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Is there a word for “invisible voice”? Invoiceble”?

What I mean is people who attend conferences and think that their voices can not be heard when they talk.

It is often the AV-people, the event organisers, and very often the hotel staff. Of course, often it is the delegates at the convention.

People who think that if they just lower their voices and whisper no-one will hear them talk and they will not disrupt the speaker on stage.

They are wrong.

They can be heard.

I am not saying that AV-people and event managers do not need to speak during a convention, but I am talking about all the un-neccesary talking that goes on.

The picture is from a speech I did on Friday in Abu Dhabi where one of the event managers was talking almost 50% of the time during the afternoon. Chatting away with other event staff while obviously being bored with the actual convention.

What they do not understand is that this chatter and obvious uninterest in the speaker on stage is contagious and people in the audience hear it and get affected.

As speakers we should NEVER be part of this behaviour.

It’s easy to think that we are “backstage” and that no-one notices us when we are sitting in the back of the convention room, but very often the AV-booth etc is in (!) the ballroom which means you are not back-stage – you are part of the convention, part of the ballroom experience.

So show respect for the other speakers – and for the audience – and do not speak in the ballroom until it’s your time to speak from the stage. No matter how chatty, social and nice the hotel staff, AV-staff or event managers are.

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So this happened today, imagine it happened to you:

6:00 Wake up at the 5-start (!) Hotel Plaza in Rome and look for the iron in the room.

Can not find one.
Pick up the phone to call room service for an iron to iron my suit and shirt before the speech this morning. (Conference starts at 9:00)

No line on the phone. (turns out phones are not working in the hotel this morning)

6:15 Still no line. Walk down to reception to ask if they can have an iron brought up to the room.

Grumpy old receptionist replies: “We do not offer this service.”

Me: “You do not offer an iron to guests?

“No, Sir. We do offer a ironing service, but they do not come in until 8:30 so I can not guarantee when they will be done.”

Me: “Can you make an exception and lend that iron to me, or the iron that your staff uses?”

I explain to him that I need to be in the ballroom at 8:45 LATEST and that 150+ guests from all over the world have flown in to this hotel and I am going to speak to all of them and can not do that in a suit that is not ironed…

He replies: “We can not lend you an iron. Security reasons.”

I try to explain to him that HOSTELS offer irons to guests so they might want to re-consider their policy if they want conferences in the future. But it is of course fruitless.
So, what would you do?

a) Wait for 8:30 and hope that they can iron your shirt in 15 minutes. (With the service level so far i do not trust that at all.)

b) Attend the first part of the conference in your traveling clothes from the back and then go get the suit before you speak at 10:15? (Makes you look like a fool, or at least like an amateur.)

c) Continue to reason/argue with the man to get him to change his mind. (Good luck, See picture of stubborn, grumpy Italian man …)

d) Other solution.

Of course there is always another solution.

I asked my “friend” in the reception where the nearest other hotel is and he points me in a direction with a puzzled grin on his face.

I take my suit, smile, and say “Thank you”.

I then walk a few hundred meters to this other hotel, walk in with a confident smile and explain my situation: “I am staying at Plaza hotel, am speaking at 9 AM and they do not offer an iron to their guests and their ironing service is not open until earliest 8:30 which is too late for me. Can you help me?”

“Of course, Sir. It will be done by 8:00 o’clock.”

Me: “Thank you.”

I walk back to my hotel, past my grumpy receptionist who now has an even more puzzled look on his face as I come back to eat breakfast without carrying my suit.

At 8:00 I pick up my suit, go down to the convention area and get a feel for the room, mingle with clients and get ready to speak all while wearing a well ironed suit and without any last minute stress.

Lesson: There is always a solution. (Bonus lesson: Never take good service for granted in Italy, but look and you will find it…)

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Last Monday I got an email from a contact introducing me to another person, whom I have had no previous contact, saying: “This company is looking for a speaker on innovation for their convention in Bali on Saturday, could you do it?”

I reply the same day saying that I could be in Bali that day.

On Tuesday I get a reply asking for my fee.

On Thursday they confirm the booking. I tell me wife I will be gone 2 days starting tomorrow.

On Friday I fly to Bali and arrive at 5 pm. I go down to the beach where the client is having a networking event and we sit down in the bar and he begins to brief me on the company, the industry and the theme of the convention. As the sun sets over Bali I learn about the speech I am going to give.

I go back to my hotel room and do my slides.

On Saturday morning I go on stage and give my speech.


That means that less than 120 hours before I stood on stage I did not even know I was going to be on stage in Bali on Saturday.

Is this a normal set-up for a keynote speaker?


But it is clearly so that the time between when a speaker gets booked and when the speech happens has become shorter and shorter.

(I did two other speeches last week: One in KL for a retail client and one in HK for a wealth management bank. The one in KL was booked less than 3 months ago. The one in HK less than 2 months ago…)

It is important for speakers to understand that as the world changes faster and faster and topics for conventions are decided last minute, speakers need to prepare for a world where they might not know where they will be speaking – or for who – until just a few weeks before.

If you want a life as a professional global speaker you need to be ready to fly out on short notice. Have you build your life around being able to do that? Personally I love this aspect of not fully knowing where life will take me. For me this week it meant that I ended up on a beach in Bali just two days after getting the confirmation.