This has been a hot topic at quite a number of Speaker conventions and a topic that has caused much debate over the years. If you look at our profession and how it has changed over the last few years, keeping it real has taken a back seat.
Today speakers are popping up left and right, and the market in many countries has become over saturated. Anyone that has presented a TV program, or won a medal in a sporting event is now suddenly entering the speaking market.
Although they create a 'short term' impact on the industry, many do not last and it's always the old hands that plod along and seem to make a success though good and bad times.
This poses the question - what makes the successful speakers different from the others? Many factors come into play here, but in my opinion, it's those speakers that 'keep it real.'
What do I mean by this?
I tend to only speak about personal experiences and try relating my stories to 'everyone out there.' I find that if I 'connect' with my audience and they can relate in their own lives to what I am saying, then my message is far more powerful than hyping them up for an hour with 'feel good' stories which they forget after a few days.
This brings me to my entry into the profession. I started my career as an entertainer (Comedy Magician) travelling the world at corporate events; on cruise liners, expeditions, etc. As it happened, I had quite a few unique experiences and my own success story stemming from a belief in myself. Being a social animal, many corporate executives would chat to me after an event and be fascinated by my life story. It is them that planted the seed in my mind of becoming an inspirational keynote speaker.
My initial reaction when clients would suggest this to me is that I didn't believe in the 'ra ra' hype of the motivational speakers I knew of. They were like TV Evangelists for me, revving up a crowd with shallow 'feel good' words, and made lots of money doing this.
I have always been an ethical person, and this went completely against my principles. I tend to be someone that practices what he preaches and couldn't see myself lying to people like that. As is, I was a magician who was 'deceiving' my audience through clever sleight of hand. But at least I told them I was deceiving them, and in an entertaining way too. There was no way I could go out and do something similar, while manipulating their emotions.
Eventually, after a few years of literally every client telling me to tell my life story, I decided to do it. However, I would do it my way, or not at all.
I distinctly remember many bureaus, agents and speakers laughing at me. In fact the beginning years were tough, as hype was the in thing.
Today I look back at those times and those speakers. Few if any are still speaking. Suddenly companies changed their philosophy. They now wanted measurable, practical sustainable life skills which employees could implement immediately. They needed their attendees to be able to connect with the speaker and be given useable and attainable tips. But most of all their focus shifted from an entertaining 'feel good' seminar to something that was real and would change the future focus of the company in a realistic positive manner.
I heard a great saying in April 2010 at the Professional Speaker Association conference in Holland. One of the speaker said, "When you are young, you're a 'Go Getter.' When you get older, you become a 'Go Giver.'
That basically sums up my philosophy. If you want to speak, then it must be an 'inner calling' and you must care deeply about humanity. Above all, your audience must be able to identify this trait the minute you walk onto stage. They must see a sincere human being who cares for others and whom they can relate to in their own lives.
If you can do this, then they will listen and respect what you have to say. I look back at how I started - I reached my dreams and was successful in my career, but something was missing. Entertaining the masses and making them laugh wasn't enough? I had reached a stage in my life where I need to become a 'Giver.'
Thus, wherever you are in your speaking career, you need to first ask yourself the question, "Why are you a speaker?"
Is it the glamour of the lifestyle?
Is it the high keynote fees?
Is it the celebrity lifestyle of living in planes and hotels?
Maybe you just enjoy people applauding you?
Or is it the reason you get up in the morning?
Lets be realistic here. You haven't chosen the easiest career on earth. If anything, speaking offers you no security and every time there is a global recession, companies cut down and training and motivation.
You may have just won a sports competition, or become the new 'Big Brother' champion. But in a year or two you will be 'old news.' What happens then? Right now you may not be able to keep up with bookings, and everyone thinks you are the greatest.
Have you got a long-term strategic plan, or are you just going with the flow?
Is your keynote only topical now during the World Cup Football? What happens afterwards?
There is a reason I pose all these questions. You see, if you are truly passionate about speaking and really care about others, then your whole approach to speaking will be different from the person that is just milking the system while the good times last and riding on recent events which have put them into the limelight.
This is where the term, keeping it 'real' comes into play.
Let's be honest here, none of us are saying anything that is new and which will profoundly change the world we live it. Nothing is unique to you only. We all talk about attaining our goals and being open to change.
So what makes you different?
What makes the audience believe your story over someone else's story?
It's all about 'how' you tell your story!
The only thing that distinguishes your message from someone else, is how 'real' the audience perceive your message to be.
Please understand that I am not knocking the sport or celebrity speakers. For one moment, think objectively and think about the 'masses out there.' Yes a gold medallist Olympic winner is an inspiration to everyone. But can everyone become an Olympic gold medallist? No!
However, if a mechanic from a middle class family can become a huge national success with services centres throughout the country, many more people can relate to this person. He or she is more 'real' than the 'A' list Hollywood actor.
Whether you want to accept this or not - most people cannot relate to your story about the trouble you had on your intercontinental flight and how you overcame it. Most have never been in a plane. All they care about is putting food on the table and making their pay check last until end of the month. Most people we talk to are the employees at big companies. They work for a fixed salary. They do not live in the environment that we as speakers are exposed to. Yes they may be living it up and partying the whole night through at the conference. But they only attend one conference a year. We speak at ten per month. They live in a different reality to us!
This is where many speaker make the mistake of not connecting with their audience. They are living in an unrealistic reality.
Thus, when one speaks about keeping it 'real', your message has to resonate with the person sitting in front of you - the average middle class man and woman in the street. If you can connect with them, and they can see themselves in your shoes and believe that they have the same potential as you - then you can bring about change.
By no means am I saying that you cannot use your unique experiences, however, you have to find a common ground, which makes your audience connect with you.
Let me take a personal example. I was part of an expedition in the Arctic where we ran aground and could have died. Where we experienced temperatures of minus 40 degrees. 99.9% of people on this earth have not and will most probably never go to the Arctic. It's an awesome story, but hardly anyone can connect to this on an emotional level, never mind it changing their lives.
But, if I tell the story briefly, to give background, and then ask my delegates to imagine themselves, within their own frame of mind, in that situation where one possibly only had an hour left to live. I expand on that asking them to imagine that they must imagine the hotel they are in now was the size of the ship. That they have not contacted their loved ones at all in the last ten days. Now they realise they have maybe an hour left to live - what would go on in their minds?
Suddenly I have taken my unique story, made it 'real' by relating it to their circumstances, and now have the possibility to tap into their emotional state of being and shocking them into making the most of every moment and not taking family, friends and co-workers for granted.
There are three factors that come into play here.
1. I experienced this event myself, so I can tell the story with conviction, emotion and realism which the audience can feel through my body language.
2.) A bonus factor is that I have gained credibility with my audience as through the use of photos/videos etc. they see I really was there.
3.) Because I am 're-living' the real event with them, I am baring my soul to the audience. I am instilling a level of trust in them by sharing my most personal thoughts.
Don't you agree that because of this they are far more likely to 'connect' with me than if I was just relaying someone else's story?
Fair enough, not everyone has novel stories like this. But you don't need them! I have spoken about relating to the average person 'out there.' Sit down and brainstorm what issues these people may have.
The majority of people have financial problems. Many people know someone that owes them money, or have been done in by a scam on some sort. Who hasn't?
Odds are you have too. Tell your audience about it. Share the thought that went through your mind - odds are they will have had similar thoughts! Now you're keeping it real!
Here's another personal example. Many of us have a horror story about building our own home, or having work done to our homes where contractors have disappeared with our money. This happened to me to. In fact when it did happen to me, I paid someone to look for the contractor and beat them up. Guess what - this person also ran away with my money! If I am right, you are smiling now. Why? You can relate to it. Most people would love to get their own back if someone did them in. But various moral or other reasons stop them from doing this. Suddenly here's a guy on stage that talks about what everyone would have loved to do, and then got caught again. Everyone can laugh and relate to it. I have bared my soul. I have shown I am a 'real' person with the same thoughts and feelings as them. I also do stupid things. Now they look at me and are suddenly glad they never attempted to pay someone to get their own back. I have connected with my audience on a totally deeper level.
Now I can talk to them about the lessons I learnt and share this with them. Why one shouldn't hate, why one should take responsibility for one's own actions, etc. Odd's are they will take so much more home with them from this, compared to me just telling them that one shouldn't hate and one should take responsibility for ones own actions.
Get my point?
I am keeping it 'real' for everyone out there!
This is an extract from my book: Tips for Speakers, available at www.mindpowerpublications.com
This may sound like an obvious point, but it is the most common mistake new speakers make. How can you attempt to share skills with people you don't know? They may be at a more advanced level than you think, and they think the company is playing a joke on them when you are on stage. If you are a sales guru, you cannot talk about marketing strategies to the cleaning staff. If your message is partially new age and based on the laws of the universe, the local Christian ladies club won't receive you very well! Got it? No matter who books you, you need to find out as much as you can about the group of people you are speaking to. If you know it's the entire staff of a company, across the floor and they are looking for general inspiration, fine. But, if you specialise in strategic planning and will be speaking to a group of sales reps, you need to know whether they are part of this planning process, or spend most of the time on the road.
Are they MBA students? What is their age group? Younger people may just have completed their studies, are well informed and eager to please. An older group may be more set in their ways and not open to changing their way of thinking. Or it could be completely reversed - the older group may be brilliant futurists with a track record second to non and be lecturing at the local college part time, while the youngsters are still wet behind the ears. If you get this wrong, your talk can bomb. Beside speaking to the client and finding out as much as you can, do a search on the internet and read up on the company, their history and their vision. This gives you important insight into their corporate mindset. I find it a good idea to get to the function a bit earlier, even the day before. Meet with the delegates and get to know them. This gives me all the insight I need into their current knowledge base, how they think, what they think of their company, etc. This even allows me to personalise my keynote and go that extra mile.
Often you may be the last speaker on the bill. If you can arrive at the venue earlier, sit in on a few internal speaker sessions by the marketing director, financial director, etc. This gives you so much insight into who the company is and where they are heading. 99% of the time you can refer back to what the financial director said and build on points he/she made. Guess who is going to be on your side and give you a good endorsement? Stay away from any humour or issues that can offend someone. Remember, you only need to offend one person in an audience of a thousand people. This could be the wife of the CEO. No one will talk about the good points you made, but about how you angered the boss' wife! Get my point? Some politician may just have appeared on the front-page headlines of the newspaper for corruption and deserves to be bad mouthed, but for all you know it's the brother of someone in the audience.
The best lesson I ever learnt was in the USA where people are very conscious of this. A comedian friend told me to never tell jokes about a certain group, religion or culture. Rather tell an 'idiot' joke, because no one will complain that they are an idiot! In many respects it seems quite complicated as to what you can and can't say. I always follow the rule of thumb that if anything can be hurtful to anyone in any way stay clear from it. It is way to easy to pick on someone or some group of people and speakers let it slip all to easily. The safest for me is to turn everything on myself. If I am going to criticise someone, or pass a sarcastic comment, I always turn it on myself. Why? We have all done stupid things - use those as examples.
I don't offend anyone.
I come across as more human.
others can then see those traits in themselves and relate to it. And best of all, it teaches me to laugh at myself too!
This is an extract from my book: Tips for Speakers, available at www.mindpowerpublications.com
I have lost count of the number of events I have spoken at where the stage is 6 foot high and the audience are seated 20 meters away. Spotlights are blinding me and the audience is in darkness. The event company has spent thousands on the staging, and I suddenly tell the technicians to put the house lights on, while I walk off stage into the audience.
You cannot connect with an audience if you don't see them! Why don't event companies understand this? Make sure that in your brief with a client, you make it clear that you need you need eye contact with the delegates.
I am not a preacher standing on a pedestal. If I want to openly communicate with an audience and 'connect' with them, I must have contact with them. This is impossible if they are meters away from me and I am standing on a high platform.
Don't get me wrong, a good speaker can still make a success of this set-up, and the keynote can still be great. But, I WILL connect better with my audience and leave a longer lasting impression if I can see and touch them.
2.) There have been many theories on how to make eye contact so that everyone in the audience feels you are talking to them directly. Some people say you need to look in a general direction, focus on someone in the middle of that group and then look left, right, in front and behind that person while talking. This gives the impression that you are talking to everyone there.
This works, but I find that I actually make a point of looking at everyone in his or her eyes. I alternate between left, right, front and back of the room. Hence the importance of having light on the audience. If there is an isle in the centre, I will walk down that isle towards the back and move around the room.
By being able to see the faces, you can see whether they are looking at you! You can see who is tweeting on Twitter. You can see who is sleeping! You can judge quite clearly whether you are capturing your audience.
3.) When making an important point, stand still. Movement is for general conversation and overviews. How can you expect an audience to grasp the importance of a point if you are bouncing up and down? Similarly body language and hand movements are important here. Standing rigid and expressionless is not going to convince anyone that they must take heed of what is being said. Hence I find that when I speak from personal experience and from the heart, my emotions naturally move my hands. Thus my actions truly follow my emotions. I have seen many speakers who try and convince an audience of a point, but their body movement doesn't follow their emotion. Afterwards they complain they didn't connect with the audience. Duh! Not everyone out there is dumb. They can see that your body language is not mimicking what your are saying. Hence the opening chapter of 'keeping it real.'
There are tons of courses and advice out there on how to stand, when to point, never to put your hands in your pockets, etc. I firmly believe that these are all courses designed for speakers who are delivering a choreographed presentation with no heart. Plus they are so focused on what to do with their hands; they are not connecting with the audience. If what you do is from deep within, everything else will come naturally. There is no 7 point system of rules for successful speaking. There is only ONE - keep it real! Then everything else follows naturally.
Do yourself a favour and look at some of the old hands in the business. Many of them will sit on a small stool, or bar chair and chat with their audience in a relaxed manner. Try suggesting this to some Speaking Academy instructors - they'll do their nut. Yet, these 'old hands' come across far better and their messages are still effective.
Why - they are comfortable with who they are. There are no pretences. Here we go again... they are keeping it 'real.'
4.) Anyone that has been in the industry for a long time will know of Dottie Walters's book, 'Speak and Grow Rich.' If you don't have it, buy it!
The best piece of advice to me, which she shares is, "Do your talk 100 times before charging for it."
I can write a book on how to cope with nerves. I can give tons of advice on how to enhance your presentation and give you hundreds of tips. All the above can be solved with Dottie Walters's advice - Do it at least 100 times!
Just be honest with yourself here. The first time you have done a talk, what happens? You drive back from the gig, or sit back at home and go through it in your mind. Suddenly you have all these thoughts on how you could have done it better! Be honest, I am right here. Why do you have those thoughts?
Because you didn't do it to the best of your ability! Why? Because you didn't rehearse it enough in front of a live audience? Rehearsing a keynote in your living room 100 times is TOTALLY different from doing it live!
Fair enough, reality is different from theory. You have an old client who begs you to do a talk on a new topic. To keep the client happy you spend days working on it and pull it off successfully.
I have been in this situation myself. My experience in the industry gives me the insight and nerve to get away with it. The audience think it is great and everyone is happy. But, and this is a huge but! If I am totally honest with myself, then I know I could have done it 100 times better. The few times I have given in to such a scenario; I always want to kick myself afterwards. I tend to rely on too much older material as fillers and a buffer to pull it off. I always think I could have done it differently afterwards.
If I look at the Keynote in my package that rocks, the one I can do in my sleep and where I know to the second what reaction I will pull from an audience - it's the one I have been doing the longest. It's that one I have done a few hundred times. It's the talk that is brilliant. It's my bread and butter talk.
Thus, if you want a great talk, you need to do it for everyone and anyone over a period of a few months. I can guarantee you that the talk you end with WILL BE vastly different in structure and content from the one you started with. It WILL be simpler, have fare more focused.
I have often been at conferences where laptops have packed up. In fact once in my life, three crashed one after the other. (That's why I use Apple Mac today - another tip!) Most of the speakers at the day conference duffed out completely - they couldn't read their points off their slides.
Hallo! Smell the roses! If you need crib notes and pointers to do your talk - you should not be charging for it. When you have done it a hundred times, you can do it in your sleep!
I am amazed at how often I see speakers do a full rehearsal of their talk at a conference, or want to blame the sound and lighting technician that they died on stage because they claim their sound was bad. I have seen speakers use a common humorous video clip in their presentations that wouldn't play, and their whole talk died from that point on.
Then when I sincerely comment that I feel they didn't know their talk, I am told I have an attitude! It has nothing to do with attitude. It has to do with stop being naive and to offer a value for money service. If your laptop hasn't crashed on you, if you haven't experienced a power failure, if a microphone hasn't died on you - IT'S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME! It WILL happen!
Will you be able to cope? If not, I strongly suggest that you go rehearse your speech.
I have spoken to delegates in a pub, standing on a table with people all around me, in a restaurant. In fact I have spoken standing on top of Dune 7 (the biggest sand dune in southern Africa with people sitting around me. One of the most awesome experiences was standing in the Kruger National Park with the delegates sitting around a fire. The Landrover spots were my lighting, and lions where roaring in the bush behind me.
It's one of the most awesome talks I ever did. I had no technical support whatsoever, and was competing with the scenery and lions around me. Why did I handle all the above situations? Because I know my talk inside out. The PowerPoint/Keynote slides are a bonus - that's all they are. They do not make or break my talk. It's me who does. Do I connect with my audience? Do I relate to them? Do I make eye contact? Do I watch their reactions to what I say? YES!
And I can only do this when my talk is imbedded in my subconscious. I don't even have to think about what I am going to say next. It is part of who I am. Of course what also makes it easier is that I talk about personal real life experiences - so nothing has been learnt parrot fashion. It's about me and how my story can help you. Therefore, even though I know it pat off, I still bring across the real emotion of every story. But I have the confidence not to worry about what I am going to say next, which enables me to make that eye contact, read my audience and feed off them. Because it's my story and I know it so well, I can therefore also adapt and adjust it to suit the needs and mood of my audience.
I trust you see that I am not talking about me; I am trying to put a perspective on how important it is to 'know' your talk. It's only once you are comfortable with your presentation that no matter what happens, you will be able to handle it 100%!
5.) Speak clearly and be aware of accents.
Granted, due to Hollywood, everyone understands Americans. However, there are some of us that have grown up in different parts of the world, and we have an accent. Many years ago I was very conscious of this and spent a long time attending elocution lessons in order to lessen my strong South African accent. (That's where I learnt English.) The funny thing is, when I am home in Germany for a few months and dreaming in German, I have a German English accent. How's that!
If you have an accent of any sort, I have learnt that you should use it to your advantage. If you are speaking in a country where everyone sounds the same, suddenly you are different - that's a plus factor and makes people more interested in you, plus they become more attentive.
However, because you have an accent, you MUST speak a bit slower and clearer and concentrate on the correct pronunciation of all your words. Give the delegates a chance to get used to your dialect. This will take a good ten to fifteen minutes. If your dialect is too strong, you will lose them and their brains will tire from concentrating to understand you. Hence the importance of speaking clearly - then the accent becomes a pleasant one and the audience understands you better.
6.) I have spoken to more dead mics than an Irish undertaker! What happens when your microphone dies on you? Do you panic? Or is your voice strong enough to project while the sound technician does the panicking?
Practice projecting your voice and become comfortable with speaking loudly without it being forced. Voice artists will teach you this and it is some of the best money you can spend to improve your skills.
7.) When you are nervous, you tend to speak too fast. The same applies to not knowing your topic. Back to the 100 times story! When you know what you are talking about, you are more relaxed and you speak slowly and more clearly. Be very aware of this and learn to speak at a comfortable speed for the majority of the delegates listening. As soon as you speak too fast you become unclear.
Think about when you are talking one on one to someone else. How is your speech then? This is called a conversational style of speaking. If you can aim for this, then you should be fine speaking to a larger group.
In the same vein, emphasise important words. Be enthusiastic about important points. This will change the tone, intensity and energy of your voice and keep the talk interesting.
8.) NEVER read off a talk. We have enough politicians who bore us with that style. If you are getting paid for a talk, make sure you know it in your head. I know many speakers have crib notes and maybe some catch words on the podium as a back up. My question to you is, "Do you want to be a mediocre speaker or a great speaker?" Greatness is only possible if you know what you are doing and are comfortable doing it. Back to the 100 time issue once again!
9.) Have a logical flow in your keynote. There is nothing worse than a speaker hopping between topics and referring back to previous points, or saying that he will clarify a current point later. Planning your talk is the most important thing ever. It must have a logical flow. Most of the time when someone tells me they find it difficult to learn their talk - it's because it is illogical and doesn't make sense. How can you expect an audience to follow you if you have difficulty yourself?
10.) Lay an open foundation for your talk. Like everything in life, the planning phase is the most crucial. You need to have a talk that you can tailor design for a client as you are walking onto stage. The client must be able to tell you backstage that you are talking to a bunch of medical sales reps, and you must be able to walk onto stage, wowing them with the fact that they feel you designed your talk for them.
No, this isn't an unrealistic demand. It is simple to do. If I am speaking about goal achievement, the core points always remain the same, but the application and planning varies in different industries. In fact just a 5 minute brief with the client beforehand should give you enough insight to tailor the talk. Thus you should research the various mainstream industries and the types of clients you are most likely to speak to. Get to know how they think and what structures are standard in the industry. It's a bit of basic general knowledge. From there it becomes second nature to personalise the keynote.
Again we come back to the 100 times story. No matter how well you plan your talk, it WILL change over the years. By doing it 100 times you will have the time to identify the shortfalls, the parts that don't follow logically and you will have spoken to enough people to be comfortable with bringing in added industry specific elements. But this can only be done if you know the keynote 100%.
This is an extract from my book: Tips for Speakers, available at www.mindpowerpublications.com
So, what is ship life all about?
Well, that totally depends on your attitude!
If you arrive on board with an arrogant attitude and think you are god’s gift to speaking – you may very well have a problem. That’s not to say that you don’t get big egos onboard amongst the entertainers & speakers. I’ll never forget on one cruise we had a young 25-year old singer who stuck his name on the outside of his door (in a passenger area). I won’t use his whole name. “Hugh …… Male Guest Entertainer.” He had such an attitude that even the cruise director and captain where to scared to tell him to remove the letters off his door. So one night I changed the “h” of his name with an “E”, thus changing ‘Hugh” into “Huge”. It took him two days before he noticed this, and the letters came off.
Another time during a variety show a speciality act went 3 minutes over his allotted time, and the female singer following him lost it. She screamed at this act for taking away 3 minutes of her ‘limelight’! So, yes, it does happen - thankfully very rarely. These acts usually get worked out of the system quickly!
If you approach your whole contract from a nice friendly attitude, and do a few extra little things to make the passenger's cruise all that more unforgettable – you will have a blast.
Of course you can party every night and have a hangover every morning. Then again you can just sit around and get bored stiff, and eventually end up partying and getting drunk every night. Or you can be as promiscuous as possible and bed everyone you meet (yes that happens too). Or, you can plan your daily routine and use your time on board a ship fruitfully and constructively, and enjoy quality time with your fellow entertainers & speakers.
Besides making friends and meeting many great people, you will have the opportunity of making business contacts amongst the passengers. You also have the opportunity to see new, exciting and exotic places at someone else's expense. Besides improving and expanding your general knowledge, your whole outlook on life will be changed and your thinking will become so much more global once you have experienced all the different countries and cultures. Coupled with this, you will work and meet staff, entertainers and crew from all over the world on board – again broadening your horizon on different peoples and their cultures.
They say that travelling is the “University of Life.” Absorb (like a sponge), and experience everything around you, and you will definitely grow as a person within.
As a dancer and singer, most ships have fixed production shows were you have to fit in. Thus there is a certain amount of repetitive work, over and above your cabaret spots. As a speciality act, e.g. comedian and magician, you are left very much on your own and basically do your regular normal acts. As a speaker, or lecturer, you will be working when the ship is at sea, thus have much time off to enjoy the sights and sounds of the cities and ports you dock in.
Working on ships is totally different from anything on land, as your audiences are usually international, elderly and come from all walks of life. At present the Americans are the majority of cruise ship passengers, and most cruise lines sail out of the USA. The most popular cruise areas and most densely populated with ships, are the Caribbean, followed by the Mediterranean, Baltic and Alaska. So most of your time will be spent in these parts of the world.
As the cruise ship industry has grown so much over the last few years, the ships have also become larger. The regular 28000 ton ship with its 600 passengers has now taken second place to the 130 000 ton plus floating hotels which take 3500 passengers and more. That’s excluding the crew! So the market is expanding rapidly, and the need for good speakers and entertainers is huge. In fact it is said that the cruise industry is the fastest growing tourist industry in the world, and that not even 5% of Americans have been on a cruise ship yet! Makes you think!
In theory, the closing down of the music hall and cabaret clubs on land, has now moved to cruise ships. So all those cabaret acts can now be employed here. Yes, comedy clubs have taken over on land, but most of the acts are below the belt and very controversial – and not suitable for the cruise ship market.
Working on a cruise ship sounds very glamorous and exciting, which it is... but remember, ‘too much of a good thing, isn't good for you’, and the novelty can soon wear off. After a few months of working on any liner, food such as lobsters, shrimps & fillet steaks will not have the same appeal to you as it has now. If you don't believe me... we'll speak again in six months time! Blindfolded, I can tell you the difference between Beluga, Sevruga and Osetra caviar. Big deal – but that’s a reality. You just have too much of the stuff.
On the plus side, if you enjoy your wines, traveling really gives you a broad education and insight into wines. Nothing wrong with that! So when I say that traveling gives you a broad insight into the world, this doesn’t only include the cities, ports and islands, but food, culture, geographic’s and so much more.
You will find that after a few years, your old friends back on land will almost be intimidated by your worldly knowledge and insights. In a sense it makes you a much deeper and understanding person. That is of course, if you utilize your free time to take in all the sights, sounds and people.
You also need a certain type of personality to be able to work on ships, and to cope with the confined environment.
If you go onboard with the objective of having fun, gaining experience, making new friends, and seeing the world – you will have a awesome time! It makes complete sense to my why some entertainers have spent the last 25 years on ships. It is addictive!
This is an extract from my book: Working on Cruise Ships as an entertainer and Speaker, available at www.mindpowerpublications.com
The Lighter side of Flying
As an international keynote speaker who lives at airports and in hotels, flying has become a way of life, with all it’s ups and downs. I thought it may be a good idea to jot down some of the airline stories I have heard, experienced and gathered over the years.. You can well imagine, 25 years of global travel and 125 countries later – one does have a certain understanding of the airline industry. More than often one has to look at the lighter side to cope with the stresses of being a frequent flyer.
Many years ago I was on a plane taking off from Kennedy Airport. After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain began his standard welcome announcement over the intercom, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to our nonstop flight from New York to London. The weather ahead is good and therefore we should have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax – “OH MY WORD!”……………….. Silence!
Everyone on board went quiet and held their breath. A few seconds later the captain came back on the intercom and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier, but while I was talking, the flight-attendant brought me a cup of coffee and spilled the hot coffee in my lap. You should see what the front of my trousers looks like!” A passenger sitting three rows behind me suddenly shouted back, “That’s nothing! You should see the back of mine!”
The other day I was at the airport and as I reached the check in line I noticed a gentleman with a long overcoat in front of me. It was cold that day so I took no notice. As he was about to hand in his ticket to the lady behind the counter, he suddenly flashed her. For the first time in my life I had experienced a true life flasher. To my surprise, the check-in lady didn’t bat an eyelid, instead she casually remarked, “Sir, I asked for your ticket, not your stub!”
While on the topic of checking in, last year during the Christmas period I noticed some mistletoe hanging over the baggage counter of another airline with a particularly attractive lady in attendance. Being a typical male who appreciates a beautiful woman, I naturally headed for this particular check in counter, even though it wasn’t my airline) and asked the lady on the other side, “Is the mistletoe for the passengers or for the staff?” Waiting in anticipation for her answer, she casually replied, “No, it’s for your baggage, so that you can kiss it goodbye!”
You think I am making this up! On a trip from London To Los Angeles last year, we hit a turbulence pocket which shook the plane, causing the stewardess to spill hot coffee on my lap. “I’m so sorry, sir” ,the flustered flight attendant said. “Are you all right?” “Yes, I think so”, I replied. “But tell me, was that regular or decaf coffee?” “Regular”, she replied. ”Just my luck”, I moaned. “Now, I’m going to be up all night!” Often one needs to take an accident like this and see the lighter side, especially for the sake of the embarrassed flight attendant. PS … you gotta think about that one!
Flying so often, I find that even on land I am affected by my airline thoughts. Recently I performed at an exclusive formal function and I met a young lady wearing a lovely gownless evening strap. (Yes, that’s literally what it was) Around her neck she wore a small golden airplane pendant on a long chain. Let me just backtrack a moment. When I say the gown was low-cut, even the most disciplined and well mannered gentleman would have had a problem not sneaking a glance. Well, she caught me doing so, and I could not hide the fact. Cleverly she held up the airplane and said “Oh, you like my airplane, huh?” There are times I am glad I am an entertainer and that I have a barrage of jokes and comments to fall back on. Also, humour is known to diffuse many an embarrassing situation. Hence I merely replied, “No ma’am, I was just admiring the landing field.”
Talking about beautiful women one bumps into at airports, a few years ago on a flight to Johannesburg I had an elegant lady sitting next to me, wearing the largest, most stunning diamond ring I had ever seen. I naturally asked her about it. “This is the Klopman diamond”, she said. “However, besides the fact that it is so big and so beautiful, there is a terrible curse that goes with it.” “What’s the curse?” I queried, with concern. She replied, “Mr. Klopman!”
How often have you flown, only to be sitting next to a screaming baby or rude child? No matter how annoying this may be, they also need to go on vacation and parents are in their full right to take them along. I fly often with my daughters, yet pride myself in them being well behaved. However, at a certain age, the children do tend to ask numerous questions. Especially when it is the first time they are flying. This is all a new experience for them and they want answers. Recently, flying over Europe I had a woman with her 4 year old son next to me. He was a pleasant youngster, but I think his mom couldn’t take the barrage of questions anymore. Nevertheless, about an hour after we took off the son, who had been looking out the window, turned to his mother and said, “If big dogs have baby dogs, and big cats have baby cats, why don’t big planes have baby planes?” The mother, who no doubt couldn’t think of an answer, told her son to ask the stewardess. So the boy asked the stewardess, “If big dogs have baby dogs, and big cats have baby cats, why don’t big planes have baby planes?” The stewardess then asked him, “Did your mother tell you to ask me that?” He said that she had. So the stewardess said, “Go tell your mother that I said, … Not on this airline, as we always pull out on time!”
With all these new low cost airlines around the service is somewhat questionable at times. Another true story, the stewardess came up to me in business class. By the way, if you haven’t flown business class, I strongly recommend it. They have silver cutlery! I don’t even have that at home …. Er … well, now I have. Nevertheless, the stewardess asked me if I would like some breakfast, and I asked her what my choices were? She merely replied, “Yes” or “No”!
Occasionally, airline attendants make an effort to make the ”in-flight safety lecture” and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported:
1. “There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only four ways out of this airplane…”
2. Pilot — “Folks, we have reached our cruising altitude now, so I am going to switch the seat belt sign off. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay inside the plane till we land… it’s a bit cold outside, and if you walk on the wings it affects the flight pattern.”
3. After landing: “Thank you for flying XYZ Airlines. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”
4. As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Washington National, a lone voice comes over the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella. WHOA!”
5. After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms, a flight attendant announced : “Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted.”
6. Welcome aboard XYZ Airlines Flight XXX to YYY. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seatbelt and if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with two small children, decide now which one you love more.
7. Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but they’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you or your money, more than XYZ Airlines.
8. “Your seat cushions can be used for flotation and in the event of an emergency water landing, please take them with our compliments.”
9. “As you exit the plane, please make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”
10. “Last one off the plane must clean it.”
11. From the pilot during his welcome message: “We are pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry… Unfortunately none of them are on this flight…!
14. An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a ”Thanks for flying XYZ airline.” He said that in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally, everyone had gotten off except for this little old lady walking with a cane. She said, “Sonny, mind if I ask you a question?” “Why no, Ma’am,” said the pilot, “what is it ?” The little old lady said, “Did we land or were we shot down ?”
15. After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the Flight Attendant came on with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt up against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.”
16. Part of a Flight Attendant’s arrival announcement: “We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurised metal tube, we hope you’ll think of us here at XYZ Airlines.”
Being Thankful & Practicing Unconditional Love
How do you wake up in the morning? Depressed or happy? There are many reasons people don’t look forward to their day and many simple solutions to that problem. One, is to be thankful as you open your eyes, especially for the things we take for granted. It kinda puts things and life into perspective and makes you realise that we have many reasons to be happy. Here’s an sms I received from a friend on a conference recently which I thought really brings this point across well.
“The only time you appreciate what you have is when you loose it. Be grateful today for all the universe has given you; parents, health, wealth, peace, dignity, home servants, world comforts, beautiful healthy children and friends. You have been blessed with more, than most people in this world. Remember, what we have today, you can loose tomorrow. Never take for granted all the things in your life, and most of all, enjoy what you have every day.”
I thought this very interesting. Who is grateful for peace and dignity? These are things we all take for granted … but we shouldn’t. There are countries on this globe where those things don’t exist! What I found was powerful was the sentence, “What we have today, we can loose tomorrow.” I keep on talking in my Keynotes about the most precious asset we have in life – TIME! Don’t take your time on this earth for granted. Realise that NOW is the time to enjoy. Give thanks to those little things that brighten up your day, a smile shared with a stranger, a hug from your child, or even a joke shared amongst friends. Guess what? This keeps you humble and appreciative. Way to often we take everything for granted and live a life of expectations. If you look at 90% of the problems around you (including depression), it’s because of expectations.
Think about it. Why is anyone negative or depressed in life? It’s because things don’t turn out the way they expected. We live in a world where the majority of people are on the take. People are only nice to each other because they expect something in return. Whether it’s a possible business deal, a potential relationship, or a good residual commission. When things don’t happen as planned, then disappointment sets in and people become negative.
However, imagine that if you did what you did out of pure love. Here the term, ‘Unconditional Love’ suddenly has meaning. Do what you do in life, because it is your passion, and you love doing it. Only then will you do things without expectations. And only then does the Law of Attraction start working for you. Statistically, somewhere along the line some things are going to come back to you, and because you had no expectations, it’s a great surprise. Suddenly you smile, your day is made and you become a positive, happy individual.
When people ask me about my career, I always say that I have never worked a day in my life. Why? Because I love what I do. All I do is play! Hence I do it with passion and no expectation. That makes me spiritually wealthier than the majority of people that sit day in and day out in jobs they hate. The pessimists always say they have to work in order to pay their bills. I couldn’t agree more, but at least do something you enjoy! Only then will you do it with pride and passion. Think about it. The people you know that smile and have fun in their jobs, they make you feel good. In fact you like doing business with them. It’s highly likely that everyone else they deal with feels the same as you do. This snowballs and their client base increases because of the positive energy they give out. And the money starts coming on it’s own.
The choice lies with you. You have the choice to be positive or negative. Of course you also need to take responsibility for your own life and your decisions. Blaming society, parents, teachers, or the government, is the cowards way out. At the end of the day, the the choice lies with you. You need to stand up to yourself and take the responsibility for your own life. Remember, if you are not happy and want to change – then you need to change your behaviour. If you keep on doing what you have always done – nothing will change. It all starts with being thankful, having no expectations, and practicing unconditional love in everything you do.
Imagine if everyone in the world suddenly changed their attitude and practiced giving unconditionally. Doing things without expecting anything in return. Just in your social circle you would have hundreds of people giving to you. Don’t you think that would change your life and the lives of everyone around you?
With everything that is happening in today’s world, many of us need to take a step back and look at life from a different perspective. In essence we need to ‘change’ our way of thinking. Hence I would like to share 10 insights to bring about a magical change in your life.
1.You are in control of your destiny. Only you can make your dreams come true. If you have not achieved your dreams up until today, and are still following the same routine you have been doing for the last few years, guess what – nothing will change. You have to change, do things differently, re-invent yourself, take responsibility and do things in a new way. Become acutely aware of everything around you and take responsibility for your own actions.
2.It is imperative that you set time aside every day to meditate on your dreams, desires and goals. By meditate, I mean quiet time where you reflect on your own life. It does not have to be an hour per day. It can even be ten minutes only. But you do need to give yourself time to ‘re-energise’ and find your focus again.
3.Practice the Law of Giving. And by ‘giving’ I don’t necessarily mean materialistic things. Meeting someone and quietly sending this person a blessing of love and health – but doing it consciously. Smiling at someone you never speak to at work. Offering comfort to somebody that seems down. And most of all – doing this from an ‘unconditional love’ point of view. In other words, do it without expecting anything in return.
4.Do not be disappointed by setbacks. Remember, the most successful people on earth have failed more than anybody else. The only difference is that they never saw the failure as bad or negative. They saw it as a learned lesson and stepping stone. It is through determination and never giving up, that we achieve our dreams.
5.Don’t listen to people that put you down. If you believe in yourself, follow your heart and follow through. Do not hang out with negative people who try and break you down. Stick with the positive one who support you.
6.Respect is earned – remember that. Often you have to earn it by being hard. Never take the easy way out just to win a popularity contest. I much rather be respected than popular. No matter what you do in life, not everyone is going to like you. But, by doing what is right, rather than what is easy, even if someone doesn’t like you – they WILL respect you.
7.Get out of the rat race and stop being conditioned by what society and the media expect from you. Even if you manage to win the rat race, remember, you are still a rat! You will only find inner happiness and peace if you are honest within yourself and life the life you are meant to live. The only way you will find that answer is through blocking out all the ‘outside’ influences and spending quite time alone looking within yourself. Think about it, the media will always try control your thinking and make you want to buy the latest craze. Why, because they are controlled by the governments who want you to buy everything and have debt. Because, if you have debt you have to work and pay taxes. The government needs your taxes to function. If you had no debt, and were content with the simple things in life and not run after money all day long – you would be free.
8.Find your passion again. Do you wake up excited and happy about the new day? Or do you wake up moaning? Think about it, what makes us loose our zest for life ? Easy … expectation! We do something because we expect something in return. When things don’t go our way, we are completely disappointed and depressed. Practice unconditional love and do whatever you do because you really want to do it. It must be fun and make you feel good, without you wanting anything in return. Guest what, the laws of the universe are such that it will come back to you. However, because you had no expectations, it will just be so much greater when it does come back. Life is like a mirror – what you put in front of that mirror, is what reflects back on you. It’s as easy as that.
9.The most precious asset you have is your own body – so look after it. Eat right, exercise and stay fit. Once your health is gone, that’s it. Take care of your body.
10.Life is like a roll of toilet paper – the closer you get to the end, the quicker it goes! So enjoy every moment of it. learn to live in the now. If you are depressed and negative, it is because you are living in the past. If you are stressed and anxious, it’s because you are living in the future. Think about this: NOTHING has ever happened in the past or the future. Anything that will happen in your life will happen NOW. You cannot do anything about, or change the past -it has happened, it is over. Yes your actions today can have an impact on your future. But right now you are living in the now. You do not know how long this ‘now’ will last. So why not make the most of it. By constantly living in the now, to the fullest, every yesterday WILL become a good memory and the future WILL be something you look forward to.
SPEAKERS NEWSLETTERS: Do’s & Dont’s
How often do you keep in touch with your clients? Most speakers constantly update potential and current clients with regular marketing emails, some as often as once per week.
I don’t know about you, but I get very irritated with spam emails, to the point that I either delete it as it comes in, or send a rude email back complaining. This is the last thing I want clients to do with me!
So what’s the answer? A newsletter! BUT! And this is a big BUT – not a marketing newsletter! But something that ‘gives back’ and showcases your expertise.
Do you receive newsletters in your mail box which you have not subscribed to, and find that they are basically self opinionated and self promotional product letters? I bet they annoy you.
Yes I hear you asking, “But how else will I get people to know about what I do?”
Get yourself a good auto-responder with an ‘Opt In’ subscription service. International spam laws are becoming stricter and you can have your email shut down by your service provider if there are spamming complaints. Using a reputable auto-responder company, firstly enables you to add a ‘subscribe’ form on your website, plus proof that each person who has received your newsletter, actually asked for it. This covers you if someone complains.
You can see exactly how many people have received and opened your newsletter and what links have been clicked. Great for fine tuning the newsletter.
These auto-responders have great html templates you can use, plus spam indicators. Often mails are blocked because of certain words, links or piCtures. Here you have a meter on the site which tells you exactly how high your newSletter is rated on the spam filters. Hence you can adjust and re-design it so that everyone will get the newsletter.
The recipient automatically has an ‘unsubscribe’ option on the email, should they no longer wish to receive it.
Finally, you write one email, and the auto-responder company sends them all out for you – a huge saving on time.
Everyone I meet, or that attends my presentations, I send to my website where they complete the form and subscribe themselves. There are two reasons for this. If they are really interested in who I am and the free newsletter I offer, they will spend the 5 minutes to do this. Secondly, it gives them a chance to browse my website. With older clients, I actually ask them if I can add them to my newsletter. Always get permission first – and I make a note of this on my database.
The newsletter itself is your showcase. Constant self promotion is a no no! Share items of interest, tips and ideas freely, so that the recipient feels they are receiving great value from you for free! This will make them want to read it. Be clever! Be subtle! Make the person receiving your newsletter feel special and give them a reason to subscribe.
DO NOT send it out more than once a month!
At the bottom, or on the side you can add one or two links of new products(at special prices for subscribers only), but don’t overdo it. The recipient must feel that they are getting something for nothing and that you are not sending it out as a self promotion, but rather as a ‘give back’. E.g, instead of blatantly advertising your new ‘customer services’ talk, use a story where you mention a recent seminar you hosted on customer service, and someone shared this tip with you. Thus you have subtly planted the seed that you cover this topic. This is far less invasive and pushy.
I market my newsletter as a Free Inspirational Newsletter. Over the years the subscriber numbers have grown steadily, as people forward it to friends. Yes, there is always a ‘Subscribe’ link included. However, the most interesting point to me is that every month, I always receive at least two inquiries as a direct result of someone having read the newsletter. Why? I believe that if you give freely, the universe looks after you and gives back in tenfold.
In conclusion, let your newsletter be something clients want, and share with others. Give them that free extra added value. Soon people will want to subscribe out of their own. It’s when others promote you, that the marketing is most effective – and this is exactly what the right newsletter can do for you!
IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS WHEN BOOKING A SPEAKER
So… you need to book a Keynote speaker for your upcoming conference. Who do you book? Will he/she meet our company expectations? There are so many speakers around, where do you begin, they all sound great? Can you believe everything you read on a webpage?
The choice is so difficult… and at the end of the day, if the speaker bombs out, YOU are to blame for making that decision. Bit of a problem you have?
First of all you need to distinguish between the established pro’s and the “Fly by Night’s”, by asking yourself the following questions? Be weary of speakers that bill themselves as the best or greatest in the industry!
In my mother’s eyes I will always be the best and greatest, but in someone else’s eyes I may be a total idiot! Think about this! Never judge a speaker about subjective information which anyone could have written. Which car is the best in the world? Difficult to answer! However, if someone were to ask you, which cars would you consider to be amongst the best in the world? This is easier to answer as you could think of 3 to 4 straight away. Yes, you may feel that one car is better than another. But remember, it is your own subjective thought, Someone else may disagree with you totally. Hence when looking for a speaker, don’t just go on one review, look at his/her track record.
How long has the speaker been working professionally? This does definitely not mean that an established speaker who has been working the circuit for 10 years, is better than a newcomer in the industry, but it gives you an indication of the track record of that person. Also, a ten year track record with two talks a month is nowhere as impressive as someone who has 4 to 5 appearances per week.
Does his/her work consist of only new clients, or does repeat business make up most of the schedule? In the corporate world, keeping and maintaining a client and building a long-term business relationship is what distinguishes the winners from the losers. Great marketing material and gift of the gab can land you many contracts. But you will only be used once and never again if your service is not as advertised. Motivational speakers can and do change people’s lives. There is a lot of responsibility attached to booking one. Hence the last thing you need is that bad information is passed onto your staff. You need to look for a speaker that has at least 70% of his/her work from referrals and re-bookings, including long term relationships with corporate clients as well as speaker bureaus. Repeat business indicates quality service.
Is he/she a gifted speaker talking about issues they have researched, heard or read about, or is the talk based on personal true life experiences? Many people have the gift of the gab and can smooth talk any audience, and… they are good at it. However, SINCERITY is lacking and those delegates with insight pick this up quickly.
If you want a speaker that comes across like an overactive popcorn machine, makes the delegates stand on their chairs, clap hands and basically creates mass hysteria … in a positive way… great! However, this type of inspiration may only last for a few days.
Individuals that have overcome fears, achieved success with all the odds against them, carried on where other have given up hope, lived a life of adventure, etc. are people with a passion for life and success. Hence when they talk to you about issues and principals that have worked for them, they talk about tried and tested issues they believe in. When this is shared with an audience in a sincere manner – this inspiration lasts a lifetime!
Reviews and references.
Are they current with dates and contact names so that they can be verified?
A very important factor to consider. There is a saying in this industry, “You are not only as good as your last, but current job.” Anyone can write anything on a webpage, and people are gullible. References must include contact names and very important, the date as well. You could be booking a speaker on ten year old references and photos! Admittedly, people don’t often send references, they simply book you back. However, a minimum of 2 to 3 references per month, backdated for at least five years, indicate to you that the speaker is working regularly and that his/her standard is maintaining a certain level.
On the subject of reviews, do they reflect the overall personality and content of the speakers message, or are they merely statements such as, “Great, Different, Enjoyable, etc” How often have you read newspaper reviews or listened to radio/TV advertising about a certain entertainer. It always follows the line of “One of the greatest acts in the country”, or “A leading authority in the industry”. What does this mean?… Nothing! Anybody can be ‘one’ of the top, or a ‘leading’ authority. These are general terms used to spice up speaker’s portfolio. In the media it is used to sell! Think about it …. ‘He is great, sound nice’, but, ‘He is one of the greatest’ sounds better! Yes, many reviews will include these terms. However, you want to see a mix of reviews which show you an inner side to the speaker. What they are like as a person!
How adaptable and versatile is the speaker. Can the talk be adapted to your company’s needs and requirements. Is the speaker flexible enough to offer you other services such as maybe chairing the day session for you, or being MC at you Gala awards dinner that evening.
Cost? After you have received your fist quote, is the speaker still very negotiable and unsure of his/her price. Or do they immediately and professionally quote you a rate that indicates they know what they are talking about?
Why are you considering booking a speaker? If it is to fill a gap in your program and you are doing this as an after thought, with a restricted budget, rather ask one of your senior executives to talk on a topic of his/her choice! If you are booking a professional speaker to make an impact on your company/change the way of thinking of your staff/increase productivity/or inspire from within – be prepared to invest in quality! Especially if the speaker is going to be one of the highlights of your event.