cross the airlines mind.)

My flight was scheduled to land in Dublin at 10.05 AM, but being 1 hour delayed we landed at 11 AM.

My flight FROM Dublin to Stockholm was at 11.50…

50 minutes from “wheels on the ground” to “gate closed” might seem like a lot of time to catch a connecting flight, until you remember that I had to:

1) Pass passport control and customs in Ireland

2) Could not use “connecting flights gate” as I did not have a boarding pass for the next leg of my flight so I had:

a) to exit into the arrival terminal and

b) walk to the departures terminal

3) Check-in and get boarding pass.

4) Then had to go through security

5) and go through immigration (or as it should be called “emigration”…)

Oh, and 6) This is Dublin airport – one of those airports where they have stupidly decided to build the gates AWAY from the entrance to put in a series of what seems like 100’s of shops and restaurants so that it takes 5+ minutes after security just to run to the first gate.)

And to do all of that in less than 30 minutes before they close the gate.

Of course I made it.

So how? Here are som tips:

a) When exiting a plane walk briskly to pass the others who were on the plane to get first in passport control (queuing is what makes you miss flights)

b) Ask for help to save time.. Stop any airport employee to check if you can boarding cards inside the terminal or have to go outside.

c) Walk – do not run! – through customs and when you approach passport control (it’s seems to be a “thing” for people working there to mess with people who are in a hurry)

d) When you come to check-in: SMILE (a confident smile with a hint of begging), to get the check-in attendant to go the extra mile and call the gate and ask them to re-open it…

(Oh, and explain that you have no bags to check-in (to make her think you understand you are a frequent flier who knows it is possible to get you on that flight even if it is closed already.

Oh #2: Always pick a woman and always pick the woman who looks the happiest/friendliest. That will increase the chances of them helping you.

e) When she give you the boarding pass and says “Run!”, smile at her and say: “Thank you so much!”

f) At security, scan the different lines for which will be the fastest (and if possible look for security personal who are there to let “late passengers” cut infront of the line, if you are really late. (I did not do that this time, no need…)

g) When you come up to the security check, do NOT look stressed or annoyed about how long it takes, and take out belt, shoes, iPhone and computer etc (i.e. everything and then some so they do not get annoyed at you and decide to “randomly” select you.

And there you have it. How to make it to a flight that DEPARTS 50 minutes after you LAND.