Tag: The business of speaking

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 22.40.32

If you want to get the really big keynote bookings you have to understand that these bookings more or less only go to three kinds of speakers:

a) The famous person. (to give some star quality to the event and draw a crowd)
b) The Industry Expert (to give credibility to the event)
c) The really, really good speaker. (to inspire and awe the audience)

If you are not a) Famous or b) THE Industry expert you HAVE to understand that the path to getting the big keynote bookings is that you have to be a really, really good speaker.

Or to say it another way: If you are not yet getting those big, keynote speeches (and you want to) you have to work on either a) becoming famous, b) becoming known as a global industry expert – or c) make sure you develop yourself to be a really, really good speaker.

Let me give you two recent examples from two big conferences where I was one of the speakers to show that this is how it works:

1) OpenText.

Early July: Toronto, Canada, OpenText Global customer conference. 5000 in the audience.

Three days,
Three keynote speakers.

Day one: Wayne Gretzky – “The Great One” Say not more. (Famous)
Day two: Me. (Unknown and not industry expert.)
Day three: Michele Romanow – serial IT-entreprenur from Canada who sits on Dragon’s Den and is the youngest Dragon ever. (Industry Expert)

(From the program:)

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 15.24.52

2) Global Leadership Summit

Early August: Chicago, Global Leadership Summit, 10 000 live and 390 000 (!) people in 128 countries on video link.

First Speaker: Bill Hybels – Founder of Willow Creek and Global Leadership Summit (Industry Expert)
Second Speaker: Sheryl Sandberg – COO Facebook (Famous and Industry Expert)
Third Speaker: Marcus Lemonis – Billionaire and host of TV-show “The Profit”. (Famous and Industry Expert)
Fourth Speaker: Me (not an industry expert and not famous)
Fifth Speaker: Bryan Stevenson – New York Times #1 Bestseller and 3 million+ views on TED.com (famous)

As you can see, the other speakers are in category a) and/or b) (and sometimes a), b) and c)…)

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 15.32.59

But I am not famous. (I have, for example, about 6000 Twitter followers (which is nothing) and I am not a “house hold name”. (When I was introduced to the gold sponsors of the Global Leadership Summit on the evening before the Summit not 1 out of the 100+ people in the audience raised their hand when the moderator asked how many knew about me …

And I am not an industry expert on either leadership or IT by any stretch of the imagination.

That means that the ONLY reason I got selected to speak at these two big conferences was because the organisers thought that my qualities as a SPEAKER qualified me (and that my qualities as a speaker MADE UP for the fact that I am not famous or an industry expert. And also that my qualities as a speaker made me get the speaking slot over other good speakers who are famous and/or industry experts (there are, of course, no shortage of those, so they have to think my qualities as a speaker are so good that they put me on the stage even if they know that no-one in the audience will know who I am before I go up.)

And let me be very clear: I (!) do not think I belong in the category of “great speakers” either … But it doesn’t matter what you think of yourself as a speaker – what matters is what the people booking speakers think – and they apparently put me in the “C-category” of great speakers.

(I am also totally ok, with the fact that no-one knows who I am when I go up as I only care about the audience knowing who I am AFTER I am done with my speech.)

Both these two conferences are perfect examples of how the speakers got selected to stand on the main stage as main keynote speakers.

And both of these conferences could literally have chosen any speaker in the world.

So to summarise: To get the big keynotes you have to be: famous, be a global thought leader/authority on the subject – or you have to be good. Really good.
If you ask me c) is the easiest way to get those bookings. But it means you have to commit yourself 100% to developing yourself to becoming the very best speaker that you could possibly be.

Are you doing that?

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 03.59.35

The idea that speakers are competing for a few speaking assignments and that there are only a few speaking jobs that speakers compete for is just crazy.

Today I am speaking for 600 lawyers from all over the world who have gathered for a conference in London. They flew people in from 71 cities in 51 countries and there were just 3 external speakers at the event.

At first glance it might look like it would be very, very, very difficult to get a job like that since there are tens of thousands of speakers in the world and this company obviously did not care where the speaker flew in from (since they flew me in from Singapore), and thus all those speakers were competing for these three speaking slots.

But this mindset of scarcity is wrong.

Yes, there are a lot of speakers in the world and yes, only one or two speakers get to speak at most conferences – BUT – and that is a huge “but” – there are tens of thousands of conferences around the world every month looking for speakers whom they can pay to come and speak.

A few weeks ago I listened to Niels Brabandt, an international speaker, who put things into perspective. Niels was commissioned by a pharmaceutical company to study how that company worked with speakers.

In this survey they discovered that this company alone used 42 000 (!) speakers every year for all their conferences around the world. And they paid for every single one of those speakers.

Let me say that again: ONE company paid for speakers 42 000 (!) times in ONE year.

Now imagine how many big, global companies there are in the world. And how many government organisations, and small and medium size companies, and events and conference organisers, etc etc all looking for speakers.

Every time I hear someone say that there are not so many speaking opportunities around I ask them to go down to any big convention centre, or any big conference hotel and look at the agenda for the day to see what conferences are going on right at that very moment. Then go back tomorrow and see who is there. And next week again. And so on …

There is an abundance of speaking opportunities all over the world and if you just realise that and stop having a “scarcity mindset” you will realise that the only thing you need to do is to go out and network, build relationships, talk to people and get them to know about you and your amazing speech.

The reason you are not getting enough speaking assignments is not because there are so few opportunities to speak, nor is it because there are too many other speakers competing with you – it’s because the people booking speakers do not know about you. (Or, if they do know about you, but don’t book you, you should consider improving your speech since there obviously might be a reason for why they don’t book you – and that reason is most likely that your speech is not good enough…)

Speakers complaining about the difficulty of getting speaking gigs reminds me of how shy boys will complain that there are not enough girls out there to get a date … Trust me, there are an abundance of girls out there, you just need to go out there and start talking to them.

And as a speaker you need to get out there and start connecting with the tens of thousands of people around the world who book speakers.

If one company alone is booking 42 000 speakers a year there must be million and millions of paid speaking opportunities in the world every year. Go get your fair share of them.

(Picture from my speech in London just before 600 lawyers from around the world entered the ballroom, but this picture with empty chairs is here to symbolise all the ballrooms around the world that right now is in need of speakers.)

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 23.06.12

“How do you go from being a speaker speaking in your home country to becoming a global speaker?”

That is one of the most common questions I get as a global speaker myself. The people asking are often very professional and successful authors.

I got that questions today again when I was speaking at an event in Pune, India where we were meeting to create Professional Speakers Association of India (See

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ProfessionalSpeakersAssociationIndia/  if you want to learn more about this.)

The person asking was Mitesh Khatri, an expert on leadership and the law of attraction.

When I heard the question I gave a reply that, at first, might seem a bit provocative. I said: “The biggest mistake is to think in the way that makes you even ask that question.”

By that I meant that to be an international or global speaker the most important thing for a speaker to do is to stop thinking that speaking in another country is different. It’s not. At least not even close to as different than what people think.

Since I was in India I asked Mitesh Khatri a follow up question: “Do you think “How do I get to speak in the south of India? Of course you don’t.”

And then I added: “So why do you say: “How do I get to speak in Sri Lanka?” (Which is just a bit more south of the south of India.)

I could see how something clicked in Mitesh Khatri’s head.

And that is exactly what I wanted to happen.

If you think “speaking internationally” is vastly different from “speaking nationally” and that there are huge changes you need to do in order to break the speaking-outside-your-home-country-barrier then that fear is in itself will stop you from making it happen.