How to become better as a speaker

“Have fun!”

That was the words I found myself saying to two of the other speakers of the conference I spoke at earlier this week. (The conference was LEAP – a great HR conference in Bucharest, Romania with enthusiastic 700+ attendees (www.LEAP.ro).)

I could, of course, have chosen anything to say to them, but I picked “Have fun”, and in this episode of Professional Speaking I want to share why I think that is the best advice to tell a speaker before going up on stage.

So why is that?

Enjoyment is contagious. (Now, in these COVID-19 times the term “contagious” is perhaps not immediately connected to “joy”(The Coronavirus is serious stuff), but “contagious” is still the best word I can think of. A person having fun at their job (be that a bus driver, a waiter or a speaker) will affect the mood of the people around that person.

Having fun makes you less nervous. And being less nervous makes you relaxed. A relaxed speaker creates a relaxed audience.

Having fun makes you less stuck up on yourself. And that means you focus less on yourself and the single best advice for being a great speaker is to focus more on the message and the audience than on yourself.

Having fun makes you improvise more. When you are having fun it’s easier to laugh at your own mistake, easier to see new things you could do in the spur of the moment, and makes you more creative. All things that make a speech better.

Audiences find it easier to connect with a speaker whom they can see is having fun. And connecting with an audience is so important.

I could go on. A speaker having fun will communicate a message better. And it is true for virtually all topics. Even the most serious ones. (Do a test at the next conference you attend. Rate all the speakers you hear during one day on who you thought was the best speaker of the day. And also rank who how fun you think they had on stage. I am pretty sure that you will see a very clear correlation.)

So, did I tell myself to “have fun” too? I did. Did it work? I think so. (Not only for me but also for the two speakers I gave the advice to.)

I personally especially remember one woman of the many people who came up to me after my speech at LEAP who said: “I loved your speech.” and then added: “You have a very special, positive aura around you.”

Those two sentences combined into one feedback to me is what triggered this post. They show a very clear relationship between a speaker having fun on stage and the audience enjoying the speech. Now, this might sound like almost native advice, but I am surprised about how often speakers go up on stage and their “joyometer” is turned way down.

So the next time you go up to deliver the speech – for 700 or for 70 people – tell yourself to “have fun” right before you go up on stage. Then smile a huge smile and walk up that stage.

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This might be a strange post but it feels right to write it. I say strange because I am going to write about me inspiring others.

The last few days I have, for example:

a) gotten an email from a man from Mongolia (Ankhbayar Batbaatar) who wrote to me out of the blue – to tell me that he is “my big fan” since a friend gave him my book “The Idea Book”.

b) received a book by an American woman (Lousie Karch) with a copy of her book (Word Glue) and that she happily told me in a sweet note that she was inspired by my book.

c) gotten a photo sent to me from a man in India (Jugdish Ahuja) which shows me how he has a picture of me speaking on a big stage as his desktop picture on two screens (!) to inspire him to dream big about speaking.

Mongolia.

America

India.

As a Swede living in Singapore that is just so inspiring to me to hear I have been inspiring others.

It is my firm belief that people who do what they love and love what they do – inspire.

It is my firm belief that people on a mission to spread a message to as many people as they can – inspire.

It is my firm belief that people who are humble enough to focus on doing things that inspire them – will inspire others.

And that is why this post is a bit awkward to write, because I do not want it to look like I am bragging about being called inspiring. 😉

I am not. On the “people who inspire list” I am humbly aware that I am not even near to being at the top. (If ever there was such a list)

I am instead writing this post to hopefully inspire more people to live their lives in a way so that they will inspire more people.

The world needs more positive, inspiring examples right now.

As speakers, a big part of our job is to spread a message in a way that inspires.

So how can we do that?

My amateur observation of what inspires inspiration is:

a) Mastery. (Someone doing something really well – be that playing the piano or jumping into a pair of pants.)

b) Positivity. (Doing what you do in a positive way – be that cleaning the street or flying a plane.)

c) Humble ambition. (An urge to become better without the urge to feel that you are special.)

d) An element of surprise. (Something done well in an at least slightly unusual way – like a footballer doing an unexpected dribble.)

So if we as speakers and authors (as spreaders of messages) aim to spread our message:

a) As well as we possibly can

b) In a positive and/or funny way

c) while fully understanding that the message is not about us but about the audience

d) and do that in a way that at least slightly surprises the audience

Then we have a big chance of inspiring inspiration.

And the best part of doing that is that it is such an inspiring job to have. I am walking on feather light feet knowing that my book and speeches are inspiring people from Mongolia to America to India this week – so much that they take the time to sit and write me an email to tell me about it.

What are you going to do that will send waves of inspiration around the world?

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I am a strong believer of writing speeches that works on people from all over the world. The reason for this is, as a global speaker, I speak all over the world (I spoke in 24 countries last year alone). But also because many speaking assignments for professional speakers will be for international/global audiences (meaning people in the audience will be from many different countries).

For both these scenarios (speaking globally, and speaking for international groups) you need to have a speech that is universally human – a speech that goes to the core of humanity.

I recently delivered a new speech (a speech I had never delivered before) and I knew the audience would be diverse (from 14 different countries from 4 continents).
So how did I know that the speech would land?

I tested it on 4 people from 4 different countries. An American, a Frenchman, an Indian, and a Filipino.

And when I say “tested” it I mean I ran through the whole speech – one-on-one with a member of the audience to get their feedback BEFORE I went.

To get feedback before your speech – let’s call that “forwardfeed” – is crucial so that when you do go up on stage many of the “wrinkles” that you could find in your speech yourself get wrinkled out.

The funny thing is that all the different people who gave me input on what to change gave DIFFERENT input. That is the beauty of testing out a speech on people that are not only different from yourself, but also different from each other. The more different the better.
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