Tag: The business of speaking

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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.

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9 May 2015 – Shanghai, China.

“You did more in one hour than what we have been able to do in years!”

These grateful words came to me today from the mouth of the global head of branding of one of the largest professional services firms in the world. I had just stepped off stage after delivering a one hour keynote speech at the company’s Asia Pacific Partner Conference.

I smiled and said, “Thank you”.

She added, “Your speech also changed the way I look at the world.”

People sometimes ask me why a company would fly in a professional speaker from a different country just to have him or her speak for one hour.

The answer is simple: Because they see results.

If you are a trainer, you can aim to teach a skill or to instill knowledge in your audience. But if you are a speaker, you should aim to rock their world. You should try to change their minds.

Now, not every keynote speech succeeds in altering the universe of the audience, but every keynote speaker should at least try. Because a great speech can change the world.

People have gone to war – and to the moon – because of great speeches.

Now, the stakes when giving a keynote speech at a corporate kick-off might not be as high as when Churchill was rallying his citizens against Hitler or when President Kennedy got the Americans to want to send astronauts to the moon.

But at a global or international conference for a global company, the stakes can still be high. A successful speech that changes the mindset of the top 150 global managers of a billion dollar company can mean millions in saved costs or increased revenue.

In the case of the conference today in Shanghai, my speech got the Asian leadership to understand why the company needed to become more global in the way it is run, something the global management unsuccessfully had tried to communicate for a few years. Now, after a one hour speech, the audience was on board.

If you look at a keynote speech as an event where, in this case, 150 top managers got a one-hour message that helps them get on-board the global strategy – then suddenly the idea of flying in a keynote speaker doesn’t seem so strange.

Perhaps that is how professional speakers like myself should sell ourselves: not as “giving a one-hour speech” but as “delivering 150 hours of top management transformation” 😉

Lesson: When planning a keynote speech, ask yourself, “How will this speech transform the minds of the audience?”.