Tag: How to become better as a speaker

I have heard many speakers give the advice that the best way to connect with an audience is to pick ONE person in the audience and speak to her. To lock in eye-contact with the one person in the room that looks the happiest to be there.

The argument is that by getting good vibes from that one person will spread to the rest of the group, and if you just speak too a big mass of non-identified bodies, then you will not communicate the same intimate feeling from the stage that you would get if you connect with one person.

I am not a big fan of that advice.

First of all I think you should scan the audience for as many facial expressions as possible. Look for happy faces, sad faces, angry faces, bored faces. It will tell you how the audience is feeling. And If you are going to have a conversation with a group of people you need to know how the group is feeling.

(Identifying the “happy face” in the audience might put you in a totally wrong mood if the rest of the audience is very stressed, for example. (Let’s say most of the audience just lost their job for example, then connecting with the happy person who got to keep his job might be the totally wrong thing to do.)

So do not pick one person to speak to – speak to the whole group. (and try to get eye contact with as many people as possible as you do that.)

Now having said that, I do think you should speak specifically to one person in the group. And that is the person who booked you.

Very often the person who recommended me to the speaker committee will be in the room when I give the speech. That is the person I speak to.

Because that is the person who went out on a limb to get me to speak.

If I screw up, then he (or she) is toast.
If I do a great speech, then that person reaps the rewards.

The very best review you can get as a speaker is when the person who recommended you comes back to you and says: “Everyone came up to me and asked: where did you find this guy!?”

It is not every time that you will know who recommended you to speak, but if you find out who it was, then make an effort to be introduced to that person and make sure you do a separate “speaker brief” with him or her.

Why did he (or she) think that you would be a great fit for this conference?
What did he (or she) like about your speech the last time they heard you?
Is there anything this person thinks that you should know about the audience?

To it right and you will deliver a great speech to the one person who thought you would be perfect for this conference. And by doing that there is a very big chance that the rest of the audience will like the speech too.

Lesson: Who got you the speech? Find that person. Learn from that person. Speak to that person (Both before the speech, and then speak TO that person when you are delivering your speech.) and you will be a hit.

Today I got one such email. It read.

“People loved Fredrik’s speech. Many of them kept asking me how we got him as he is so unique and got a very special sense of humour. Our Summit ended on a high note because of Fredrik”.

Mission accomplished.

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Every professional speaker has a knee jerk reaction to the (very common) question: “What do you speak on?”

But not every professional speaker has the answer to the much more important question: “Why do you speak?”

Today I did a coaching session with Eric Feng, who is a very talented and extremely ambitious speaker.

Eric is doing a lot of things right in his speaking career and has achieved much more at a relatively young age than many much older speakers.

But he met with me because he wanted help to decide on which topic he should focus on (he speaks on a few different topics at the moment, like public speaking, business presentations, charisma).

Or that is what he THOUGHT he wanted to discuss with me.

But instead we decided to go deeper.

In a 2-hour long session I helped him to look inside himself to understand why he decided to be a speaker in the first place.

I wanted to get to his core. Find the theme that defines who he is.

Your Core Theme is not the theme that you sell to your clients, it MIGHT not even be a theme that you communicate to your clients.
Your Core Theme is for yourself.

It’s your guiding light that reminds you why you get up in the morning, why you have this urge to communicate.

I have to admit that during the middle of the session with Eric we were struggling. We were getting close, but for some reason we were not able to get deep enough.

Then Eric, in passing, told me a story about how he, as a kid, had stayed late in school and pretended that he was the teacher to teach himself a little bit more. He had this burning desire to teach.

When his class mates asked him why was he talking to himself, he replied “I am teaching myself”.

And when his classmates then replied “Can you teach us too?”  he started his mini remedial classes in school.

As a young child Eric was already passionate about not only his own learning, but also the learning potential of his peers!

When I heard him passionately tell that story I knew that we had found it, or should i say “rediscovered” it.

The reason he speaks is because he has a passion for the potential of Learning and Development within All Humans.

That is Eric’s Core Theme.

Not “public speaking, business presentations, charisma”, those are “just” themes he speaks on.

When Eric found his “Core Theme” everything he does in his speaking business became clearer. His vision, his priorities, his focus.

And that is why it so important to find it.

My Core Theme is not official. By that I mean that I do not openly communicate it to others. But I have one, and it has guided me in all the decisions I have made in my speaking career for the last 15 years.

It’s like a compass, and when you have one it will lead you in the right way.

Judging from the email I got from Eric after our session, he appreciated the value of going into the core. 🙂

He wrote: “Thank you so much for taking the time to walk me through the process. This conversation will definitely be a turning point in my career. You helped me get clear of what matters most and for that I’m grateful.”

Question: What is your Core Theme? Why do you speak? I am much more interested in finding out that answer from a speaker than hearing what he or she speaks on.


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Some speakers have the X-factor. That thing that makes the audience just fall in love with them even before the speaker opens his mouth.

One of the most extreme examples of that that I have experienced was when I was speaking at the same conference as Matti Bergström.

Professor Bergström is a Finish brain scientist, who focuses on children’s creativity and play. He looks like Gandalf and sounds like your favourite grand-dad.

The audience just melt when he is on stage talking about the need to let children develop their ability to play.

I shared a taxi with him after the conference and asked if he was aware of himself having this unique likability ability.

He smiled and told me that he had once done a speech in Stockholm and after 20 (!) minutes of speaking someone in the audience had finally raised his hand and said “I am so sorry, professor Bergström, but you are giving your speech in Finnish…”

(For you who do not know, Swedish and Finnish are TOTALLY different languages!)

The audience has been so mesmerised by the professor that the audience would not let the fact that they did not understand a single world of what he had said interrupted their experience!

It’s hard to pin down what creates this “x-factor” but the speakers who possess it has been blessed with a gift.

But speakers who have this ability also risk developing content that is less powerful. (It falls into the same category as the beautiful girls in school who doesn’t have to try so hard because she gets whats she wants in life thanks to her beauty.)

Today I coached a speaker whom I personally think has the potential to become  one of the world’s biggest speakers.

His “likability factor” is through the roof and as soon as they see him on stage the audience connects with him as if their long-lost best friends just stepped into the room. After hearing him speech audiences will give him raving reviews. But when you do a print out of his content and go through his current content word by word it becomes apparent that it is actually quite weak. Most people do not notice, because they liked the speaker so much.

There are three kinds of speakers:

1) Weak speakers with Weak content.

2) Strong speakers with Strong content

3) Weak speakers with Strong content


4) Strong speakers with Weak content.

The person I coached today was obviously in the last category.

The good news is that can easily be fixed.

It is probably easier to fix “weak content” than “weak speaker” – and when Mr X with the X-factor whom i worked with today gets his new speech done and the content is as good as his delivery it will be one hell of a speech that will probably end up at TED.com and get millions of views.

Which brings us to you:

Which kind of speaker are you?

If 1) – then you have a lot of work to do. Get to it! 🙂

If 2) : then congratulations (I hope you were honest with yourself when you came to that conclusion…)

If 3) : Your biggest challenge is discovering your true speaking style – something that can be very difficult, but will be very rewarding if you take the time to do it


If 4) Ask yourself if you are really speaking on the subject that you should be speaking on. There is a big chance that the reason you do not have good enough content is that you are not passionate enough about the topic.

After a few hours of talking through his current speeches and discussing what he is really passionate about we, together, unlocked the theme he should be speaking on. I can not wait to hear that speech.

I think the speaker was happy too. He just messaged me: “Thank you Fredrik. I am brimming with ideas after seeing you.”

Lesson: Understand which is your weaker side: your speaking style or your speaking content. Then work on fixing it.