Tag: Life of a professional speaker

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After 20+ years as a professional speaker I have learnt that one of the most valuable things you can have as a speaker is interesting stories with a personal connection back to you.

In a world where you can find anything online the audience wants to hear interesting stories that are yours.

That means that as a speaker you have to practice the ability to collect interesting stories.

The word “interesting” means “Unusual or exciting in a way that keeps your attention”. So how do you find interesting stories.

The truth is that they are all around us.

Let me give you two examples from the last few days:


Two weeks ago I was attending a party in the home of a friend of mine and across from me at the table sat the neighbour of my friend and we start to chat. Turns out that this man – amongst many other things – has the keys to the very first nuclear reactor that was build in Stockholm in the 1950’s. He starts telling me about this amazing place and I get all drawn in to the story.

Turns out that Sweden build an experimental nuclear reactor 24 meters under the Royal Institute of Technology in the absolut center (!) of Stockholm…

A few days ago my friend, Boris, calls me and asks: “Would you like to see that reactor? We are going there tonight!”

I say “Of course!”  and a few hours later I am standing in the former reactor hall and it feels like I have been thrown back in time to the 1950’s – or to a James Bond movie.

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I learn about why Sweden created an experimental nuclear reactor, how the space is now a testbed for everything from drone research to music video production, and had an interesting discussion about how science had a much more prominent position in society back then.


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This morning I woke up on my island to find two naked men standing on the beach. Turns out that they had decided to swim to my island from land. The two were attending a conference on music therapy at Rönneberga, a nearby conference place.

We started talking and I got to know about how they use music in Spain to help drug addicts get rid of their addiction and how music therapy is being used in Russia. We also talk about how music therapy can help autistic children.

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Then they swam back to where they came from.

Two examples of unexpected meetings with strangers that led to interesting conversation about something I knew absolutely nothing about.

Now, will I use any of these stories in my speeches?

Perhaps not.

But that is not my point today. My point is to show that unexpected and interesting stories are everywhere – and as speakers we need to make it a habit to look for these stories, collect those stories, learn more about those stories.

And that means we have to be open to strangers, curious about others and interested in things we did not think we were interested in.

The word “stranger” comes from the word “strange” which original meaning is ““outside of”.

Talking about music therapy for Spanish drug addicts with a naked man who swims into your island on a Sunday morning might seem “strange” – but not in a negative way, but in a positive way as in “leaning something outside of what I already know.”

And visiting an abandoned nuclear power plant from the 1950’s where they are doing drones research might be “strange”, –  but not in a negative way, but in a positive way as in “leaning something outside of what I already know.”

What strange things will you learn from a stranger today that you might be able to use as a story in one of your speeches?


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(Most of posts on ProfessionalSpeaking.com are about how to become better as a speaker. A few are about the life of a professional speaker. This post is mostly about the later.)

One of the best perks of being a professional speaker is all the interesting people you get to meet in your job.

The people who get selected to speak at conferences are the people that the event managers think has the best message for the audience, and the people that the event manager think that the audience really would like to hear from. Either way that means it will be interesting people with interesting stories/messages.

And as a speaker you automatically get a connection to the other speakers. (I have shared the stage, and gotten to talk to, some amazing people over the years. like Hans Rosling, Seth Godin, Richard Branson and many, many more.)

But a bonus effect of being a speaker is that interesting people also reach out to you.

This week, for example, I have been on vacation on my island in Sweden and yet I got to meet an AI expert and a space designer.

a) Lars Sjölund is running “AI Stockholm” and have been working with Artificial Intelligence for many years (way before it became the hottest topic in business). He has, for example, developed a logarithm to have a machine read thousands of x-ray images to learn how to detect brain cancer. We sat on the dock and he asked me about speaking globally and I asked him about the future of AI.

b) Cecilia Hertz has been a space designer for 17 years and developed everything from yogurt for astronauts  to interior for spaceships. We sat on the dock and she asked me about speaking globally and I asked her about innovation in space.

(Bonus Perk: When my kids got to meet a “real life space woman” and Cecilia gave them “astronaut ice-scream” (freeze-dried Ice-scream that they eat in space) they got “star-struck” (should that be “space-struck”?) and I scored many points on the “coolest dad around-o-meter” because I was friends with “a space woman”. 😉

Two fascinating and interesting meetings – while I am on vacation.

As speakers we get flung into an orbit with very many interesting people – use this fact to connect with other speakers and learn more about the fascinating topics that got them to speak. It might give you ideas for future speeches, and it is guaranteed to make your day more interesting.



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The conference I was speaking at in Paris yesterday got a bit delayed which meant my speech ended a bit later than planned. Then there were more traffic than I had anticipated to get to the airport in Paris so when I finally got to the airport it was 5 minutes left until boarding started (and I still had to get through security etc).

Luckily I had printed out my boarding card so it was ok to arrive at the airport 30 minutes AFTER check-in had closed. But that meant that my bag could not make it.

I asked my driver to take the bag back with him to my Paris hotel and grabbed my carry-on to rush through security to get to my flight.

What is the lesson here?

If you are going to check in luggage make sure that all the things you need for your speech is in your carry on.  A bag is just a bag and DHL can get it to you later. But you have to make that speech. And that means you have to make that flight – even if you have to leave your bag behind.

This post written when I am happily arrived in Malta.

(PS. Yes, there was a back-up flight that would have been able to take me to Malta in time for my speech today, but that would have had me on flights more or less all night and taken me to Tunisia for the connection to Malta which would have meant sleeping on planes and airports and arriving in Malta 1 hour before the flight, so not a very desirable Plan B, better than to leave the bag behind and get on that flight without it.)