Month: August 2016

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If you are a speaker and I asked you: “Why did you become a speaker?” what would you reply?

The answer to that question is more important than you might think.

Today I had a speaking mentoring sessions with Singapore based speaker David Goldwich.
During our session I asked David: “Why did you become a speaker?”

He replied something like: “”I want to help and inspire people”…”

Later in our session we were talking about stories that he uses in his speech and he said: “I have this story that I tell from when I was a lawyer” and then he continues to tell me this story:

In his words”
“When I was a lawyer in Florida many years ago a man came in to my office and said that he wanted to sue his parents. As a lawyer I am supposed to help him not only take the case to court, but to do my very best to help him win over his parents. But I could not do it. Instead I ended up counselling the son and his parents to help them solve their underlaying problem. It was during this process that I realised that was not meant to be a lawyer but that I should take my communication- , negotiations- and story telling-skills and help people in other ways than just fighting it out in court.”

David told me this story as an example of how to tell a good story. It was one of his “story telling examples”.

I stopped him and said:

“This is not “a story”; this is “THE story!” – as in this is the moment that defined your life, the reason you changed careers and created a life of being a trainer and speaker.

It is not “a story” – it is “the purpose”. It is the reason you became a speaker.”

He, of course, knew that that event was what got him onto the path of becoming a speaker, but over the years that event had become more and more of an example of story telling, and less and less a reminder of why he became a speaker.

Some people might think that speakers become speakers for the money, for the fame, for the kick you get from being on stage, but the truth is that there if very often a life changing event that got us into speaking. Or a message that the speaker in his (or hers) heart thinks that the rest of the world needs to hear.

In my case I started my speaking career 20+ years ago (1994) when I, as a 27 year old student, saw the potential of the Internet and got more and more frustrated about how companies at the time had no idea about what the Internet was. I just felt that they had to know. I felt that the world would be better if companies grasped this opportunity to change and become more efficient. (I know it might sound hard to believe that business people would be unaware of the Internet but in the mid 1990s that’s how it was…) Over the years the themes that I feel companies and people need to understand has changed, but it is that urge to make the world better by making the world see what it does not yet see that drives me to speak.

What got you into speaking? What’s that message that you felt had to be heard by the world?

(Re-)Connect to that powerful force that once got you into speaking and I promise you that you will become a better speaker.

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(Stockholm, Sweden)

There are many “Superstars” in the world of professional speaking, and I have meet quite a few of them and learnt a lot from them – but today I met something even more impressive. Today I met with Ola Ahlvarsson, a man who is not just a  superstar – he is a “Superman”- and he told me about his approach to moderating which I found very interesting.

But before I tell you about that, let me tell you about Ola.

Ola is one of Sweden’s most popular international speakers and moderator. He has been chosen to host and lead discussions in some of the world’s most prestigious events, amongst them at the World Economic Forum, DLD in Munich, World Knowledge Forum in Seoul and Le Web in Paris.

But he is so much more than that.:

Ola has been working with and managing leading internet ventures ever since the early days with Spray, Boxman, Blocket,  and many more. As a specialist on innovation and internationalization Ola has been advisor to world leading organizations like Google, Ericsson, Samsung, Microsoft, and many more.

Being the founder of over 20 companies, his current portfolio exists of companies like: international expansion and innovations advisors Result, Star Stable, the world’s largest game for girls passionate for horses, Sellbranch, a leading Nordic advertising technology agency (managing Twitter and Yahoo in Scandinavia), and Epicenter, a 30 000 m2 innovation house. In addition he holds a portfolio of angel investments select range of companies from psychology clinics to castles.

Ola has a unique background in martial arts with a World Championship and European Championship gold in Goju Ryu Karate, a bronze in Taekwondo World Championships and a World Championship in Kick-Boxing.

A speaker and moderator yes, but also – at the same time – a business man, an advisor, an entrepreneur, an events organiser, an athlete, a founder of social enterprises, a super networker – and an active dad.

You now understand why I call him a Superman? 🙂 (And that was an abbreviated version of his CV… you can read more about him at

Today I had lunch with Ola to discuss speaking and moderating. (Ola does more than 100 speeches, presentations and moderations per year.)

Ola is one of the best moderators I have came across, so naturally I asked him what he thought was the secret to being a great moderator.

He said: “To be genuinely interested.”

I hope you see how unique that answer is.

Many moderators look at themselves as being a neutral entity, as someone who should not gett too involved in a panel, but just guide the discussion along.

Ola looks at it differently. He is on stage to learn. He really wants to find out what the panelists know, and he wants to know how that is relevant and useful.

Ola is one of the most curious people I know.

When Ola is on stage the audiences can feel how he wants to learn from the panelists, but it goes deeper than that. Ola sees his job as making everyone in the audience curious on what the panelists have to say, and he wants that so much that he will help the panelists get their message out. (Say, for example, that a panelists said something interesting but in such a way that the audience doesn’t  understand how interesting it is, then Ola will repeat the essence of what the panelist said but in a more energetic and fascinating way. He will magnify his panelists message, make them better by helping them shine.)

He is so concerned with creating great panels that he often plays an active part in deciding who the panelists should be.


I do not moderate panels, I just give keynote speeches. But I think Ola’s message of “genuinely interested” is applicable for speakers too – especially when it comes to the research phase, when we conduct interviews, collect examples and find new things to talk about.

I was genuinely interested – and fascinated -by the meeting I had with Ola Ahlvarsson today. I left the lunch inspired to want to learn more.

I guess curiosity is contagious.