Tag: The business of speaking

Fredrik Haren_Laima Penekaite-4

Today, I was interviewed by a Croatian business magazine in preparation for my trip to Croatia to give a speech later this month. They asked some interesting questions that I had never gotten before from journalists.

One question was: “In the end, how useful do you find these kinds of gatherings like the Combis Conference?”

That was a great question. I replied:

“This might sound grand, but I truly think that there are a few things more powerful than a bunch of people coming together to learn new things. I believe in the concept of collective inspiration. (I guess that is why I have been a speaker for more than 20 years…).”

I often hear people say that the concept of speakers, or the concept of conferences, is dead. That in the future, there will be no speakers, or there will be no conferences. People will just get their inspiration and their information online.

I do not believe that for one second.

Music concerts did not die because we got MTV, or Napster, or satellite radio, or Spotify.

Because no matter how cool it is to be able to listen to infinite amount of music at your fingertips, it will never beat the intimacy, the impact and the emotional experience you get from being at a concert.

And the same is true for speeches.

We can watch thousands of TED talks, or hundreds of lectures online, but sitting in the audience of a great speaker will always be something extra. And sharing that experience with others as a group makes it even more impactful.

That is what I try to hint at with my words “collective inspiration”. That unique human connection which happens when a large number of people experience the same message at the same time.

To have a job where you, as the speaker, are an important part of creating that magic, is an honor and a privilege.

Now, are all conferences awesome temples of inspiration?

Honestly, NO.

But when it happens…when the stars align, and speakers, audiences and message collide in the most positive of ways, then there are just a few things which human beings can do that are more powerful.

Aim for that magic if or when you organise a conference. And if or when you are inspired to speak at one.

 

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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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I have met many speakers who are very successful locally (i.e. in the country they live in), but who would like to become global speakers (i.e. be invited to speak all over the world).

They sometimes ask me how I managed to become a global speaker. There are many answers to that question, but the most important answer is mindset.

By that, I mean that you have to have the mindset of wanting to become a global speaker, and also the mindset of thinking like a global speaker.

And to do that, you need a global mindset. (Granted, not all speakers want to be global speakers, this post is for those speakers who do.)

You have to stop defining yourself as an “American Speaker” or a “German Speaker”, and instead look at yourself as just “a speaker”. (I have given two talks on the subject of becoming a global speaker that you can watch HERE if you want to find out more.)

In today’s post, I want to share an example of what it means to have a global mindset, and I will exemplify it with how I work with suppliers.

Today, I have not been traveling. I have been working from my home office in Singapore, but it has still been a very international day.

Just today, I have sent separate emails to people in: Ukraine, the Philippines, Sweden, Croatia, Australia, Switzerland, China, Malaysia, Dubai, Hong Kong and South Africa.(And received emails from more countries than that.)

Now, you could argue that this is because I already have a very global speaking business, and that is of course true. But thinking with a global perspective is something I do very actively. Like with how I work with some of my suppliers. I live in Singapore and could arguably find suppliers for everything I need right here in Singapore. But instead, I have opted for having suppliers based all around the world.

Here are some examples of some of the suppliers I am using right now:

My assistant lives in the Philippines
My 3D-designer lives in Australia
My iPhone developer lives in Pakistan
My Android developer lives in Holland
My book designer lives in Sweden
My corporate identity designer lives in France
My IT-support guys live in India
My WordPress consultant lives in Ukraine
My accountants live in Singapore
My printers are in Sweden, Bulgaria, the USA and Singapore.
I work with speaker agencies all over the world.

And so on.

So what is the advantage of this? Well, you get perspectives from many parts of the world – which makes you look at your speaking business with a broader perspective.

I also get news, insights, and information from my contacts (like hearing of the start-up culture for IT companies in Pakistan, or about how people in Ukraine look at the increasing tension between Russia and Europe and so on) which gives me a better understanding of what is happening in the world. And an understanding of what is happening in the world is something that people who book global speakers expect those speakers to have.

But it is more important than that.

By working with people from all over the world, you change both your perspective of the world, and also the perspective of where you live.

In a sense, getting a global mindset is transformational in a similar way to when Copernicus got us to understand that the sun doesn’t orbit around the earth. In both instances, we, as humans, realise that the world doesn’t evolve around us. And that is a both liberating and humbling insight.

If you are not as global as a speaker as you would like to be, ask yourself this question: Could it be because your speaking business is built too much around a very tight circle around where you live?

Is there a bigger chance that you would be speaking globally if you started to do business from a global perspective?

I think the answer is pretty obvious. Or it could of course be just a big coincidence that I have built my speaking business with a global mindset in mind – and that I, at the same time, am one of the world’s most globally booked speakers.