Life of a professional speaker

In an upcoming episode of Professional Speaking, I am going to share how I transformed a house on my property into a full-fledged home-studio for delivering virtual keynote speeches.

But in this week’s episode of Professional Speaking I want to share a “not so glamorous” episode of that process.

I had 3 virtual speeches to deliver last week, but my greenscreen stand had not arrived from Amazon so I decided to use a number of boxes with books to build a “wall” that I could hang the greenscreen from. (It’s 3 X 6 meters so I needed a big wall.)

It worked great and the speeches went well with me being able to walk around and deliver a speech instead of being “stuck” right in-front of the camera.

After the last virtual speech I kept the greenscreen up as I had one zoom interview to appear on. That went well too, after that I went to have lunch.

When I came back after lunch and opened the door I saw that all the boxes – we are talking about 30+ boxes @ 10 kg each – had crashed down (some of them from 2.5 meters up) right down where I had been recording not long before.

They brought down the screen, knocked over my camera (it survived), broke a table, and almost smashed my MacBook Air. And had I stood there speaking when it happened a bunch of them would have crashed down on me…

Had this happened while I was broadcasting it would have been a total disaster – or a very funny viral video. Or both.

The lesson here is to build professional solutions – even when building things at home. The solution I built was temporary, but still. I should have invested time in building a professional solution.

And that is what I am doing now.

Actually, the incident made me go back and take a second look at the backdrop solution I had planned and redesign the solution I wanted to make it easier to switch from white background to greenscreen etc.

I am sharing this story with you to show that not all works out great “behind the greenscreen” for professional speakers, even if it looks all good and shiny on screen.

I hope me sharing this can help you in your struggles to develop your virtual speaking knowing that what you see online is not always what actually goes on behind the scenes.


Magic Johnson once said: “When you face a crisis, you know who your true friends are.” I would like to re-write the quote to say: “When you face a crisis, you get to know who your true self is.”

Let me explain.

The global professional speaker market was one of the first industries to be hit by the Corona crisis. Travel bans and restrictions for large gatherings of people did not help. Conferences have been canceled left, right and center and the whole MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) is now one of the most hit industries that have come to more or less a complete stop. The professional speaking industry is at the center of this.

For 20+ years speaking at big conferences has been my, and many of my peers, main source of income (supplemented by a much smaller percentage of book sales). So when speaking bookings went down to zero, what did speakers do?

The answer is that they did different things!

– Some started selling like never before

– Some pivoted to produce online courses

– Some went into book writing mode.

– Some did nothing and just went on a vacation to wait it out

– Some did other things

My point is that what you decided to do INSTEAD is crucial. It will give you an indication of who you are beneath the “speaker identity”.

If you went into selling mode, you are a salesperson.

If you went into producing online courses you are a teacher

If you went into book writing mode you are an author

If you did nothing you are – at your core – a speaker (If you went into “wait it out mode” to get back to speaking later.) If you went into “vacation mode” because you wanted to enjoy some free time, you are – at your core – a speaker because you enjoy the freedom it gives you to take time off…

I went into research mode.

There have been a few times in my 20+ years as a professional speaker that I have done more interviews than I have done in the last month.

I always do interviews, but now that I have had more time I have done more interviews.

I define myself as “The Creativity Explorer” – as in someone who goes to explore human creativity – and doing research and interviews to better understand human creativity is a big part of exploring creativity.

My speaking is just a venue to tell the stories of all I have learned from interviewing people.

During the last few weeks I have learned that interviewing people actually give me AS MUCH satisfaction as standing on the stage speaking.

Yes, I miss the energy that I get from speaking from the stage. But I am as motivated today as I was, say 6 months ago – pre-Corona. I wake up every morning saying “What can I learn about creativity today? Whom will I interview? What will they teach me? How can I get those lessons out? How can I share the insights that I learned in the best way?

At my core I am a researcher. An interviewer. An explorer. The Creativity Explorer.

And yes, when the world goes back to holding conferences again I can not WAIT to go back up on that stage and share my message about the power and potential of human creativity – and I will have a lot of new, fresh content to share. But at the moment I am very much in “interview to learn more mode”.

Who are you as a speaker when you do not get to speak? The answer to that question should be easy to dig into in times like this.

And that insight should be strong and very valuable to find out for a speaker.

Who are you underneath that speaker identity?


Birds sing in the forest. But put them in a cage and some of them still sing. Be that bird.

As speakers, we are used to be on the big stages, in front of 1000’s of people. So that is not happening at the moment. And to be frank: It will not happen for quite a while.

But do not let that stop you from spreading your message. If you are not sharing your message now, you were never a messenger – you were “just” a speaker.

When the market comes back, we will get booked again – especially the messengers.

Personally I have been creating, sharing and collecting more content in the last month than in any other month in my 20+ year speaking career. I suggest you do too if you are serious about professional speaking.




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