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May 7, 2015 in Singapore.

This is an email I received in my inbox today, 7th of May 2015, asking me if I can deliver a speech in Europe for a regional conference on (wait for it…) May 19th!

“Let me shortly introduce myself. My name is (Name of Client) and I am working for (Name of Company).

We are a leading insurance broker and risk advisor being active in more than 100 countries.

Once a year we have a regional event for our European and Middle East/Africa managers – in total around 100 colleagues. For our joint dinner on May 19, we are looking for an innovating, motivating and inspiring speaker.

Kindly ask you to let us know if you would be available and interested to join our event as a speaker for dinner on May 19th.

Many thanks in advance and best regards from Vienna.”

Here is a company planning an international conference for hundreds of people and they are booking their speaker for this conference less than two weeks (!) before the event.

The interesting thing is that this is becoming more and more common. When I started as a professional speaker 20 years ago, companies would book speakers months in advance, and sure, some companies and event organisers still book way in advance. But overall, companies are now booking with much shorter time frame.

Not long ago, I was booked with a one week time frame where the CEO had decided 8 (!) days before the conference happened that he wanted to have an Asian Regional Conference.

On the first day of the conference, the CEO stood up and said: “We normally plan conferences months in advance, but I wanted to show you that we can do things much faster, and we HAVE to do things much faster in the future to be able to survive.”

So to prove that the company could move much faster than they thought it could, he had forced them to do a conference in a week.

Not all CEOs are that extreme, but planning of conferences has for sure become quicker.

What does this mean for a speaker?

It means that we have to understand that one of the reasons companies decide so late which speaker they should bring in is that the theme that they want to cover in their conference might have also recently changed. Be sure to have an extra briefing call (or meeting) the day before the speech to be up-to-date with the latest developments in the company so you know what the company is going through right now.

It also means that we have to be more flexible with our own planning, and that we should not stress out if our calendar has some empty slots in it a few months from now.

Lesson: The business of professional speaking has more and more become a “just-in-time-world” as the world of business is changing the way they plan their conferences. Clients want their conferences to be current and relevant – and in an ever faster changing business environment, that means they might wait to book a speaker until the very end to make sure the speaker fits with the theme of the conference. As speakers, we need to understand the rationale behind this behaviour.

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4 May 2015, Singapore

Today, I had the great pleasure of having my dear friend Derek Sivers over for a visit. Derek has one of the sharpest and most curious minds of anyone I know, and he also is one of the best speakers I have met. Derek masters the art of making an interesting point in a simple way.

One of his most famous speeches is a three minute (!) speech that he gave at TED with the title “How to start a movement”. If you have NOT seen the speech I URGE you to look at it – it is nothing short of a master piece when it comes to how to give a short speech.

The speech can be seen here: http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement?language=en

Now, Derek’s speech might LOOK simple – but I happen to know that there is nothing “simple” about making that speech look so simple. Derek spends a lot of time fine tuning his speeches until his point comes across in a simple way.

While sipping some coconut water in my living room, I asked him about his process of writing a good speech.

Derek told me that when he had written the speech down, he tested it on a few friends to get an “outsider’s perspective” to the message. As a speaker, you are so familiar with what you WANT to say that you might be blind to HOW to best get that message across.

In the case of the “How to start a movement” speech, Derek tested the speech on a friend who said: “That part of ‘the first Follower’ was a really interesting idea.” Before that comment, Derek had failed to fully grasp the power of the phrase “the first Follower”.

Derek: “That tiny line in the middle of the talk was what made all the difference.”

The rest is, as they say, browser history. Derek’s “How to start a movement” talk has created a movement of its own – the speech now has more than 4.6 million views!

Lesson: If you risk becoming blind to the message you are trying to get across, try your speech on a few people before hand to get a fresh perspective and an audience point of view.

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30 April 2015 – Kiev, Ukraine.

Today Sir Richard Branson flew to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, in his private plane just so that he could speak to 3000+ attendees at the Forum One Conference.

At the end of his presentation he got the question from the moderator: ”Why?”

It’s a fair question. Here is a billionaire businessman with more than 300 companies, who also is personally involved in a number of global not-for-profit-projects and who is famous for privately living an extremely active life. So why does he fly for hours just to speak for a bunch of Eastern European business people?

He replied: “We all know that when we give a present it’s better than when getting one. I have lived a fun, and active, life. I think it is important to share my experiences.”

Great answer – but he could, of course, just have recorded a video and sent it to the organisers or posted it online. But he didn’t.

Why not?

He did not answer that question, but I think the answer is that there are few things that can give such a rush as standing in front of a big audience delivering a speech on a subject you really believe in. The excitement, the inspiration and the feedback that you get from giving a well received speech is hard to beat.

Think about it: What do former US presidents do when they are done being “the most powerful man in the free world”?

Answer: They often hit the speaker circuit.

US presidents and billionaires – people who are better positioned than probably anyone else to do exactly what they want – choose to spend their time speaking.

I find that an interesting observation.

Lesson: The profession of being a professional speaker is probably the most inspiring job in the world.

P.S.
I had the honor of being one of the keynote speakers at the same conference as Sir Richard Branson. What I especially liked from Sir Branson’s talk was his message of thinking grand – and to always keep looking for problems so solve. But what I liked more than hearing him speak was seeing how he was the same inspiring, curious and interested person behind the scene in private as he was on stage (and which we have gotten to know via the media.). He is possibly the person with the most positive energy that I have ever met.