Month: January 2017

This post is about the big perks of being a professional speaker that got me to experience, amongst other things, big game safari in Namibia last week.

Being a professional speaker is to have a great job. Think about it: You get paid a lot of money to work a very short time and when you are done you always get an applause. On top of that you get to learn a lot of things and meet many interesting people. It’s just an amazing job.

But the best part of being a speaker is not the work – it’s the “side effect” of getting to travel to exotic, and often luxurious, locations and experience amazing things.

Remember speakers speak at conferences that are often, in part, put together to be rewards for top managers who have worked hard for the last year. That’s why conferences are held in places like Bali, Phuket, Las Vegas and Barcelona. And that’s why companies organise outings like inviting master chef’s, going horse back riding or visiting the great wall of China.

And here is the kicker: As a speaker you are often invited to take part in these amazing experiences in these exotic locations. (Did I say that speaking was a great job?)

Here is a (tiny) sample of the things I have been invited to take part in during my 20 years of speaking:

– Snowmobiling next to a glacier on Iceland

– Whitewater rafting in Borneo

– Watching many of the big mega shows in Las Vegas

– Experiencing Barcelona on Camp Nou

– Skiing in powder snow in Nagano

and on and on.

I am telling you this because when people hear about my job as a global speaker they often get a “Oh, Sorry about you having to live your life on airplanes-look”. What they are not seeing is that, unlike many other professions, who travel the world only to see offices, airports and planes, professional speakers travel the world to go to some of the most beautiful places on the planet so experience experiences planned as rewards for the top executives of the largest companies in the world.

It means that, unlike for many other professions, traveling is a perk – not a penalty.

The last two weeks are perfect examples of this.

Last week I was in Namibia to give a speech at a business conference and also to give a speech to the newly formed Professional Speakers Association of Namibia. In their gratitude of having me come and speak, the organisers had put together a – free! – four day trip after my speeches that just blew me away.

And though not all experiences that speakers get to go on are as long or as amazing as this, I am sharing it with you to show what the life of a professional speaker is like.

(Clarification: Most posts on this blog is about how to become a better speaker, but some of the posts are about the life of a professional speaker in order to describe what your career could look like if you decided to become a global, professional speaker. This is one of those posts.)

So now, let me share with you my trip to Namibia.

After two speeches in Windhoek, the small friendly capital of  Namibia, my hosts took me on a four day tour of their country.

So my workweek last week was:

Sunday: Full day with family

Monday: Full day with family (flight at midnight)

Wednesday: Travel + evening speech for speaker association

Thursday: Speech at business conference

Friday: Safari lodge and game drive

Saturday: Ocean safari and sandboarding in the dunes of Swakopmund.

One hell of a workweek if you ask me (with still 30+ hours of family time)

My workweek this week will be:

Sunday: Desert safari

Monday: traveling.

Tuesday: skating in the archipelago (after giving my speech in the morning) in a wintery Sweden.

Wednesday: traveling

Thursday and Friday: Taking my kid to school in the mornings, working for a few hours but home ready to play with them when they come home from school at 3 PM,

Saturday: Home with family all day.

Now that is another hell of a work week if you ask me: More than 25 hours home with my kids while at the same time experiencing world class, exotic nature activities on two continents, And – give a speech for the top managers of a Swedish company.

And in these two weeks I did 3 speeches. That turns out to be 60 speeches per year – well above the number of speeches you need to deliver to be able to earn a very comfortable living as a speaker.

See now, why I went for the headline of “The best part of the job is not the job”?

I hope this post has inspired you to go all in and develop a career as a global, keynote speaker. Now read the other posts on this blog to see how to become one.



ps. If you want to copy our trip here are the links to the great hotels we stayed at (My hosts had gone the extra mile to make sure we had great accommodations!)

ps. Below  a more detailed list of the things we did in Namibia.

– We started with a safari in a private game reserve (Erindi) the same size of my home country Singapore (!) – where we saw Elephants, Rhino, Zebras, Giraffes,Crocodiles, Hippo’s and many other magnificent animals, many of them we could see at the watering hole next to our villas! Erindi game reserve has 10 000 animals…


– we went into the desert for 4-wheel driving, quad-biking, camel riding and sandboarding (that’s like snow boarding but from a sand dune). I even got to climb the largest sand dune known to man (it’s BIG).


– we took a cruise in the Atlantic and watched dolphins, seals, flamingoes and albatrosses – all with in just a few minutes from shore (and if you go out further you can go whale watching too.)

and we also had time to go to nice restaurant to eat game cuisine, experience the cultural city of Swakopmund with it’s strong German influences, as well as driving for hours though a stunning and deserted desert landscape with no other human in sight.

If I was to sum my experience of this underestimated country into a slogan it would be: “Namibia: The best of Africa (without the worst of Africa).”

And here is my point: This was a trip of a life time, that I got to do it as part of my job.

I doubt that I even would have thought about going to Namibia on vacation, now i got to experience all of this while working.


I often get the question: “Why do you travel so much?”
To me that is a very strange question.

It’s like asking a migrating bird why it leaves in the fall, or a buffalo why it has to run across the plains.

When you just have to do something you do not need a reason.

But if I had to I could write down a long list of reasons for why make such a conscious decision to scoot around the world.

It makes me feel alive.
It makes me better at understanding the world.
It broadens my horizons.
It inspires me.
and a million other reasons.

But today I was reminded of yet another reason for my globetrotting life: It makes me better at finding alternative truths.

Because today I was the keynote speaker at the HQ of ING bank in Amsterdam. The bank has a mentoring program called “Crossings” where they take employees from different minorities and pair them with senior managers in order to promote diversity in an international bank that is still very much Dutch at the top. And the Crossings team had invited me to speak to their group.

The bank has understood the advantage of diversity amongst its employees in order to get diversity of ideas.

After the speech I sat down with Sudhanshu, an Indian national who had left India to work in the USA and now, for five years, in Holland. We talked about how he, by working in the West had picked up a different way of managing people by giving them more freedom, not micromanaging them and showing trust that his staff would do deliver what needed to get done.

But Sudhanshu’s classmates in India who had only worked in India just did not have the same understanding of how this kind of leadership style has advantages vs the more “strict” management style of many Indian managers.

Now, this is not about “Western things” are “better” than “Indian things”, this is about how exposure to alternative ways of doing something helps you more open to change – and less stuck in doing things a particular way because that’s “how it’s done”.

As speakers we are paid to tell people about the world. To broaden their understanding of something, to inspire them to learn new things – to open up their minds.

It is therefore extra important that we as speakers do do the same to ourselves, that we are open to new ideas and to change.

And traveling is a great way of doing that.

In January I have, or will be, visiting the countries of Thailand, the Philippines, Holland, Namibia and Sweden – all countries and cultures very different from my current home country of Singapore. Spending time in these diverse cultures pushes me to look at alternative ways of doing things.

And if you want to be able to speak to global audiences as a speaker then it is not enough that you are a great speaker, it’s not even enough that you have examples from all over the world – you also have to have an understanding of what people from different cultures like, dislike, laugh at and get inspired by.

And you can of course read books about it, watch movies about it or ask people about it – but we all know that the very best way to learn something is to immerse yourself into something.

And I like to immerse myself into the world.

If you want to be a global speaker I suggest you do the same.


This is the tale of how I got the booking for’s big, global conference to show you have you can get them too.

It was one of those bookings that every speaker wants to get: 7000 delegates, from 200 offices in 78 countries. I am right now in Amsterdam as one of 23 external speakers for BAM17 (Booking Annual Meeting 2017), the annual conference of The conference arena is fully taken over by the company and it is vibrating with energy from all the young and energetic employees from all over the world who have come to attend this annual event. is the world’s leading booking site for tourists and they have this amazing tradition where they, once per year, fly all the employees from all their offices around the world to a big, two days conference to network, mingle, learn and party.

A lot of companies arrange global companies for top management, but is flying all (!) their staff (regardless of position!) to one huge, global, corporate get-together. (They just leave a bare bone minimum of staff left to keep the lights on.)

It’s a conference that ticks all the boxes on the kind of conference speakers want to speak at: global conference, vibrant client, fun industry, large audience etc.

So how did I get this global conference booking? By, two years ago, speaking for the local, regional for South East Asia in Bangkok, speaking to about 100 middle managers. At that event my client told me about their big, global conference and I made a mental note that, one day, I would speak at that conference.

A few months later I find out that my former client had moved back from Asia to the corporate HQ in Amsterdam. I sent him an email congratulating him to his new position and added a few lines about how I would, one day, love to speak at their global conference.

One year later I get two separate emails from two different people at the HQ inviting me to speak at BAM (Booking Annual Meeting). The team behind the annual meeting had asked people at HQ for names of speakers that they could recommend. My client had mentioned me to two separate people on the organising committee, who both contacted me. Turns out the theme of this year’s conference was “imagination” which fits very well with my themes of Business Creativity.

The booking was confirmed.

So what is the lesson here?

Well, first to have a keynote theme that fits well with the themes of big, global conferences.

But more importantly: That the best way to get a global conference booking is to do a regional conference booking. And the best way to get a regional conference booking is to do a country booking.

Just like the best national teams qualifies for the World Cup, the best speakers who get to speak at the most important, largest, global conferences often get selected from the pool of speakers who have been speaking at national, or regional, conferences.

That, of course, means that you have to be judged as being the best of those in the running.

So that means that when you go up to speak at that small, regional or national conference you should go up with the mentality that you are auditioning to speak at the big, global conference. So if (!) someone in the audience of that small, local conference is, in any way, involved in organising, or in contact with the people who are organising, the global conference they will remember you.

I got a big speech for another huge company’s global client conference after speaking at another, small, local event for their Chinese clients – and event that had just 20 (!) attendees – but one of them just happened to be involved in organising the big, global conference …

I look at every speaking opportunity as an audition to get a bigger speaking job.

That mindset took me to speak at 23 different global or international conferences just last year. And that mindset got me to start 2017 off with speaking at two big international conferences.

What’s your mindset?


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