Life of a professional speaker

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So this happened today, imagine it happened to you:

6:00 Wake up at the 5-start (!) Hotel Plaza in Rome and look for the iron in the room.

Can not find one.
Pick up the phone to call room service for an iron to iron my suit and shirt before the speech this morning. (Conference starts at 9:00)

No line on the phone. (turns out phones are not working in the hotel this morning)

6:15 Still no line. Walk down to reception to ask if they can have an iron brought up to the room.

Grumpy old receptionist replies: “We do not offer this service.”

Me: “You do not offer an iron to guests?

“No, Sir. We do offer a ironing service, but they do not come in until 8:30 so I can not guarantee when they will be done.”

Me: “Can you make an exception and lend that iron to me, or the iron that your staff uses?”

I explain to him that I need to be in the ballroom at 8:45 LATEST and that 150+ guests from all over the world have flown in to this hotel and I am going to speak to all of them and can not do that in a suit that is not ironed…

He replies: “We can not lend you an iron. Security reasons.”

I try to explain to him that HOSTELS offer irons to guests so they might want to re-consider their policy if they want conferences in the future. But it is of course fruitless.
So, what would you do?

a) Wait for 8:30 and hope that they can iron your shirt in 15 minutes. (With the service level so far i do not trust that at all.)

b) Attend the first part of the conference in your traveling clothes from the back and then go get the suit before you speak at 10:15? (Makes you look like a fool, or at least like an amateur.)

c) Continue to reason/argue with the man to get him to change his mind. (Good luck, See picture of stubborn, grumpy Italian man …)

d) Other solution.

Of course there is always another solution.

I asked my “friend” in the reception where the nearest other hotel is and he points me in a direction with a puzzled grin on his face.

I take my suit, smile, and say “Thank you”.

I then walk a few hundred meters to this other hotel, walk in with a confident smile and explain my situation: “I am staying at Plaza hotel, am speaking at 9 AM and they do not offer an iron to their guests and their ironing service is not open until earliest 8:30 which is too late for me. Can you help me?”

“Of course, Sir. It will be done by 8:00 o’clock.”

Me: “Thank you.”

I walk back to my hotel, past my grumpy receptionist who now has an even more puzzled look on his face as I come back to eat breakfast without carrying my suit.

At 8:00 I pick up my suit, go down to the convention area and get a feel for the room, mingle with clients and get ready to speak all while wearing a well ironed suit and without any last minute stress.

Lesson: There is always a solution. (Bonus lesson: Never take good service for granted in Italy, but look and you will find it…)

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Last Monday I got an email from a contact introducing me to another person, whom I have had no previous contact, saying: “This company is looking for a speaker on innovation for their convention in Bali on Saturday, could you do it?”

I reply the same day saying that I could be in Bali that day.

On Tuesday I get a reply asking for my fee.

On Thursday they confirm the booking. I tell me wife I will be gone 2 days starting tomorrow.

On Friday I fly to Bali and arrive at 5 pm. I go down to the beach where the client is having a networking event and we sit down in the bar and he begins to brief me on the company, the industry and the theme of the convention. As the sun sets over Bali I learn about the speech I am going to give.

I go back to my hotel room and do my slides.

On Saturday morning I go on stage and give my speech.


That means that less than 120 hours before I stood on stage I did not even know I was going to be on stage in Bali on Saturday.

Is this a normal set-up for a keynote speaker?


But it is clearly so that the time between when a speaker gets booked and when the speech happens has become shorter and shorter.

(I did two other speeches last week: One in KL for a retail client and one in HK for a wealth management bank. The one in KL was booked less than 3 months ago. The one in HK less than 2 months ago…)

It is important for speakers to understand that as the world changes faster and faster and topics for conventions are decided last minute, speakers need to prepare for a world where they might not know where they will be speaking – or for who – until just a few weeks before.

If you want a life as a professional global speaker you need to be ready to fly out on short notice. Have you build your life around being able to do that? Personally I love this aspect of not fully knowing where life will take me. For me this week it meant that I ended up on a beach in Bali just two days after getting the confirmation.

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How are you supporting the ones that come after you?

When I became a professional speaker at the tender age of 27 I really did not have any mentors. The idea of going to other speaker’s to ask for advice didn’t really occur to me.

I tried once and approached one of Sweden’s most successful speakers at the time to ask some questions, but he brushed me off, not interested in helping “a kid” like me.

That brush-off I will always remember.

Maybe that is why I feel a need to help up and coming speakers, and why I feel it’s right to share so much about how I look at building a speaking career.

Helping other speakers is something I have done from the start, and after I got involved in speaker associations I have intensified that work.

One of the people I helped recently was a women who on her spare time was practising kick-boxing. She had taken to kick-boxing late in her life but managed to go from novice to black-belt in six years.

She explained to me that you get the different belts (white all the way to black) because you become better and better in doing harder and harder sequences, ie you get better and better at learning how to kick-box.

But you do not become a “Master” until you start teaching OTHERS to get black belts.

The masters are the ones that teach.
The masters are the ones who share their knowledge.

To be a master it’s just not enough to be good at what you do – you also need to help guide the next generation.

And as I have the ambition to be a master at professional speaking I have dedicated to help others.

I am a mentor in APSS and have also outside of that mentor program mentored 100+ speakers around the world.

I am on the EXCO (executive committee of APSS (

And in a few weeks (11-12 May 2018) the Asia Professional Speakers Convention ( will take place in Singapore. 30+ speakers will share their best advice to 200 speakers from all over the world, and I am the convention chair.

As convention chair for this years convention I have introduced a “Next Generation of Speakers-ticket” where we offer the two day convention at just 50 SGD per person (90% rebate from the adult price). The ticket is open for youth and students 17-25 years old. The idea is to offer a VERY subsidised convention fee to help a group of young people learn what it means to be a professional speaker. (If you know someone who would be interested in going email to sign up.)

Helping the next generation, to me, also means to inspire really young kids, even if that is just taking a day off to be in my daughter’s school during “book week” to come and explain to the kids what it means to be an author (which I did last week and where the picture is from.)

All the examples above are things I that I do to inspire more young people to become speakers/authors/thought leaders.

The funny things is that the more I do these projects, the more rewarding I find them. In one way, I feel them to be some of the most valuable and meaningful work that I do.

I do not care if you just started your speaking career or if you – like me – have been speaking for decades, there will always be a person with less experience than you. Someone who is looking to learn from you. Today my message in this post is: reach out to one of those people and help them.

Share your knowledge.
Teach someone less experienced.
Be a master.