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I have met many professional speakers who say that the best thing to do on a day when you do not have any speaking engagement is to focus all your energy on marketing, promotion and selling so you can get more bookings.

I do not believe in that.

My philosophy is that if you have a day off, you should NOT try to sell yourself, you should focus on trying to become better as a speaker!

The rationale behind this is that IF you are constantly working on becoming better as a speaker, you WILL get more bookings. Nothing gives you more bookings than someone coming up to you after you just delivered a great speech to ask if they can book you.

I recently attended a conference of professional speakers where all the other speakers wanted to discuss how to “sell, market and promote” themselves.

I was the only speaker who wanted us to spend the day talking about how we could become better as speakers!

The others said things like “We are all great speakers already”.

I was shocked!

I am of the strong opinion that you can always become better. I try to spend as much time as possible to constantly study things that make me better as a speaker.

 

What a day looks like when I don’t have a speaking engagement

No, I don’t focus on selling or promoting.

 

Aug 21st, Friday 

1. Lunch with Insead Business School Lecturers

I met with two lecturers at Insead Business School — Serguei Netessine and Manuel Sosa. We all share a deep interest in innovation, but from different backgrounds.

Serguei is the author of the book “The Risk Driven Business Model”, and Manuel is interested in the intersection between design and engineering.

We spent a long lunch in their new Executive Education Building discussing book writing, speaking, global travel and the world of executive education.

 

2) Meeting with the Winner of the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking

I met with Manoj Vasudevan (see our picture above) who, just days ago, won 2nd runner up in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking!

Manoj has watched virtually every toastmasters speech of previous world championships to learn what makes a speech a winner.

We talked about what makes a great speech a great speech and about the value of sharing your knowledge of speaking with others.

I hope to do a longer interview with Manoj to post on this blog soon, but we ran out of time talking about so many other things that the interview had to be scheduled at a later date.

 

3) Exciting meeting with trendwatching.com Founder

I was also able to book a meeting with Reinier Evers, the founder of http://trendwatching.com, where we got to talk about speaking, global mindset, and also about interesting, future business ideas.

 

4) Dinner with awesome guys from The Insight Bureau

In the evening, I had dinner with Caspar Berry and Andrew Vine of The Insight Bureau. Caspar is a speaker who talks about risk.

Over dinner, we had a long discussion that took us through such different topics as UK politics, bombings in Thailand, casinos and of course, a lot of discussion about professional speaking.

 

It was a day full of inspiration, insights and knowledge-sharing, but as I hope you can see, it had very little to do about selling, promoting or marketing. But a lot of talk about speaking and inspiration.

Lesson: A great speaker doesn’t need to sell himself/herself). So if you are not getting enough speeches, do not spend time trying to sell your speech. Spend your time trying to make your speeches better.

Remember: You are a speaker. So focus on becoming the best speaker you can possibly be. You are NOT a salesperson. And if you think that is what you are, then stop being a speaker, change careers, and become a sales person instead. 🙂

P.S.

The funny thing is that I might very well get some speaking businesses from one, or some, of the meetings I had today. But the point is that it was not the purpose or focus of any of these meetings.

 

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Today I had a revelation.

It happened as I was doing the Q&A after a speech I delivered at the Rotary Club of Singapore.

I had been invited to speak about the job of being a speaker and I it such an interesting topic that I gladly accepted their invitation. So for once, I did not talk about a topic that interests me. Instead, the topic was about myself. It was a bit weird – but fun – to give a talk about being a speaker.

Anyway, in the Q&A session after my speech, one of the many questions that I received was: “How do you decide which stories to tell?”

I replied: “The great thing with being a global keynote speaker is that people come up to you after your speech to share their stories and their favourite examples around the topic you just have been speaking on.”

I explained that the a great perk of my job is that just by being a speaker, you get access to so many interesting stories — stories that are often not well known.

The person who asked me the question had a follow-up question that really got me thinking. He said: “So your job is to filter out which stories to re-tell?”

Bang!

That’s when the revelation hit me. Or perhaps, I should say it in its plural form — “revelations”.

Revelation Number 1:

Our job as speakers is not to collect stories to tell, but to select among the stories we have heard that which are good enough to be included in our speech.

This means that we need to gather more stories than we are planning to tell.

I do not have an exact number, but I would guess that it should be something like “100/10/1”.

If we collect 100 stories, then 10 are good enough to be included in a speech, which means they are good enough to be written down and saved. And out of those 10 stories, we actually include 1 in our speeches.

So in essence, our job is not to “collect stories” but to “discard stories” until we have just a few great ones left. Those great stories are the ones we tell our audience.

Which brings us to Revelation Number 2:

As speakers, we are actually not “storytellers”. We are “story re-tellers”.

We do not just tell stories, but we re-tell stories that other people have come to share with us either by approaching us after a speech, agreeing to do an interview with us for our research, or by contacting us online, and so on.

Of course, this does not apply to the category of speakers whose speeches are built around their own life story like “climbing Mount Everest”, or “living without arms”, or “sharing my experiences as a Fortune 500 CEO”, etc.

For the rest of us who speak on a general topic, I would say that nothing beats the stories that you receive from audience members after you have given your speech.

 

Knockout Reasons Why Audience’s Stories Are Topnotch:

1) They are very genuine stories

Stories shared by people from the audience are close to their hearts because it is something about them or a close friend of theirs.

2) They are powerful 

When a person decides to approach you after your speech, it’s because they really want to share the wisdom of the story to more people.

3) They are often unknown

Most likely, an audience member who shares a story with you is not a celebrity who has exposure in mainstream media or the internet. Thus, their story which you will tell (or more aptly, “re-tell”) will sound fresh when you share them on stage.

4) They are relevant

Since the person telling the story just heard your main message, my experience is that the stories you get right after a speech very often compliment the message that you have been trying to get across.

5) They make you think

Because the story is shared with you by a person who just heard you speak, you get a fresh perspective of your message that is from the point of view of another person. It usually helps to see your own topic with new eyes.

And that is just what happened today.

The man in the audience who asked me about “re-telling” stories helped me look at my own process of collecting, selecting and picking stories to tell in a new way.

So today’s post is very meta: I am writing a post about the value of collecting stories to re-tell from the audience, by telling you how I got to look at the process of re-telling stories by listening to a man in the audience who just heard me speak today. 😉

Lesson: Do not think that your job is just to “tell stories”. Instead, your job is to “re-tell” the stories that you come across as a speaker.

A bonus effect of thinking like this is that the speech becomes less about “you and your ideas” and more about “you as a person who is interested in the topic you are speaking on.”

Or to think in a metaphor, you are less of the “source of the river” and more of “the watering hole” where people who like your subject “go to drink”. I hope you understand what I mean. Less “YOU”. More “US”.

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Today, I delivered a speech as the only external speaker when Trendwatching (www.trendwatching.com) had their trend seminar.

Trendwatching.com is an amazing company that collects trends from all over the world using 3000+ trend watchers. Their website offers an amazing number of free trends (and even more if you pay for it, of course).

During the seminar today, they (the people from Trendwatching) presented some of the most interesting trends at the moment. I stayed for the whole day because I found it so fascinating to listen to them.

And this post will be about an insight that hit me during the day.

 

The Trick to Being a Great Speaker: Moving Your Audience from Point A to Point B

A common critique that speakers often get to hear is “most of the stuff presented during the conference/speech was not new”, or “I already know most of this stuff”.

I would like to comment on that.

You see, I think that a conference where everything is about brand new insights for the audience would be very exhausting to listen to, and I actually doubt that you would be able to digest it all.

A good speaker is supposed to move the audience to a new place – but in order to do that, you have to start where the audience is. Another way of saying it would be “you can not move someone from A to B without starting at A”.

The trick to being a great speaker is that you are able to sense where the audience is (Point A) and then sense how far you can move them (Point B).

Move them too little and the audience will feel that they did not learn anything.

Move them too far and the audience will not understand what you are talking about.

But that means that some parts of your speech need to include examples or descriptions that the audience is familiar with, to make them accept the world view that you are painting. They feel, “Oh, I agree with the speaker because I feel/think the same way”. Then you, as a speaker, can start moving them.

Also, remember that the an audience will always consist of people who have different knowledge sets of the subject you are talking about. So, you have to speak to the “middle knowledge” of the room. This means that some people will already know what you are talking about, and some will have no clue.

My insight from today was that a speech (or a whole conference) is successful if there is even just one new insight that you take away.

Like the conference today.

 

The Stapler Example

There was, of course, many examples of trends that were presented which I already knew about: everything from Uber, to AirBnB and Spotify. The usual suspects, so to say.

But then, there were many I have never heard of, and a few that really made me think.

Like when Henry Manson from Trendwatching.com was talking about the trend of how the world is becoming increasingly transparent, and illustrated it with a product review of a stapler that had 581 (!) reviews on Amazon.com.

Imagine, 581 people have taken the time to write down a review of a stapler — a $10 stapler!

One good example like that can get your mind starting to think in brand new ways, or perhaps I should say that it got MY mind started.

For others in the audience, that example meant nothing and instead, some other example from the day triggered new thoughts.

And one example like that made it worthwhile to go to the whole conference for me.

As long as I get one, or a few thing(s) to take home, I will be happy as an audience member.

That was my takeaway today from the conference where I was a speaker.

Lesson: As a speaker, you should aim at leaving the audience thinking thoughts they had never thought before to move their frame of reference. But structure your speech by presenting your material in a way that it feels familiar, yet new, to the audience.

 

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