Life of a professional speaker

As professional speakers we need to be ahead of the audience. We need to see further, think deeper, draw better conclusions than them.

We are called “thought leaders” for a reason. We are supposed to be leading the thinking.

That means we, amongst other things, need to practise our ability to see what is happening before it happens.

Here are a couple of examples of how I have done this previously in my speaking career exemplified with the biggest changes in my 25 years as a speaker:

1) The beginning: The Internet.

In 1993 I saw The Internet and in 1995 I published my first book – in Swedish – called “Internet and Marketing” as I had come to realise that this “Internet thing” was going to become a big thing.

I started speaking about The Internet before most people in Sweden even knew what it was.

2) The pivot: The rise of the creative Asia.

In 2005 I moved to China because I wanted to be part of when Asia became a creative power house. Most people in Sweden thought I was crazy giving up a successful Swedish speaking career in order to study creativity in China – a country not very known for creativity at the time.

In 2007 I published a book called “The Developing World” about creativity in developing countries.

Today very few people will argue against that creative companies and people can be found in Asia.

3) The disruption. The Global Economic Crises

The last few weeks have been another example of thinking ahead around the greatest crisis to hit the speaking industry.

On Feb 16 I posted a message in a chat group:

“In twenty five years as a speaker (seen dot-com bust and Global Financial Crisis) I have never seen such a rapid downward trend in my own industry.

People who sell type cars in China, make mobiles in China, sit on shaky loans to China, etc. etc. must be a bit worried anyway?

And then, for example, the Shanghai stock index has dropped only 4% since the beginning of the year (+ 11% on a 1-year basis…)

I am not a stock exchange expert, but can anyone smarter than I talk about why the world’s stock exchanges barely get “runny nose when China has the fly”?”

I then – same day 16 feb – sold all of my stocks that my family owned (including in my pension plan and children’s savings). (The date I did that is the line in the chart…)

Since then the markets have virtually collapsed.

On 23 feb (One day before the first major dip in the markets.) I posted:

The saying goes: “When America sneezes, the world catches a cold.” So what happens to the world economy when China catches the flu? I guess we are about to find out.

On 5 March (a couple of days before the largest dip in the history of the Dow) I posted:

“It’s probably time to create a name for the economic crises that Covid-19 (Coronavirus) is creating starting in industries like travel, events and hospitality and likely to spread to more industries.
May I suggest: Global Economic Crisis. (GEC)
Unlike the Global Financial Crisis 12 years ago which started as a crisis in the financial sector and then spread to the economy, the Global Economic Crisis started in the economy and spread to the financial sector.
Here’s to hoping GEC will not be as severe as GFC.”

Yes, I am happy I got out of the stock market just before the markets went into free-fall.

But to me it is not about the money saved. It is about the ability to see that the Coronavirus would affect the world economy before most people understood that it would, or before they even understood it was going to have any effect on the world markets at all.

Just as I started my speaking career understanding that the Internet would change business before most people had even heard about The Internet, or how I moved my speaking business to Asia before most people in the West understood that Asia would become a creative power house I was able to predict the biggest disruption to the speaking market weeks before most speakers (or most investors) understood what was going on.

So what is the trick to being able to stay ahead of the curve as a speaker? Here are some of the things speakers really need to do:

1) Attend the full conference when you speak to hear what all the other speakers are talking about.

2) Interview key decision makers in big companies around your topic to understand how they look at the world.

3) When doing interviews especially ask questions about how they look at the near future.

4) Set aside enough time for self-reflection and long term thinking so draw your own conclusions based on what you have heard. (There is a reason that people say that a CEO should not be busy – a CEO should have time to think, reflect and look ahead. And if you are too busy with day-to-day activities you will not be able to see tomorrow.

5) Ideally travel the world and speak globally, but at least build a network of speaker friends around the world and develop a global mindset so that you are better positioned to see a trend develop even if it is not originated in your own country.)

(I am amazed by the number of speakers in Europe and the USA who did not see the crisis coming until it hit their own country even when the news have been out for weeks from Asia. This does not mean as a criticism of them, but as an observation about how most people’s world view is actually much more of a “country view”.

Personally I spoke in 24 countries last year, and I am convinced that speaking in both the US, Europe, Asia (including China), Africa and Australia last year alone helped me see the global implications of the Coronavirus before many others.

6) Test your insights. Send out test-balloons of the insights that you have recived to make sure that your audience is ready to hear your insights so that you are not TOO far ahead in your message, nor too far behind.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best in navigating The Global Economic Crisis.

ps. So what is my prediction for what will happen next? That I will share in a future post, but let’s just say that navigating in a storm is much harder than seeing the storm coming…

ps. “A canary in a coal mine is an advanced warning of some danger. The metaphor originates from the times when miners used to carry caged canaries while at work; if there was any methane or carbon monoxide in the mine, the canary would die before the levels of the gas reached those hazardous to humans.”

As a speaker your canary does not necessarily have to warn about a danger. It could also give a heads-up about an opportunity.


So this just happened at the Professional Speakers Summit in Delhi. A women came up to me, Angelina, and introduced herself as a professional speaker from Russia who wanted to speak more internationally. In order to make that happen she had signed up to work with an English teacher back in Russia. That teacher had recommended that Angelina would watch MY (!) speeches online in order to learn to speak English in a way that was easy for her to learn and at the same time easy for the audience to understand.

The teacher could have picked from thousands of native English speaking speakers to learn from – but she picked me. A non-native English speaker!

I hope this story can inspire other non-native English speaking speakers by showing that sometimes the non-native speakers can be perceived as speaking “better” English than the natives. 🙂

Thrilled to know that I have played a small part in helping this Russian speaker reach her dreams of speaking more globally.

Because the world needs to hear from more non-native English speakers! We need the different perspective! We need other stories! Other messages!



Almost all of the 264 episodes of Professional Speaking is about HOW to become a global, keynote speaker, but some are about the business of speaking and a few – very few – are about the LIFE of a global, professional keynote speaker. This is one of those rare posts.

I think it makes sense to once in a while share what my life as a global, keynote speaker looks like to show what you could have  if you follow the free tips that I share here.

So in 2019 I did 54 speeches in 24 countries on 5 continents. Here they are, including one thing I learnt by doing that speech/workshop. I share that one thing to emphasise that while speaking is what we get paid to do, and where we get all the attention, LEARNING is what we shall never forget to do. Because learning new things is what gives us the new speaking assignments.

So here we go: One Year in the life of a global, keynote speaker:

1) Swiss Investment Manager Circle Event for SwizzQuant in Zermatt. Swizerland
Learning about the international banking industry from the head of the Swiss Central bank.

2) One day open workshop on Business Creativity for Singapore Management University, Singapore
Learning about creativity in the shipping industry and the ropes (!) industry

3) The Outlook India conference for Outlook Magazine, Mumbai, India.
Learning about the helicopter industry in India and about negotiation tips from negotiations expert and Wharton professor Stuart Diamond.

4) The EO (Entrepreneurs Organisation) chapter of Coimbatore, India.
Learning about Indian entrepreneurship from Indian Entrepreneurs

5) The UK Litigation & Regulatory Conference for DLA Piper, London, UK
Learning about the legal aspects of Brexit from British lawyers

6) Hydro Extrusion Europe Management Conference, Porto, Portugal.
Learning about the latest trends in Aluminium from one of the largest aluminium companies in the world

7) BAM Singapore — Management conference for employees of in Thailand. Bangkok, Thailand.
Learning about Thai management styles and the value of culture from a company with an amazing culture.

8) BAM Bangkok – Management conference for employees of in Singapore. Singapore
Learning about customer service from a customer service obsessed company.

9) Management conference for Hydro Extrusion Hoogezand B.V., Almeo, Holland
Learning about green aluminium from one of the greenest aluminium factories in the world.

10) OSF Leadership Forum, Peoria, USA
Learning about innovative health care from a hospital ranked as one of the most innovative in the world

11) LocWorld Asia Conference, Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia
Learning about the latest trends in translations and localisations from one of the largest industry conferences in the world

12) Keynote speaker at the first ever HR-Convention in the Maldives, Male, Maldives.
Learning about how the Maldives uses creativity to create the ultimate customer experience.

13) High potential leaders from across the world of Amazon Web Services meeting in Singapore.
Learning about how AWS uses leadership development to stay innovative.

14) CFO’s of Deloitte across Asia meeting in Hong Kong.
Learning about how CFO’s at Deloitte look at the financial future of the world.

15) International conference for CFO’s for Electrolux from across Asia and Africa meeting on Singapore.
Learning how an international company builds best practises within finance

16) Client event for Monitor ERP for their clients across Asia, Penang, Malaysia.
Learning how ERP companies are innovating to change traditional industries

17) LVMH Internal leadership conference together with SMU, Singapore
Learning how innovation is used to push the luxury industry

18) Speech for the The Boys’ Brigade of Singapore’s annual conference
Learning how young Singaporean men look at the future.

19) Customer event for FCM Travel Solutions’ customers across Asia. Singapore
Learning about the latest trends in the corporate travel market

20) Speaking at the Malaysia Speakers Association Annual Conference, KL, Malaysia
Learning about the history of professional speaking in Malaysia

21) Closing keynote at the ACCA conference in Singapore
Learning how the accounting industry is going agile.

22) AVIXA Asia Conference in Bangkok, Thailand
Learning about the latest trends in Audio Visual equipment.

23) Speaker at InnoTown, Ålesund, Norway
Learning about how to build an eco friendly luxury yacht

24) Speaking to all employees at power utility company Eidsiva, in Lillehammer, Norway
Learning about how to take a traditional industry into the future

25) Speaking at the convention of the European Professional Speakers’ Convention, Paris, France.
Learning about automating a speaking business

26) Asia conference for Havas, Bangkok, Thailand.
Learning about creative agencies across Asia.

27) The global banking conference for Deloitte, Rome, Italy.
Learning about how some of the leading bankers of the world look at the fintech revolution.

28) European conference for FINAT, the international trade association for the labels and adjacent packaging industries, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Learning how the label’s industry is becoming more eco friendly

29) Innovation workshop for business leaders in Kiev, Ukraine.
Learning about how people in Ukraine look at creativity

30) Global client event for Avaloq, Zurich, Swizerland
Learning from a financial IT company how IT will transform finance

31) Internal employee event for Avaloq, Zurich, Swizerland
Learning how an IT company keeps its staff motivated to innovate.

32) The European printing conference Dscoop, Barcelona, Spain
Learning how the printing industry is innovative to stay profitable

33) Global conference for employees at Metronic, Berlin, Germany
Learning how medical companies are innovating the future

34) Creativity workshop for HCLI for global top managers of Hitachi, Singapore
Learning how a massive company like Hitachi keeps innovating in so many ways.

35) Speech at conference for business leaders and government officials in Pyongyang, North Korea
Learning about North Korea in North Korea.

36) Speech for to communications leaders of IndoFood, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Learning about the dynamic food industry of Indonesia.

37) Speech for business leaders in Port Louis, Mauritius
Learning about how Mauritius is making sure it keeps transforming

38) 1200 agents of AXA South East Asia meeting in Macau, China
Learning about how AXA inspires it sales people.

39) Executive Education program for Singapore Management University, Singapore
Learning about how innovation can be used to save lives.

40) Open Creativity Workshop for Singapore Management University, Singapore
Learning about how restaurants and movie companies in Singapore innovate

41) PCMA Europe, The conference for conference organisers across Europe, Barcelona, Spain.
Learning how the conference industry in Europe is stepping up to be leaders in sustainability

42) Deloitte China, meeting in Tokyo, Japan.
Learning how a professional services company does marketing

43) + 44) High Potential Conference for DBS, Singapore.
Learning how the best bank in the world trains its best managers.

45) Executive Education program for Singapore Management University, Singapore
Learning about how financial companies look at innovation

46) Keynote speaker at Leadership Energy Summit, KL, Malaysia.
Learning about innovation from the world champion of squash

47) PCMA Asia The conference for conference organisers across Asia, Macau, China
Learning how the casino industry is coming up with new products.

48) Keynote speech for the world conference of World Vision, Manila, Philippines.
Learning how World Vision is coming up with new ideas to save the most vulnerable people in the world

49) Keynote speech for 1700 people attending ASFA (Superannuation conference) in Melbourne, Australia
Learning how Australia become leading in the pension industry.

50) Creativity workshop for HCLI for global top managers of Hitachi, Singapore
Learning about how heavy industries innovate

51) World conference of IAPA in Singapore
Learning how professional services companies look for new ideas.

52) Reliance Digital customer event, Mumbai, India
Learning how the consumer market in India is just exploding.

53) Johnson & Johnson Medical China management conference, Shanghai, China.
Learning how an American medical company is creating innovation centers in China

54) Top management of all the TATA companies, Mumbai, India.
Learning what the leaders of one of the most respected company group in the world is going to focus on for next year.


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