Month: September 2015

(Split, Croatia)

As a global speaker I like to say that a speaker should try to create a speech that works for everyone – a human speech – not have different speeches for different “cultures”, but that doesn’t mean that there are not differences in how audiences behave in different parts of the world.

Take questions for example.

Today I spoke for a few hundred business people in Split, Croatia. The organisers had put in 10 minutes of Q&A at the end of my speech, but also told me before the speech: “If there are no questions we will ask you some questions.” and they also got some copies of my books to give away as “prices” to the people who would ask questions.

Sure enough. After my speech we only got 3 questions (and the first one was “Can you sign the book I get if I ask a question?”)

Have to admit that was a sneaky questions to get a book 😉

Compare that to India, for example, where audiences love to ask questions.

I once did a speech in India where the organisers had put a side 45 minutes for my speech and one hour (!) for Q&A.

When I pointed out to the organisers that the Q&A was longer than the speech, he smiles and said “do not worry, we will have plenty of questions”. (And they did, after 1 hour people were still raising their hands eager to ask more.)

So why do they not ask questions in Croatia?

My client had an interesting theory that it was part of the communist mentality of former Yugoslavia where people where not encouraged to ask too many questions.

So what does this mean for speakers?

Good question 🙂

My lesson for today was to embrace the fact that not all groups are bubbling over with questions, or even if they are, they might not want to ask them in public.

It is easy as a speaker to get uncomfortable at the end of a session if there is a Q&A but not Questions come. I have learnt to not let it get to me. I think it is important that the last message that you send from the stage is not one of being uncomfortable.

Instead, stand there and smile and be happy that you were able to give a speech that was so good that people do not feel a need to have things clarified. (and be prepared that they might just come up to you after the speech and ask that question that they had.)


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San Francisco.

What is the biggest perk of being a speaker?

The chance to travel the world?
The fact that the main work takes one hour per day?
The fact that it pays well?

No. Not at all.

The biggest perk is the privilege to learn about things no one else gets to know.

For example:

The finance industry will probably be the industry that will see the most disruption in the next decade.

Now, imagine if you could be a fly on the wall when the best innovators get together at an innovation conference of a global leader of financial payments facility held in Silicon Valley.

Well, I was that fly. 🙂

Today, I was invited to be the only speaker at VISA’s global innovation award in San Francisco. In this event, they acknowledged the recipients of patents within VISA.

And during lunch, I got to sit next to the boss of the innovation department.

Over cod fish for main dish and chocolate mousse for desert, we talked about everything from VISA’s view on block chain, to who will be the winners and losers in mobile payment – and even where VISA’s big bet for the future is (very interesting and a total surprise to me).

And yes, I could tell you more about it, but then I would have to kill you 😉

Lesson: Our job as speakers is to inspire, teach and inform in order to get companies to move forward.

Interestingly enough, these very same companies will inspire, teach and inform us speakers as much, if not more, if we take the chance to learn when we are at the venue.

I am very happy that I did just that today.

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The most important people at a conference are the speakers.

I am not saying that because I am a speaker. As a speaker, I think that the most important people are the audience.

It is the organisers of a conference who are saying it.


You do not believe me?

Then answer this question: Who do they put at the VIP table?

Answer: The speakers. And the CEO.


The speakers are at the Very Important Person Table because the CEO wants to get a chance to get some more information from the speakers. And because it is supposed to be a nice thing to do to put the guests at the VIP table.

But as a speaker, you should use the time at the table to get more information from the CEO and the other speakers.

At least, that is my approach to the Very Important Table.

Like today.

Singapore Institute of Directors had organised a great conference with an impressive line-up of speakers for the 850 or so in the audience.

Some of the speakers at my table were:

Mr S Iswaran, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office; Second Minister for Home Affairs & Second Minister for Trade and Industry of Singapore (who had just been re-elected days before),

Emeritus Professor Jean-Philippe Deschamps of business school International Institute for Management Development or IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland,


Mr Ray Hatoyama, (pictured) Global Managing Director of Sanrio Company Ltd., the company that owns the “Hello Kitty” brand.

We had an interesting discussion at our table around everything —  from collaboration between government and private sector to the motto that drives the Hello Kitty brand: “Small Gift. Big Smile.”

I tend to find the time spent at the VIP table to be the most valuable time when it comes to learning. And I am amazed at how many speakers use their time at the VIP table to talk about themselves instead of learning from other people who are there.

Do not make the same mistake.

Lesson: Sitting at the VIP table should not make you think you are a Very Important Person. It should make you focus on the fact that you are privileged to get to sit together with a bunch of Very Important People and you should grab that opportunity to learn as much as you can from them.


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