Tag: Life of a professional speaker

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The conference I was speaking at in Paris yesterday got a bit delayed which meant my speech ended a bit later than planned. Then there were more traffic than I had anticipated to get to the airport in Paris so when I finally got to the airport it was 5 minutes left until boarding started (and I still had to get through security etc).

Luckily I had printed out my boarding card so it was ok to arrive at the airport 30 minutes AFTER check-in had closed. But that meant that my bag could not make it.

I asked my driver to take the bag back with him to my Paris hotel and grabbed my carry-on to rush through security to get to my flight.

What is the lesson here?

If you are going to check in luggage make sure that all the things you need for your speech is in your carry on.  A bag is just a bag and DHL can get it to you later. But you have to make that speech. And that means you have to make that flight – even if you have to leave your bag behind.

This post written when I am happily arrived in Malta.

(PS. Yes, there was a back-up flight that would have been able to take me to Malta in time for my speech today, but that would have had me on flights more or less all night and taken me to Tunisia for the connection to Malta which would have meant sleeping on planes and airports and arriving in Malta 1 hour before the flight, so not a very desirable Plan B, better than to leave the bag behind and get on that flight without it.)

 

 

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I am know as the “global conference speaker” who delivers keynotes around the world (spoke in 24 countries last year). But standing on stages and traveling the world is what you see, but what about those days when I am not traveling, and not speaking?

I thought it could be of useful to see what those “non-speaking” speaking days can look like.

Today was a typical such day. (This was written Monday 14 May)

8:30 – 9:30 – Had late and long breakfast with my 2.5 year old daughter who wanted to learn how to “make tea”.

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9:30 – 10:45 – Did an Inner Theme session (www.innertheme.com) with a speaker from Dubai who had flown in and wanted help to find clarity on the topic he should be speaking on. (we finished the session in the taxi to my client meeting to give him maximum time with me.)

11:00 – 12:00 Client meeting for a speech I am delivering on Saturday for a global bank’s IT department.

12:00 – 14:45 Lunch, 30 minutes walk in a park and a 90 minute massage. (When I am not speaking I try to give myself plenty of time off from “work” to give me time to think, reflect and contemplate.

That is also where I drafted out the outline for this blog post.

14:45 – 17:30  Attended my son’s swim championships. I am father first, speaker second and have been on “50% (unpaid) paternity leave” for the last 4 years. I rather make less money and spend more time with my children when they are young than have all that extra income but wish I had known my kids better. Seeing my son’s face when he swam for the first time in a championship is priceless.

17:30 – 18:00  – Did the last changes to the slides for a presentation I am doing in Shanghai on the 17th.

18:00 – 19:30 Eat dinner with family and put kids to sleep. I especially find that last 30 minutes before the kids fall asleep to be the most valuable parenting hour. Having them fall asleep knowing I am there.

19:30 – 21:00 Drinks and chat with the owner of a speaker bureau who is also a good friend. The business of speaking is a business of relationships and when working with a bureau for a number of years you develop a friendship that is beyond business. The business of speaking is, at least for me, actually never about the business. It’s about people, about spreading a message, about making the world change for the better.

21:00 – 10:30 A late night discussion with two speakers visiting from India, about how we can help develop the professional speaking business in Asia. Helping grow the speaking business in general is something I am very passionate about and something I put many hours of un-paid work into. I have been speaking for almost 1/4 of a century and I am now in the phase of my life where you give back.

Thus also the reason I am writing this blog.

10:30 – 11:30 Watching a movie with my wife.

Checking and replying to emails I did while in taxis going to and from different meetings during the day.

Now, there might not be a lot that looks like “sales” or “work” during this day, and that is the point. When I am not speaking I try to give myself time and space to meet inspiring people, to have time for my family and to help develop the speaking industry. Later this week I am flying to China for a big keynote for a global conference. But today was about what I do when I do not speak.

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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?

No.

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.

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