Life of a professional speaker

When I was a little kid my father (who was a professional musician) would bring up me on stage to sing a few songs with him. It taught me do dare, stage presence and it gave me the “stage bug”.

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing my own kids (4, 6 and 8) sing infront of 40 professional speakers at the Asia Professional Speakers Singapore’s Christmas Party. (I love how the 4 year old is hesitant to join but then slowly gets closer and closer to the other performers.)

I recently also had a conversation with a man who just retired after a long career in banking and now was ready to start a new career while in his 60s.

Personally I became a professional speaker at the age of 27 and have been doing it now for 25 years. Considering how rewarding and fulfilling I find the job I plan to continue to do professional speaking until I die. (The good thing with the speaking profession that it is one of few jobs where old age will not make it harder for you to build a career – people can keep doing it until they die.)

So to answer the question in the headline: It is never too early and it is never too late.

#publicspeaking #speaker #inspiration #keynotespeaker #professionalspeaking #APSS

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In this post I want to write about one of the biggest perks of being a professional speaker: That you get to meet so many inspirational and motivational speakers!

Last week I had the privilege to share the stage with some of the world’s heavyweights in inspiration as I was one of the speakers at a big event for AXA in Macau with more than 1000 MDRT-agents from around Asia meeting to celebrate their success.

Some of the other speakers at this event where:

Achmat Hassiem (Sharkboy)

A South African swimmer who was injured in an attack by a great white shark. The lower portion of his leg was subsequently amputated, because of the manner in which he sustained his disability Hassiem is nicknamed “Sharkboy”.

Hassiem began swimming at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa following his accident and was selected to represent South Africa at the 2012 Summer Paralympics held in London.

Jia Jiang

Author of the book “Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection”. His TED-talk is one of the most watched TED-talks ever.

Eric Feng

Eric was awarded “JCI 10 Most Outstanding Young Person of Singapore”, and he is a bundle of positive energy.

and Ramona Pascual

Ramona Pascual is Hong Kong’s first professional mixed martial arts fighter signed to a regional promotion, Road Fighting Championship. She is also the first female ever to headline a fight event and compete for a mixed martial arts championship title in Hong Kong

Finally I got to meet with Jason McAteer, former Liverpool player and now part of “Liverpool Legends”.

My son is a football fanatic and my daughter loves martial art so to be able to show a photo with daddy with a real-life Premier League player to my son and an interview with a real-life fighter woman for my girl made me “daddy of the day”. And of course they all where blown away by finding out that their daddy got to do a video together with a man who had his leg bitten off by a shark and lived to tell the tale.

I usually do not use the word “inspirational speaker” to describe myself – but in this post I will – because I am a speaker who inspired my children today by sharing the inspirational messages that I learnt from the other speakers speaking at the same conference.

When I was a young child my father – who was a musician – would bring me and my brother with him to his gigs so we got to meet with other musicians and see what his life was all about. Today I am doing the same for my children.

If you have children, do invite them into your world as a speaker to let them experience the benefits that comes from being able to share the stage – and the green room! – with so many other inspiring people.

At the age of my children I can not bring them around the world to my speaking gigs very often – but I can bring the speaking gigs back to the kids so I make sure I record short messages to my children from the inspiring people that I meet. And I can get messages back to them from the inspiring people that I interview on my travels.

Just in the last few months my kids have gotten short video messages, notes of encouragement or expert advice from:

A glass artist encouraging my kids not to give up
A photographer teaching my kids how to think about pictures
A designer sending inspiration to my children to keep drawing
A chef inspiring my kids to cook
A sculptor sending positive messages to my kids
and many, many more.

And at this event in Macau:
A shark-survivor encouraging my kids to believe in themselves
A female fighter pushing my girls to keep dreaming
and a footballer sending inspiration to my football fanatic son.

Seeing their father meeting with these world experts in different fields and having these experts send personal messages to my kids makes my children feel that worldclass mastery is within reach. That masters of a craft are not “stars far away” – but real people that they are connected to.

That I think is true inspiration.
Being able to give that to my children is one of the most valuable perks of being a professional speaker.

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Today I want to talk about why we sometimes – on purpose – need to do things we do not like to do

About a year ago I stepped into the role of President of a non-profit member association for professional speakers (Asia Professional Speakers Singapore. www.AsiaSpeakers.org)

I did it because being part of a speaker association like APSS has given me a lot of value as a professional speaker, and I felt it was time to give back.

But anyone who knows me knows that:

– I do not like to lead people while being in an official role.

– I do not like to do any admin or finance tasks, especially not with other people’s money.

– I do not like bylaws, constitutions, minutes, and other formalia associated with, for example, not-for-profit organisations

– I do not like to be in the spotlight (Which might sound weird for a person making a living as a speaker, but when I give a speech I see it as me being there to deliver a message, but as President you get a lot of attention on you as a person.)

– And I really like to be in charge of my own time and not have to be dependant of external factors or other people (that is one reason why I love the idea of being a professional speaker because it gives me such freedom over my own time.)

And yet I decided to become President of the speaker association.

Why?

Because I wanted to step into my uncomfortable zone and do something that went against my intuition.

(And also because I felt that since APSS had given me so much of value I could not use the excuse that did not want to be President when I was asked to serve.)

I am happy that we had an amazing year with a record profit, record numbers of members signing up to join the association and record number of people attending the events of the association.

I am a big fan of speakers spending time on things that really give them energy and doing more of the things that they enjoy doing and that works. A lot of my success as a global keynote speaker comes from me following the “law of least resistance” where I focus on the things that give me the best work for the least amount of boring work.

But I also want to encourage you to – once in a while – pick a project that really pushes you to do things you think you really do not like to do. Because these things might be the things that really make you grow.

I did not want to be the President of the speaker association, actually I dreaded it, but now that I have done it I am happy that I pushed myself to do it. Not because I ended up enjoying it (it was less dreadful than I thought but I can not say I enjoyed it), but because pushed myself into my own uncomfortable zone.

We talk a lot about “getting our of your comfort zone”, but getting into your uncomfortable zone is different. It is about searching out something that you really do not like to do in order to push yourself though it.

Which door do you dread to open? What would happen if you pushed yourself to open it?

I meet so many people who want to be speakers who “dread writing that book” because “they can not write”, who “dread speaking in English” (if that is not their first language), or who “dread picking up the phone to call potential clients” because they are “petrified by rejection” etc.

Write down that thing that really makes you uncomfortable and consider pushing through that.

In my case accepting to serve as President of a non-profit association with all the responsibilities and (unpaid) commitments that comes with that turned out to be like sailing towards what looked like a very dark cloud only to find out that the cloud was not as demanding as I had imagined, and that the wind the clouds generated actually pushed me into new interesting places.

So what makes you uncomfortable?

ps. 1. If you are not yet a member of a professional speaker association, do consider joining one. If you live in Asia please check out www.AsiaSpeakers.org, it is a lovely community of speakers helping each other become better.

ps. 2.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the importance of “batching” your blog posts, a post that was different from my other posts because it was a post about what I needed to do – not about what I do. And it was an authentic post. Because I did not start to “batch” posts after writing that post ;-D (From now on I will continue to write posts in this blog about things I do (!) – not things I “wish I did”. I still think batching posts is a good idea, but I think I should only share in this blog about what I actually do to become better as a speaker – not what I wished I would be doing. So apologies for not posting last Monday as I was away in North Korea without access to the Internet.

(Picture from when I took over the helm as President from the previous President, Jerome Joseph.)

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