Tag: Life of a professional speaker

Bangkok, Thailand.

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I am actually in the middle of a 2-month summer vacation with no speeches, but today, I am making an exception as I am in Bangkok to give a speech.

I flew in from Sweden to this City of Angels one day before my speech to enjoy some great Thai food, some relaxing Thai massage and some refreshing mangoes and young coconuts by the river.

The reason I am taking a break from my vacation is that the client I am speaking for is such an interesting company. Today, I am speaking for the Asian managers of Booking.com.

Booking.com is the worlds largest hotel room booker.

Some awesome statistics about the company:

+700 000 = Number of hotel rooms you can book on the site
+47 000 000 = Number of customer reviews on hotels
+850 000 = Number of hotel nights booked every day (!) through the site

As a person who spends a lot of nights per year in hotels around the world, it is an honor and a privilege to get to speak for this innovative and dynamic company.

So in honor of my client, today’s blog post will be on the theme of hotels.

Over the last 20 years, I have stayed in some awesome hotels. Like The Commune (a hotel over looking the Great Wall of China and consisting of a bunch of over-sized designer villas), or the famous “Ice Hotel” in the north of Sweden that is literally built out of ice and melts every spring.

But my most amazing hotel experience did not happen in a hotel.

I once arrived late at night in Stockholm only to find out that, due to a misunderstanding, there was no hotel room booked for me.

Normally, this would not be a big problem. I would just go online and book myself a room, but Stockholm is one of those cities where there can be zero hotel rooms available when there is a big conference in town.

This was one of those times. It turned out there were 2 (!) rooms available within 1 hour of travel from Stockholm. One was a hotel suite at Grand Hotel for 650 Euro per night. The other room was at “Danderyd Hospital”.

It turns out that the hospital was renting out the rooms in the maternity ward (!) if they had few expecting mothers.

So for one night, I stayed in a room that had a baby crib in it and in the morning, I had the most amazing hotel breakfast I have ever had: eating cheese sandwiches together with a bunch of women who were holding their new-born babies!

Being a speaker, you surely get to experience some really cool things.

Finally, let me end by giving you some insider-tips regarding hotels from a global speaker’s point of view.

1) Do not let the client be too nice to you.

Many times, the client will choose to put you up in the “nicest/best” hotel in town. That is a very nice gesture (from their side) and a very nice perk (from the speaker’s point of view).

But resist it.

I recently did a speech in Chennai where I was booked in a very nice hotel by the client, but it took more than 45 minutes to get there from the airport. And then in the morning, it took 1 hour to get from the hotel to the venue which, ironically, was just next to the airport.

Putting me up in the closest hotel to the venue would have given me almost 2 hours more of relaxing time in the hotel, instead of driving around in crazy Indian traffic.

For a speaker, “proximity” is the biggest luxury of all when it comes to hotels.

2) Let the client book the hotel, but book the flights yourself.

I usually book my flights myself to be able to have a flexible way of getting to and from speeches, but I normally let the client book my hotel.

Why?

a) They usually get a better deal since they have booked many rooms for their conference

b) There is less costs to invoice the client, and less things for you to keep in your head

c) They normally know more about the city than you do so they know which hotels are good

3) Take advantage of the hotel-perks.

In some countries (or I should say some airports), getting a taxi can be a nightmare. I have had some awful waiting-in-line-for-taxis-for-over-one-hour-experiences in, for example, Shanghai and Brussels.

If the client is ok with it, ask them to book a hotel car pick-up so that there is someone waiting for you with a sign carrying your name on it as you exit the airport, and you will be on your way to the hotel a few minutes after landing.

If possible, try to get the mobile phone number of the driver as airport pick-up is a great service that can turn into a very annoying service if the guy there to pick you up is not there when you come out.

4) Try to get the client to book you in the same hotel where the conference will be held.

Many conferences take place in hotel ballrooms, or in conference centers that has a hotel in or next to it.

But many times, the delegates for the conference will stay in many different hotels around town since not all delegates might fit in the hotel where the conference is happening.

As a speaker, you should kindly suggest that you get a room in the hotel where the conference takes place, so that you can:

a) easily check out the speaking venue when you arrive
b) can go up to your room if you need
c) do not have to worry about getting from your room to the venue
etc.

It might sound basic that the speaker should stay in the hotel where the conference is, but you would be surprised how often the conference organisers miss this.

But it is easy to forgive them for not thinking of this, since for the person organising the conference, this is just a VERY minor detail amongst millions of other things they have to think about.

But for you, it makes a huge difference.

Make sure you ask for this early so that they do not need to re-book someone else to a different hotel.

Svanholmen Island, Sweden.

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As you can see by my latest two posts, I am on “vacation mode” and this post will be on the same theme.

I hear many entrepreneurs who justify their crazy work loads with the argument: “I am going to work like a maniac for XX years so that I can sell my company and never will have to work again in my life.”

For me that is as clever as saying: “I am going to starve myself for XX days so that I can go crazy on the all-you-can-eat-buffet-dinner.”

I strongly believe that a much better strategy for how much you work – and how much you eat! – is to spread it out and not overdo it.

Being a speaker is a dream job in many aspects, but perhaps the biggest perk of all is that you can look at it as a job that is done by many semi-retired people.

Personally, I will have 5 months off this year to be with my kids.

At the same time, I am one of the world’s most globally booked speakers.

And I do not intend to retire (I do not even own a retirement account!) because as a speaker, you can literally do your job until the day you die. Not very many jobs let you do that. Edward de Bono, for example, is 82-years-old and is still giving keynote speeches.

Because as stupid as I think it is to work too much, I equally think it is stupid to totally stop working at a certain age and spend the rest of your life “in retirement”.

Now, I think everyone who works 8 hours per day 5 days per week until they retire should change that to 6 hours per day, 4 days per week until they are so old they can not work anymore.

I think that would create happier families, workers and societies. At the same time, I think it would probably produce more productivity counted over the lifetime of a person.

Now, do not get me wrong. I love entrepreneurs — people who have an idea that they strongly believe in and that they want to see come true. But I have met so many entrepreneurs who say “I love my job, but I hate my life.”

When I sold my company in 1999 (after working way too much for a few years), I pledged to myself that I should be a “Lifetrepreneur”.

The definition of an “Entrepreneur” is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses”.

The definition of a “Lifetrepreneur” is “a person who organises and operates his or her life in the best possible manner.”

Lesson: Being a speaker is the perfect job if you want to achieve high “life-work balance”. The fact that most people call it “work-life balance” just shows how many people have forgotten which of the two should come first.

Question: Are you spending as much time as you would like on work, or are you spending too much? If too much, then what can you do to create the right “life-work balance” in your life?

San Francisco, USA.

Don’t you get tired of all the travel?

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I get that question a lot.

And it is true, I do travel A LOT. I actually have more hours in the air than a commercial airline pilot.

But no, I do not get tired of it. Or at least I find it much less tiring than having to, for example, commute 1 hour back and forth to an office every day of the week.

Let’s look at the trip I am on right now.

At 9:25 on June 9, I left Singapore to fly, via Seoul and San Francisco, to Las Vegas where I gave a talk to all the BMW car dealers of North America. Then back again, via San Francisco and Hong Kong, to Singapore where I will land 11:25 on June 12. So, that’s 74 hours of travel for a 40-minute speech.

Sounds crazy, but now let’s break it down.

24 hours would be sleeping. 2 nights in Singapore Airline’s awesome business class bed, 1 night at the equally awesome Aria Casino and resort in Las Vegas.

So now, there’s 50 hours left.

5 hours of meeting with client, checking on stage, delivering my speech, hanging around the conference learning about the future plans of BMW USA and about their new car.

10 hours of experiencing Las Vegas. I went to a show, had some great food (cajun crayfish was the best!), had a massage, did some people-watching on the Strip, and of course, a bit of gambling in the casino.

On my way back, I had a 5+ hour layover in San Francisco so I called an old friend, Elin, who lives there, and took a taxi downtown to meet with her. She took me wine tasting at a hot start-up (Built), and then for a really nice dinner at Union Square. Time catching up with old friend in San Francisco: almost 5 hours.

Now, suddenly, the “74 hours of travel” is down to 30.

In those 30 hours, I watched 2 movies, 10 TV shows — I do not have cable TV at home so I catch up on TV when I travel 😉 — and had the time and piece of mind to read (cover to cover!) the book “The Lenovo Way” by Lenovo’s HR manager Gina Qiao, which she gave me last week. And of course, I was also able to get a few hours of emails done (and write this blog post).

Out of the 74 hours I will be gone, I would call less than 10 hours “annoying traveling time” (such as taking taxis to airports, going through airport immigration and security etc.) — which would be the same amount of annoying travel time that someone who works 9-5 and commutes 1 hour to work would have.

But how about “being away from family”?

I left Tuesday morning after sending my kids off to school. I will be back on Friday before lunch and will spend the rest of the Friday “workday” playing with my daughter who comes home from Kindergarten at noon, giving me 6 hours of “father-child-play time” during “office time” on Friday.

Now, a person with a “normal” 9-5 job (who commutes 1 hour to work) would have spent 8 hours “playing with kids’ in the same 4 days. This is based on having 1 hour from 7-8 in the morning, and 1 hour from 6-7 in the evening before kids go to sleep.

In the same 4 days, I had 1 hour on the 9th and 6 hours on Friday giving me 7 hours of “playtime”. Almost the same as the person with a 9-5 job.

Now, I also spent Monday at home, since I knew I was going to be away, which gave me another 6 hours with my daughter. In effect, I had MORE time with my young child this week than someone who works 9-5 even though I was gone travelling for 74 hours.

And then I also got to visit a good friend in San Francisco, have a day of fun in Las Vegas, and work with the amazing people at BMW USA during that very same week.

But this doesn’t add up, you might think? You must loose out somewhere?

Well, here is the lesson: Being a global speaker DOES involve a lot of travel. But because the actual work time is so short (in my case, 5 hours this week), a lot of the travel is done DURING the normal 40-hour work week. People who complain about travel are usually the people who have a 40+ hour work week AND then have to travel on top of that. That must suck.

Also: I do not HAVE to travel. I could choose to be a Singapore-based speaker working in Singapore.

But I find that the energy, the insights and the experiences I get from being a global speaker makes my life richer, fuller and more amazing. And that is why I am not tired of the travelling.

Done right, it fills your work week with a lot of inspiration and you are still back home for lunch on Friday 😉