Month: November 2018

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When do you show up to a speech if you speak at 4 PM?

Well for me the answer last week was: “The day before.”

I was invited to be the last and closing keynote speaker at the business school IMD conference in Singapore with delegates flying in from all over the world for a 5 day program.

I decided to come in the day before to listen to the last speaker of the day: Rob Lilwall.

Rob is a great speaker and I always learn things from listening to him, but I was not there to listen to him, I was there to observe the audience. By sitting in the back I could observe how the audience reacted to Rob’s stories, humor and examples.

  • Is this a group that has a sense of humor?
  • If you ask a question, will they answer?
  • Are they sceptical or open to learn?
  • And so on…

It’s not always practically possible to attend the conference the day before you speak.  But when it is, it’s always a good idea to do it. (I also got a sense of how the energy level was during a full day of training.)

Filled with knowledge about the audience that I could not have gotten in any brief, I could go home and put the final touches to my keynote.

Nothing beats “field research” on the actual audience you are going to speak to. So if you can, go “spy” on them in advance.

ps. There was another reason that I chose to come one day early to listen in:

IMD has been ranked the “#1 Open Program World Wide” 7 years in a row by Financial Times.

So to get to attend one day of great learning from the best program in the world was a nice perk.

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Short version:

This week I did three speeches for three different audiences. One went much worse than the other two. Why? Because I got off on the wrong foot with the audience, and because I let that affect my delivery.

Remember: It is not about you – it is about the speech – BUT it is about you and the audience. So make sure you love the audience before you go up on stage, and make sure they can feel it.

 
Long version:

This week I did three speeches for three different audiences: One for business leaders in Kiev, Ukraine, one for a group of global managers of Hitachi and one for a group of teachers in Singapore. Three totally different assignments with different goals from the clients.

One of the three speeches went much worse than the other two. Why? Because I got off on the wrong foot with the audience, and because I let that affect my delivery.

I opened the speech for the teachers with a line that I have used many times for teachers, but I got the wording wrong this time and it came out harsher than it was intended (It was intended as a way to build rapport, but I said it wrong and the audience took it as a rude or insensitive comment. I was a stupid thing to do, but instead of correcting myself I just kept going thinking I could “salvage” the situation later on.

But the damage was done.

And when I later did an audience interaction where I could feel that the group was not engaged, I did the mistake of feeling disappointed by the lack of engagement that I got, instead of seeing it as a sign that I had to change approach with the group.

Basically I got off on the wrong foot with the the audience by not being 100% present in the room to be ready to connect with the audience with love from the start. That created the situation where I communicated my message with a bad choice of words, which created a distance with the audience.

It’s ironic that the speech that went less well was done in a conference room that was named “LOVE”! (As soon as I came out of the room and saw the name of the room, I took a picture of the sign to remind myself to always approach any audience with a loving mind.)

Remember: It is not about you – it is about the speech – BUT it is about you and the audience. As a speaker we are just containers for the message, but as speakers we are also humans. And a group full of people in an audience will decide if they want to listen to the message partly based on how they feel about the person delivering it.

We might just be containers for the message, but there is a reason why producers of liquids such as beer or wine put such effort into designing the bottle…

Make sure you love the audience before you go up on stage, and make sure they can feel it. It will make the more open to hear your message.

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I think the best way to learn is to learn from the mistakes of others so today’s post is about how I fucked up and how you can learn from that.

A while back I booked a airline ticket to Ukraine for a speech I was doing for the event organiser KA Group, a very professional events and conference organiser.

I was scheduled to speak between 4 pm and 5,30 so I booked a flight leaving 9 pm, but I was informed by the organisers that they would appreciate if I could also stay around for the VIP dinner that started at 7 pm. (I of course said yes, speakers being part of events like VIP dinners means a lot for an organiser and as a speaker we should do our best to be part of them.)

But attending the VIP dinner meant I had to change my flight which would leave later (11 pm) and that meant changing airlines from Turkish Airlines to Qatar Airways.

And here is where the screw up happened: I informed the client of my new DEPARTURE time, but I did not inform them about the new ARRIVAL time that changing airlines had triggered. (At the time I re-booked my flight I did not know that the client had planned to pick me up personally at the airport and when I was informed by it I assumed they understood that me changing airline meant I would fly in with Qatar Airways.

But the client assumed I would be flying in on Turkish Airlines and out on Qatar. That meant that when the Turkish Airlines flight landed in Kiev and I was not on the flight the client got worried. And when they could not find me on the passenger lists for the flight, or reach me on my phone (I was on the plane to Doha) they had no way of knowing where I was or if I was on my way to Kiev.

Finally they where able to reach my wife (!) – yes, the client is very creative in finding out information and they got informed that I was on the plane to Kiev – just via Doha and not via Istanbul…

A few hours later I landed and all was good.

But for a while the client did not know where I was, and that was wrong.

My inability to give full and clear information about my travel created unneeded stress for the client.

Learn from me and rather communicate too much than too little.

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