Month: September 2015

A man I had never seen before came up to me today and said, “Thanks for a very interesting conversation.”

How is that possible?

He had just heard me speak as one of 850+ (!) participants at the conference of Singapore Institute of Directors. He had seen me on stage, but I had not seen him.

As one of the hundreds of people in the conference room, he felt like we were having a private conversation — just me and him — instead of him listening to my speech like the rest of the audience.

Here is the funny thing, JUST before I went up on stage (literally two minutes before going up!), I took a notepad and wrote: Talk, do not ‘speak’. Have a happy conversation.

I guess it worked.

The more speeches I give, the more I am convinced that the key to a great speech is that the speaker “breaks” the “wall” that exists between the stage and the audience.


How To Break The Wall Between The Stage and The Audience

1. Ask Questions

2. Laugh with the Audience

3. Tell a story about a person in the room whom you talked to before the speech

But perhaps, the easiest and best way of doing it is to look at the whole delivery of your speech as if you are going to have a conversation with the audience.

Some people give the advice that you should pick a person in the audience and speak to him or her.

I think there is a risk of doing that, and the risk is that the audience can feel that you are talking to that person – and not to the rest.

Instead, practice the skill of having a conversation with the whole group.


How To Have a Conversation With a Whole Group

I actually feel that a group of people have a “personality” just like individuals do. When you “read” the group while speaking, you can get a sense of the group’s “personality” – or let’s call it “grouponality”.

What do they laugh at?
What mood are they in?
How interested are they in the subject?

and so on.

The more you “feel” them, the better you are able to deliver your speech at a frequency that they are willing to connect to.

And when you are able to connect to your audience, they will feel like you just had a one-on-one conversation with them – even if there are 850 people in the room.

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“How many speeches do you do in a year?”

I get that question a lot.

As if the number of speeches would somehow be a testament of the quality or success of a speaker.

It is NOT.

Bill Clinton has “only” done 93 speeches in the last 2 years.

But he charged between 150,000 USD to 700,000 USD (!) per speech, has had a revenue from speaking of over 13,000,000 USD per year (!) and he spoke at some of the biggest companies in the world. (With fees like that, you will speak at some cool conferences.)

Yet he “only” does less than 50 speeches per year.

On a different scale, let’s look at me.

There was a year when I did 199 speeches. This year, I will be happy if I pass 80. My wife is giving birth to our 3rd child in two weeks and I am on semi-paternity leave this year. Still, I would rank myself a better, more professional and more successful speaker this year than the year I did 199 speeches.

I have stopped focusing on counting the number of speeches I do.
I do make an effort to try to increase the number of speeches that I hear though.

Like what I did one Sunday.

One Sunday, I attended a one-day course on Autism by Gerd Winkler from the Autism Treatment Center of America.

I primarily did it to learn more about Autism, of course.

But as a bonus, I got to watch a speaker/teacher speak/teach for a day.

One of Gerd’s messages on how to deal with children with autism was also applicable on speaking.

He said something like:

“Wake up in the morning and ask yourself, ‘What is so fascinating with my child?’ If you ever get tired of seemingly endless hours of work with your autistic child that doesn’t seem to bare fruit, then try to come at it from the viewpoint of ‘Fascination.’.”

If you approach the child with fascination, it will be so much less stressful and so much more interesting.

This approach works great not only on autism, but also on speaking (and on everything else in the world, I guess).

It doesn’t matter if it is how you watch others speak. Just make sure you do.

Today, I watched the winning speech from the Toastmasters World Championship in speaking. (You can watch it HERE). It’s an 8 minute speech about the power of words. I learnt something about facial expressions and delivering jokes.

Lesson: It doesn’t matter if it is via video, audio or live. If it is a big or small group. If it is a speaker, a teacher, a priest, or a stand-up-comic. As long as you constantly ensure that you are being exposed to other people speaking and you learn from them in the process.

If you came to me for advice on speaking, I would be less concerned about the number of talks you give, and more focused on the number of talks you listen to.

And no, that does NOT mean that you become a great speaker just by listening to others, just like you do not become a great singer by just listening to others sing.

My message in this post is not to say that you do not have to speak!

You have to speak, speak, speak and speak.

What I mean is that you do not have to chase the speeches as if the number of speeches is the only thing that matters. 😉 It is more important that your FOCUS is on speaking.

Speak if you can. And if you can not, then watch a speech, evaluate a speech, get coaching from a speaker.

Be fascinated with the art of speaking. Not fascinated with the number of speeches that you do.

That is the cool thing with this job — that you can spend a Sunday learning about autism and at the same time, pick up a few things that make you better at your job.


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Bangkok, Thailand.


I am writing this at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. I am on a short stop-over after the first leg of an around-the-world ticket that will take me from Copenhagen-via Bangkok-Singapore-via Seoul-San Francisco-via Zurich-to Split in Croatia. The ticket then continues back to Copenhagen, but by then I will have left to fly back to Singapore.

So why did I start an around the world ticket in Denmark?

Because the next few weeks will take me to speak in Singapore (my home town), San Francisco, and Split.

By getting an around the world ticket that starts in Copenhagen, I get an “extra” stop in my home town of Singapore, that makes it possible for me to achieve the three “24-hour-stops” needed when buying such a ticket.

The last 24-hour-stop will be in Split where the airline thinks that I will stay for 48 hours. They do not need to know that I would have left Split in less than 24 hours on a different ticket back to Singapore.

So why this strange way of buying tickets?

Because this around-the-world ticket cost me just 10,000 SGD for an all-business-class ticket. Just a simple Copenhagen-Singapore return ticket on Singapore Airlines would cost almost the same amount.

Buying “around-the-world tickets” is an amazing way of getting cheap flights and a “travel trick” that many frequent fliers forget to check out.

It will not work for everyone since you need to have a travel schedule which will take you to places all over the world — and in an order where you are able to continuously fly in the same direction (east to west, or west to east).

But when the “stars align” and such a ticket becomes an option, it’s a great ticket to get.

With some planning and creativity, it can be an option that is available more often than you would think. I have, for example, bought 5 around-the-world-tickets in the last 2 years and will buy 1 more in a few weeks.

Lesson: Plan your trips.

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