Tag: How to become better as a speaker

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For the first ten years of my professional speaking career I hardly spent time with other speakers. I looked at them as competitors, and really could not see why they would be interested in helping me out, or what they could be teaching me.

I was young and naive.

The last ten years I have been spending a lot of time learning from other speakers, but also in helping other speakers grow.
As the current president of Asia Professional Speakers Singapore (APSS. WWW.AsiaSpeakers.org) I am spending a lot of free time helping to develop the professional speaking industry in Asia.

Here are some of the things I did in the month of November:


In November I had 27 (twenty seven!) one-on-one meetings with speakers who either wanted help to become better as speakers or where I thought they could teach me something – often if was of course a little bit of both.

Most of these meetings where live, some where on Skype.

I also, in November:

Helped organised and attended the CSP Academy (CSP stands for “Certified Speaking Professional”) a two day event where I learnt from two fellow CSP’s (Brenda Bence and Tom Abbott.)
Helped organise and attended the APSS Monthly Meeting where I learnt from Raymond Miranda and Simone de Haas
Helped organise and attended the play “Guards of the Taj” together with 20 other speakers where we first watched the play and then got to meet and learn from the actors after the play.

The business of speaking is one of those industries where you really do not have competitors, but more like “external peers” – other people excited about spreading a message to humanity, and more than interested in learning from others in order to move the whole industry forward.

I have learnt about how to make my voice better, about how to spread a message wider, about how to tell stories, about how to structure a speech. And I have helped many, many speakers this month find their inner theme, helped them write their book, find their speaking topic, develop their business, structure their speech and many, many other things.

A few times I charged for it. Most time I did not.
My Inner Theme is “Humanity to the Power of Ideas”, that means that I believe i the Potential of Humanity and in the Power of Ideas. And that, in turn, means that is is part of my Inner Theme to help other speakers find and spread their message to as many people as possible.

If you are a speaker, connect with other speakers and help develop each other’s speaking business and speeches.

I promise that it will make you a better speaker. I also promise that it will make you a better person.

Now, perhaps you do not think you have time to do 27 one-on-one meetings with other speakers in one month while helping to organise 3 speaker events. Perhaps you think you are too busy building a speaking career. But then consider that I spoke in 18 different countries on 5 different continents in 2018. Without having any staff.

I am going to say that helping other speakers is a way to help yourself grow as a speaker. And when you grow as a speaker your business will grow too.

(But that doesn’t mean I am recommending that all speakers do what I did in November every month. You do it the way you want to do it. But I hope this post has inspired you to consider working closer with other speakers to learn from each other to help you develop your trade. It will make you grow.)

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When do you show up to a speech if you speak at 4 PM?

Well for me the answer last week was: “The day before.”

I was invited to be the last and closing keynote speaker at the business school IMD conference in Singapore with delegates flying in from all over the world for a 5 day program.

I decided to come in the day before to listen to the last speaker of the day: Rob Lilwall.

Rob is a great speaker and I always learn things from listening to him, but I was not there to listen to him, I was there to observe the audience. By sitting in the back I could observe how the audience reacted to Rob’s stories, humor and examples.

  • Is this a group that has a sense of humor?
  • If you ask a question, will they answer?
  • Are they sceptical or open to learn?
  • And so on…

It’s not always practically possible to attend the conference the day before you speak.  But when it is, it’s always a good idea to do it. (I also got a sense of how the energy level was during a full day of training.)

Filled with knowledge about the audience that I could not have gotten in any brief, I could go home and put the final touches to my keynote.

Nothing beats “field research” on the actual audience you are going to speak to. So if you can, go “spy” on them in advance.

ps. There was another reason that I chose to come one day early to listen in:

IMD has been ranked the “#1 Open Program World Wide” 7 years in a row by Financial Times.

So to get to attend one day of great learning from the best program in the world was a nice perk.

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Short version:

This week I did three speeches for three different audiences. One went much worse than the other two. Why? Because I got off on the wrong foot with the audience, and because I let that affect my delivery.

Remember: It is not about you – it is about the speech – BUT it is about you and the audience. So make sure you love the audience before you go up on stage, and make sure they can feel it.

Long version:

This week I did three speeches for three different audiences: One for business leaders in Kiev, Ukraine, one for a group of global managers of Hitachi and one for a group of teachers in Singapore. Three totally different assignments with different goals from the clients.

One of the three speeches went much worse than the other two. Why? Because I got off on the wrong foot with the audience, and because I let that affect my delivery.

I opened the speech for the teachers with a line that I have used many times for teachers, but I got the wording wrong this time and it came out harsher than it was intended (It was intended as a way to build rapport, but I said it wrong and the audience took it as a rude or insensitive comment. I was a stupid thing to do, but instead of correcting myself I just kept going thinking I could “salvage” the situation later on.

But the damage was done.

And when I later did an audience interaction where I could feel that the group was not engaged, I did the mistake of feeling disappointed by the lack of engagement that I got, instead of seeing it as a sign that I had to change approach with the group.

Basically I got off on the wrong foot with the the audience by not being 100% present in the room to be ready to connect with the audience with love from the start. That created the situation where I communicated my message with a bad choice of words, which created a distance with the audience.

It’s ironic that the speech that went less well was done in a conference room that was named “LOVE”! (As soon as I came out of the room and saw the name of the room, I took a picture of the sign to remind myself to always approach any audience with a loving mind.)

Remember: It is not about you – it is about the speech – BUT it is about you and the audience. As a speaker we are just containers for the message, but as speakers we are also humans. And a group full of people in an audience will decide if they want to listen to the message partly based on how they feel about the person delivering it.

We might just be containers for the message, but there is a reason why producers of liquids such as beer or wine put such effort into designing the bottle…

Make sure you love the audience before you go up on stage, and make sure they can feel it. It will make the more open to hear your message.