Sao Paulo, Brazil.

 

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About 30 percent of the audience at my speech in Sao Paulo today did not understand English and had to rely on the earphones that had been given out to them, and on the skills of the translator to get the message of my speech.

If you work as a global speaker, you are bound to get to have your speech being translated sooner or later. I think the record for me is 12 (!) different languages being translated at one conference. The translator booths took up a big part of the conference room.

In honor of all the times I have relied on a translator to get my message across, I thought I should make a post about working with translators.

So, what is the most important thing to remember when giving a speech that is being simultaneously translated?

To speak slowly?
To avoid difficult words?
To avoid too much text on your slides?

No.

The most important thing to not forget is to remember to go and meet up with your translator(s) before the speech!

You would be amazed how seldom speakers do that.

I recently spoke at a conference where I had been assigned an assistant who followed me around during the conference. I asked him to bring me to the translator booth that was hidden away on the fourth floor in this huge convention centre. After I had introduced myself to the translator, my assistant asked me why I did that.

I replied, “Did you see how I was the only speaker who made the effort to find the translator? Now, not only does the translator know more about my speech, what I am going to talk about, and what I find most important in my presentation. More importantly, which speaker do you think he will put in the most energy to make as good as possible?”

My assistant smiled and replied, “Yours?”

Correct.

A bad translator can ruin a speech. And a great translator can be so good that the audience forgets that they are listening to a translation. But doing a great translation in real time is an amazingly difficult thing to do. Try translating something out loud what you watch on TV for example, it’s HARD!

Having your translator put in a little bit of extra effort when translating your speech – because he or she likes you because you took the effort to go and say ‘hi’ – is going to be so valuable.

Translators do not just take the words you say and say them in another language – they transform your message – in real time – to communicate the essence of what you are trying to say. Or, like my translator in Sao Paulo today put it when I was introducing myself to her before my speech, “We translate the meaning of your words, that’s why it’s called ‘translation’.”

Lesson: Your translator is your best friend – so treat them like that, go and say ‘hi’ before the speech. It will pay back big time.

P.S. If you want to see a great example of the power of having an engaged translator, please watch this sign video of the sign language translator from the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest. Golden!

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20 May 2015 – Oslo, Norway.

This post is about the importance of getting the right introduction before you go on stage.

I just got to see the final program for the conference that I was speaking at later today. In the draft of the program, I had been introduced as “Fredrik Haren – Author and Speaker”. But it turns out that they (without telling me) had changed it last minute and instead printed “Fredrik Haren – one of the best speakers in the world”.

Now, you might think I should be flattered by such a compliment, but overly positive descriptions of a speaker might actually have the opposite effect of what was intended. Instead of making the audience curious of you as a speaker, an introduction that is too positive makes the audience react with a “well, we will see about that” attitude.

I was once introduced as “Here comes Fredrik Haren, one of the most creative people in the world, let’s give him a big hand!”. It was up-hill from the start.

In the same way, I do not want to be introduced with the words “Fredrik Haren has been awarded ‘Speaker of The Year’ in Sweden…”, even if that is an award I have actually received.

In the first two examples, the description they used did not come from me. It was something the organisers decided to write about me, and something I would have preferred that they did not call me.

Now, lines like those above are great for when you or the organisers are SELLING you as a speaker. But when you are going up on stage, you should’t focus on selling yourself. You should focus on selling the message of your speech.

It is great if the emcee can build you up a little, so that the audience knows why they should listen to you, but ask the emcee to spend more time talking about the theme of your speech, and why it is relevant to the audience than talking about all the great things that you as a speaker have achieved.

For my speech in Norway today, I made sure that the emcee talked about the need for Norwegian companies to look outside Norway to have a more global mindset, and then I asked her to make a short connection to how I, the speaker, was right now in the middle of an around-the-world-speaking-tour.

That made a subtle build up of me as a speaker (“He must be good if he is asked to speak around the world”), while at the same time, keeping the focus of the introduction on the theme of the speech (“Why Norwegian companies need to have a more global outlook”).

Lesson: Make sure that the person who introduces you (in person or in the program) builds up an anticipation for your SPEECH – not for you as a SPEAKER.

P.S. And remember: “You never get a second chance to have the emcee give you a good impression.”

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9 May 2015 – Shanghai, China.

“You did more in one hour than what we have been able to do in years!”

These grateful words came to me today from the mouth of the global head of branding of one of the largest professional services firms in the world. I had just stepped off stage after delivering a one hour keynote speech at the company’s Asia Pacific Partner Conference.

I smiled and said, “Thank you”.

She added, “Your speech also changed the way I look at the world.”

People sometimes ask me why a company would fly in a professional speaker from a different country just to have him or her speak for one hour.

The answer is simple: Because they see results.

If you are a trainer, you can aim to teach a skill or to instill knowledge in your audience. But if you are a speaker, you should aim to rock their world. You should try to change their minds.

Now, not every keynote speech succeeds in altering the universe of the audience, but every keynote speaker should at least try. Because a great speech can change the world.

People have gone to war – and to the moon – because of great speeches.

Now, the stakes when giving a keynote speech at a corporate kick-off might not be as high as when Churchill was rallying his citizens against Hitler or when President Kennedy got the Americans to want to send astronauts to the moon.

But at a global or international conference for a global company, the stakes can still be high. A successful speech that changes the mindset of the top 150 global managers of a billion dollar company can mean millions in saved costs or increased revenue.

In the case of the conference today in Shanghai, my speech got the Asian leadership to understand why the company needed to become more global in the way it is run, something the global management unsuccessfully had tried to communicate for a few years. Now, after a one hour speech, the audience was on board.

If you look at a keynote speech as an event where, in this case, 150 top managers got a one-hour message that helps them get on-board the global strategy – then suddenly the idea of flying in a keynote speaker doesn’t seem so strange.

Perhaps that is how professional speakers like myself should sell ourselves: not as “giving a one-hour speech” but as “delivering 150 hours of top management transformation” 😉

Lesson: When planning a keynote speech, ask yourself, “How will this speech transform the minds of the audience?”.