Tag: How to become better as a speaker

Svanholmen Island, Sweden.

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As you might have noticed, it has been almost a full month since my last post.

The reason for my silence is that I have been very busy doing nothing.

Doing nothing work-related that is.

I have been very busy playing and enjoying life with my family on our island.

As a global speaker, I try to travel a lot around the world. Just last month before my 6+ weeks summer vacation, I was in Singapore, Norway, Brazil, Mexico, USA (twice), Canada, China and Germany.

But a lot of people get the impression that I work all the time. That is not true. Not at all.

I actually do less than half the number of speeches I used to do when I was a “local” speaker in Sweden.

My “record” was 199 speeches in one year, including one day when I did 4 speeches for 4 different clients in one day: 1 breakfast speech, one lunch speech, one afternoon speech and one evening speech.

Nowadays I will do between 60-80 keynote speeches per year.

Do not get me wrong. Going through that phase of delivering hundreds of speeches per year was great. I got those hundreds of speeches under my belt and got to learn how to deal with different audiences, different situations and different kinds of events.

But I am very happy I stopped speaking so much.

Not only is my private life 100 times more harmonious and relaxed, I also think that the quality of my speeches improved.

I became a better speaker because I wasn’t constantly speaking.

A good sign that you are doing too many speeches is that you are getting tired of hearing your own voice when you speak.

That is a sign that you are just doing the speech because someone booked you – not because you have a message that you want to get out.

If that happens to you: STOP! Take a break. Go on a vacation. Clear your calendar.

By making fewer speeches, I look forward to everyone of them. I feel grateful for the privilege to be paid to spread a message you believe in.

And a funny side effect is that I make more money now than when I did 199 speeches in one year.

Lesson: Getting your speaking career off the ground is very much like getting a plane to take off.

In the beginning, you have to increase the thrust but once you reach cruising altitude, it helps to pull back a little.

In other words, it helps to do as many speeches as possible for a few years to work yourself up to become a global speaker, but once you are there, it helps to reduce the number of speeches so that you can focus on getting the speeches that you really want to have. That will give you many years of high quality speeches to come.

I guess it is but fitting to describe the journey of a global speaker using the metaphor of a plane.

 

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Düsseldorf, Germany.

Today I attended a conference on metals and got a lesson on the importance of connecting to a higher purpose.

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Now, a “metal conference” might sound like an unlikely place to pick up anything that might be beneficial for a speaker. But if there is anything I have learnt in 20+ years as a speaker, it would be to understand that lessons are all around us.

My client today was Kanthal, a maker of heat resistant alloys. (One of their products can handle air as hot as 1200 C…)

They invited me to be the keynote speaker at their first annual “Innovation Award”. Before I went up on stage, the CEO of Kanthal gave a short speech on why Kanthal had introduced this award.

He explained how the world is entering a time of limited resources and how “conservation of limited resources” will become more important in the future. As a planet grows to 9 billion people within our life time, and as humans constantly crave for a better lifestyle, the demand for resources such as energy, water and food will continue to grow.

To help solve this challenge, Kanthal leads in creating alloys that can withstand very high temperatures, that in turn can create more energy efficient solutions.

Suddenly, the pitch for Kanthal was not about their alloys, but about offering products that will help us overcome our current overuse of the earth’s resources.

To appeal to a higher purpose is something that many companies are doing today because they understand that today’s clients and potential employees want companies to not only “exist” to make money or sell products.

And in no industry is this mission of “a higher purpose” more important than in the speaker industry.

Audiences do not want to hear about your ideas or your theories – they want a speaker to help them see the bigger picture. They want to be enlightened. They want to see the higher purpose.

I do not really talk about how to be a Truly Global Company, even if that is what the companies book me for, when they want me to give a speech based on my latest book “One World. One Company.” What I really talk about is the potential for mankind to become ONE. A world with no borders where we all work together for the benefit of us all.

Yes, that is a grand vision. But that is what we want from a speech.

You better make sure you have a message of a grand vision of your own in your speech – because people are (consciously or sub-consciously) going to be looking for it.

Lesson: What are you really speaking on? What is that bigger picture hidden in your talk?

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On a plane between San Francisco and Hong Kong.

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A journalist once commented to Princess Victoria of Sweden that it seemed that the princess was always so interested in the person sitting next to her at all the formal functions and meetings she has to go to.

The journalist asked her how she did it.

Princess Victoria replied: “My mother taught me that every person has an interesting story.”

She also said something like “it’s seems so boring to not be interested in the person next to you.”

I think that was great advice from the queen – and it is extra relevant advice for a speaker.

I am often asked how it is to go and speak for “boring companies”. I know what people mean with that question, but I have to say that I now think that there are no boring industries.

There are some industries that are super-interesting and fascinating – but there are no boring industries.

I recently did a talk for a company that does “O-rings”, arguably not a very flashy industry, but I learnt some really interesting things. After 15 years of speaking to virtually every industry you can imagine, from glue companies to makers of potato chips, I now know that every industry is fascinating. This is if you learn how to be curious by knowing how to look at something from different points of view and from your own perspective.

I am writing this post on a 14-hour intercontinental flight and I have just finished watching a documentary on the in flight entertainment system about a chili sauce.

Now, a documentary about a chili sauce might not sound super interesting, or like something that is connected to the themes I am speaking on – which are Business Creativity, Change and Having a Global Mindset.

But it was.

The documentary was about the Sriracha hot sauce that is right now taking the USA by storm. Its popularity has just exploded in the last few years and it has almost a cult following that is growing quickly. (If you do not know about the sauce, do some googling to find out what’s going on.)

I knew about the sauce through my brother-in-law in the USA who is a huge fan, but I learned some new interesting things by watching the documentary.

The sauce was created in 1987 by David Tran, a Vietnamese man of Chinese heritage who fled Vietnam as a boat refugee and who arrived in the USA with nothing. There, he started making his chili sauce and it since has grown by at least 20% every single year for almost 30 years, without ever advertising.

(Interesting Fact: He named his company Huy Fong Food after the name of the boat he spent 3.5 months on while trying to flee his home country.)

Now, they have a new factory that turns out more than 18,000 bottles per hour and they are still struggling to meet up with demand. Or in the words of Mr. Tang: “For the last 30 years, the economy went up and down. For me, I feel nothing. Every day, every month, the volume increases.”

What I did not know about the sauce was that the name “”Sriracha” was not trademarked by Huy Fong Food because it is actually a generic name of a chili sauce from a small town called Si Racha — in Thailand (!).

So let’s see: the hottest brand in hot sauces right now is founded by a Chinese-Vietnamese man, but is made in the USA, it originated in Thailand, and is most popular being used on Pasta and Pizza (Italian) and Spicy Tuna Sushi (Japanese).

This is a fun example of a product that has embraced the global possibilities of learning from and being inspired across borders.

Or as one person in the documentary said when talking about how many different Sriracha sauces are now being launched, “It’s a whole beautiful world out there.”

He was talking about a whole world of different chili sauces. But I think the quote is even better as a general statement: It’s a whole beautiful world out there. And products, companies – and people – should try to be inspired from anywhere they can.

Inspiration without borders is a nice slogan. And a good strategy. 😉

Lesson: Always collect examples that inspire yourself and which helps you develop the theme you speak on. In my case, it’s seeing the connection between a chili sauce and the value of having a global mindset. In yours?

P.S. I have to end by sharing a wonderful quote from the humble Mr. Tang. When others advised him that he would sell more bottles if the sauce was not so spicy, he replied: “No, a hot sauce has to be hot!” 😉

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