Tag: How to become better as a speaker

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Today I had the pleasure of having fellow professional speaker Gabor George Burt over to my house which inspired me to write a blog post about collaboration.

I first met Gabor when we shared the stage at a huge conference in Ukraine where we spoke for 5000+ business people. We kept in contact and when he visited Singapore today we met up.

One of the things we discussed was a conference in Dubai that he is organising and where he has proposed me as one of the keynote speakers.

During our talk Gabor shared a few ways he collaborates with other speakers.

Designing as well as keynoting events. (Like the upcoming event in Dubai that he is designing and which he invited me to speak at.
Collaborative client engagements. (Where he partners with other speakers/thought-leaders to co-facilitate leadership workshops for clients, thereby providing them with a valuable combination of know-how. He does this, for example, with Ken Schmidt, global speaker and former Harley-Davidson executive)
Joint articles. (For example his current collaboration with Jamie Anderson on co-authoring articles about the role of humor in leadership)

And so on.

All the examples above that he told me about inspired me to want to collaborate even more with other speakers. But it was a story he told me around a small change he initiated at one conference he spoke at that really got my attention.

He told me how he had been one of the speakers at the World Marketing Forum and how the organizers had arranged separate evening programs for all the speakers, even though they were all staying at the same hotel.

When Gabor realized this, he suggested to the organizers: “Why don’t we all have dinner together, so we can get to know each other and share stories?”

So they did. And of course they all really enjoyed it.

As Gabor said: “In our job we have the advantage of sharing the stage with some fascinating people – we should use that. Use that be inspired to learn new things, to hear new stories, to be more stimulated.”

And it’s so true.

Many event organisers seems to think that speakers are like bulls and that you can not put two speakers to close to each other or the speaker egos will clash. (And yes, the speaker industry has some mega egos) But most speakers are genuinely curious and want to learn, so by putting the speakers together you actually help inspire both speakers.

Putting a bunch of speakers in the same care is just a small, symbolic example of collaboration, but it shows how a mindset of learning from each other and looking at other speakers as colleagues – not competitors – works to your advantage.

Speakers might often be lone wolfs, but we can all still benefit from hunting in a pack …


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Here is an introduction that a speaker submitted to a client to be read before the speaker went up on stage.

Can you see what is wrong with it?

(I have changed some of the facts to protect the identity of the speaker)


Location: Sheraton, London

Introduction of Mr Speaker by Mr Smith, Senior Partner, Law firm X.

“Mr Speaker is the CEO of the General Inspiration Inc and author of the book “Value Driven Leadership”.

For the past 3 decades Mr Speaker has worked with helping companies develop successful value driven leadership practices. 
When he first began his professional career back in 1980, he worked for two multi-national IT computer firms, first HP, then IBM.

In 2000 he had a breakthrough moment of conscious realization.  Being “comfortably miserable” in his job, in other words, he was making a good salary, but didn’t love what he was doing, Mr Speaker decided a big change was needed. Gathering all his courage, he stepped off the mothership of multi-national financial security, and left the IT Industry. On his journey of self-discovery he found his calling in life, transitioning into a deeply satisfying career as a professional facilitator.

Instead of working with bits and bytes, he now works with values and behaviours, making a difference as a global speaker and thought leader on leadership. His passion is inspiring leaders to reach their full potential building values-driven organizations.
3 years ago Mr speaker took another courageous step in life and moved from Stockholm to London at the request of his old mother, to become an in-person, as opposed to a skype son, to his mother.  Needless to say, we can tell family and adventure are values which mean a great deal to him.”
So what is wrong with this introduction?

Well, all of it …

(Ok, not all of it, but a lot of it)


Because an introduction is not supposed to be an introduction to the SPEAKER, but an introduction to THE SPEECH.

And yes, an introduction should help to build credibility for the speaker so that the audience better understands why they should listen to the speaker, but much more important is the fact that the introduction explains to the audience why the organisers decided to include the upcoming topic at this conference.

That the speaker was miserable in his previous corporate jobs but happy now, risk alienating the audience which is full of people still in corporate life.

That his new career as a facilitator is “deeply satisfying” should be shown, not told. Samt with the fact that his “passion is inspiring leaders”.

The fact that the speaker has moved to take care of his old mother, is cute but has nothing to do with the speech.
Here is how I suggested rewriting it:

“Our next session is on “Value Driven Leadership”, something that is very important for us here at Law firm X, and something that we need to constantly be reminded of, especially after the latest developments in our industry..

We are very happy to have Mr Speaker here to share his views about this topic as he literally wrote the book on the topic.

Mr Speaker is the CEO of the General Inspiration Inc and author of the book “Value Driven Leadership”.
For the past 3 decades Mr Speaker has worked with helping companies develop successful value driven leadership practices.

He will share with us what value driven leadership is, how it can be used to drive reliable growth and which companies are doing it right – and what we can learn from them.

Let’s give him a warm welcome.”
Now the introduction is about the session, while still building credibility for the speaker. And it also builds credibility towards the organiser, by showing that the topic is important for the organiser, ie important for the conference the attendees are attending.

The last sentence about giving the speaker a warm welcome is a subtle but effective way of getting the speaker off to a good start since a warm welcome (even if it is “fabricated” creates a positive affinity towards the speaker.)

So remember, the next time the organisera ask you how they should introduce you reply: “I don’t want you to introduce me, I want you to introduce my speech, and I want you do do that by explaining to the audience what the speech is about, why you selected my to speak on it and why the topic of the speech is important to the audience.”

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In this blog I try to mix the kind of advice I get on becoming a successful keynote speaker, from how to craft a speech, to how to interact with the audience, to how to get more speaking business and so on.

Today I want to talk about something that might seem trivial and small, but as in all professions, the key to a successful speaking career lies in mastering all the small, trivial things.

So today I will talk about how to pick your clothes for your speech.

Today I spoke at the Asia Management Conference of AECOM a very successful company that designs, build, finance and manage huge infrastructure projects like airports, bridges, subways etc.

Since the 2-day conference was in Singapore and since I was speaking on the second day I took the time to go down and meet with the organisers at the end of day 1 to find out how the first day had been. (This “last minute extra brief” is something I highly recommend you do if you speak on the second day, that’s where you can get a feel for what the mood will be the day you speak.)

Before I met with the client I walked around in the ballroom area to get a sense of the audience I was going to speak to. Are they chatty? Do they look stiff or relaxed? Things like that.

And I also looked at what they were wearing.

Turns out almost everyone I met was dressed on black.

So I made a mental note, and today when I picked my suit I picked a black one with a black shirt.

(As you can see from the panel discussion from day 2 this company really likes to dress in black.)

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By dressing like the audience you create a feeling of “us” with the attendees, and that makes it eaiser for them to connect with you, which makes it easier for them to hear your message.

It might seem like a tiny detail to care about, but I am absolutely convinced it helped make the speech a success. If nothing else it reminded me to connect with the audience and build affinity with them.

Perhaps dressing in black to look more like them was something I did more for myself than for them…


(Picture from when I was walking down to the bus stop to take a public bus to work – not every day I, as a global speaker, get to take the bus to work 😉