On my journey to become a better public speaker, I developed a number of mindsets that acted as commandments for me on how to act in certain situations. They are a decision making framework and empower decision making so that you make the right choices that will lead you to becoming the best public speaker you can be.
These mindsets helped me to make choices on how to deal with certain situations and how to prioritise what to focus my attention on. They are really designed to transform anyone into the best public or keynote speaker they can be.
These mindsets were acquired from paying close attention to the needs, wants and desires of the people I worked with along my journey as a professional speaker. Always learning at every point of the way from others, their experiences, their philosophy and their stories on their journeys. I always say there is no right or wrong, there is only learning.
Our ability to learn and apply what we have learned is foundational to any success in life. You can’t avoid it and it’s happening all the time. To be aware of it and wield this ability in a way that you can control and nurture it is a beautiful thing. It will allow you to adapt and thrive in any environment. Our ability to learn and apply what we learn to get what we want is key to succeeding in business and life.
The 7 mindsets I developed which I use to prepare and deliver every keynote are as follows:
Let’s run through these mindsets one at a time in this article. You can also listen to me being interviewed on these 7 mindsets in many podcasts you can find on the podcast page.
Let's get started!
Let’s get this clear and answer this key question. Who is your client as a speaker?
The answer is actually the event manager and producer. They are your client. They are paying you. You are providing a service directly to them. Never forget that it is the event managers, planners, producers, coördinators that are collaboratively your client. I refer to all these as the event manager as this is usually who you have the most contact with as a speaker prior to and on the day of the event you need to speak at.
So now that we have that straight, what does the audience represent? The audience is actually the event producers/managers client along with any sponsors supporting the event. For you as a speaker, the goal is to please your client, the event managers and producers, make their life as easy and pleasant and enjoyable as possible so that they invite you back to speak again! And they recommend you to other event managers and producers because it’s going to score them points and make them look good. You are now helping them build relationships with other event managers and producers so that they are supporting and helping each other grow.
Event managers and producers often never run just one event but usually run and help realise multiple events each year. Get on their good side and you will be their favorite speaker they will use and recommend every time. You will also become the speaker they love to work with because you make their life easier and their job and event more successful.
All growing speakers need an agent. The only reason not to have an agent is if you are just starting out and do not have the assets and some initial experience for an agent to take you on, or you are a seasoned speaker with enough inbound work coming to you and happy with how your business is running. An agent helps you scale and grow as a speaker by tapping you into their network. They have the key relationships with event managers, producers, other agents and speakers that you need. They can match you up with speaking engagements and work that are a right match for you. They are basically an influencer for you within the events and speaking industry that are able to match, recommend and find work for you.
But it's important to see it as a 2 way relationship. While agents monetise your time and expertise within their well established networks, you as a speaker also have a network they can tap into for value to add to and service their network. The more successful you make your agent, the more they will invest into your success. This is at the core of this mindset.
Agents generally take 20-25% commission excluding travel expenses in a business opportunity. Let’s say for example the event producer has a budget of 5000 EUR plus travel expenses (usually includes flight, hotel and taxi/Uber to and from the airport), the agent will invoice the client 5000 plus your declared travel expenses and you will invoice the agent 4000 plus declarable travel expenses on a 20% agent commission plus VAT on the 4000 but not the declarations.
An agent has a much larger network than you have. Let’s take a look at the math. If your network is 10% that of your agent that would allow you to 10x your network with an agent contract. If a gig comes in from your network you would allow this gig to run through your agent and allow them a 10-25% commission (some deals you can negotiate the commission down if you do most of the work), and hand over the communication and logistical tasks to your agent to perform freeing up your time to focus on your gig. As a rule of thumb, I generally don’t negotiate a lower commission with my agent and allow him/her to get their full 20-25% commission. I do this for a number of reasons.
Your agent is vested into growing your profile because the more attractive your profile is the more lucrative the opportunities that come your way will be. For this, you need to give your agent the assets they need to sell you more often and at a higher price point. This means having a website, clearly defined profile and downloadable one pagers in PDF format of who you are, the value you offer and how you offer it. It means having proof in the form of published articles, videos, speaker reals, a strong social media presence and following, the ability to persuade a client over the phone and over a cup of coffee. Your agent can only connect and recommend you as an option in a lineup of other candidates in order to give their clients a choice of speakers for their event.
It’s your job to ensure your assets are created and convincing in the right way and that you embody your assets and even over deliver on what these assets communicate. Because it is you that ultimately sells yourself to the client which is the event manager or producer. If you can sell yourself as a speaker you will not do well and leave a lot of money on the table by missing out on deals that could have been won.
So your agent is really facilitating the awareness and consideration phases of the deal and you are in charge of the purchase phase at the bottom of the funnel to ultimately persuade the client to say yes and choose you as the speaker for their event.
Your agent should become your best friend and closest business partner. You should see them as a partner and have the mindset to make them as successful as you can. The more success you bring them, the more they will choose in your favour when the opportunities arise and the more successful you will become as a speaker.
This is possibly the most important mindset of all. Always have a no problem attitude. When you have a problem, the event manager has a problem. When you have a problem, the audience has a problem. And trust me, problems will arise and they come in batches! Other speakers finishing over time. The slides are not working. Your built in videos are not working. The sound is not working. Computer battery dying on you in the middle of the presentation because it was not plugged in correctly. No internet connection when you are trying to present from the cloud. A speaker not showing up and you having to fill in with a second and different presentation at the last minute. Someone heckling you from the audience causing you to go blank. Your plane or train is delayed or cancelled. You lose your train of thought in the middle of your presentation. And the worst one of all, you feel sick and you are just not at your best - what do you do?
This list is endless and the amount of problems you will encounter will be abundant. And you can bet your bottom dollar that whatever problems you encounter, the event manager has 10x more problems as they need to deal with other speakers, sponsors, attendees, production crews, venue owners and the slew of people that are involved in the event and it can be a nightmare to have to deal with all these issues and problems.
What if you can be that speaker that always brings a no problem attitude? But you go way further than that, because every time the event manager shares a problem with you, you say “no problem” and you help them fix it. You become that speaker that fixes problems and that every event manager dreams to work with. Not only that, but they invite you back to their event and another event they run to speak again. And when a speaker drops out of their event or the event of a colleague of theirs, guess who they tell them to call? Yep - yours truly!
The no problem speaker becomes the speaker that everybody wants to work with. The speaker that everybody recommends as a speaker. The speaker that never fails to turn up. Never fails to deliver. Never fails to bring something special to the stage. Never fails to finish on time. Now that’s the speaker I want to work with. Be the “no problem” speaker and watch the opportunities role in.
People don’t remember what you say, they won’t even remember what you do - people remember how you made them feel. Because feelings give rise to emotions and emotions are what makes memories stick. And the kicker is that if you get them feeling and emotional, then they will remember what you said. Our emotions are the glue that makes memories stick. So making people emotional about the points and ideas you are trying to deliver to their minds through storytelling, will help them to remember and take action at a later point in time.
If you want people in your audience to remember you, you must connect with them on some sort of emotional level. For them to be emotionally stimulated they must feel something. And for them to feel, you must feel. That’s how it works. So it’s simple really. When telling stories, you must feel them yourself. This will pull people in your audience into the story so they can feel. They do not have to be the same feelings as your interpretation of the story can be very different from theirs. For example, a moment in a story that made you feel joy and happiness, could make them feel guilt and anxiety. A story about friends, family and children can do this. Spending time with your children may make you the happiest person on earth, but they may be going through a divorce and are at risk of losing contact with their children and may feel sad and depressed after your story.
Making an emotional connection with the audience also helps you tremendously in earning their attention. If you lose their attention you lose the ability to influence them through your stories as they are no longer listening. A typical sign of this happening is when someone pulls out their phone for an extended period of time or when they start to yawn and look around, or when they start to get fidgety and look like they are ready to leave, or the most obvious one, they fall asleep!
Your short term goal is to hold their attention long enough for you to tell them your stories and make your points. For this you need to have something interesting to say that will earn their attention and tell your stories in such a way that will make them feel and become emotionally connected with what you are saying. The result is that you will retain their attention and increase the chances that they will remember you past your presentation.
Let me take you back to when I was 13 years old. I was living in Vanuatu, the small tropical island where I was born. Now my dad was the chief pilot of Vanuatu Airlines and he was always telling me that he always scored very high in his exams. And pilots need to pass a lot of examples often at a very high score in order to retain their licenses to fly planes. For good reasons.
When I was 13, he shared with me his secret. He gave me my first book. Actually it was a series of 7 books (one of the reasons I like 7 - 7 mindsets and 7 steps :)) and these books described the power in emotion to remember things.
Remember that boyfriend or girlfriend when you were younger, maybe it was 20 years ago, and she wore a perfume that to this day, if you smell that perfume on some random person walking down the street you would immediately think back to you old girlfriend or boyfriend and sometimes even to a very specific moment where you recall that moment in great detail. This is called a memory loop. A set of neurons firing or being stimulated in a certain way in the brain that triggered you to recall that memory.
And you know what? These memories are still there and accessible with specific stimuli because you were so emotional in that moment when the memory was first implanted. The more emotion is involved, the deeper the memory goes and the better it sticks.
Think of people who are in a terrible accident that almost cost them their lives. Maybe a car accident or a near plane crash or while on your bike with headphones on and you did not see or hear that train sneaking up behind you at high speed and happy to still be alive. These experiences can arouse so much intense emotion in an instant that they stick in your memory often until the end. They may be the last thing you ever remember. The stronger the emotion the stronger and more lasting the memory.
Back to the story of my dad and the books. I only actually finished the first book in that series of 7 (yep, I was 13 remember :)), but that book allowed me to get full marks at university and get a magna cum lauda. I was accused of cheating so much at school because I almost always scored full marks in my exams. I was cheating in a way because I was applying this tactic that other students did not know about. I had an unfair competitive advantage. And that advantage was given to me by my dad. Thanks dad.
What I did was summarise the entire curriculum for the exam on one A4 sheet of paper writing always in pencils and very small writing often back and front of the A4. I made sure everything I needed to know was on that piece of paper. Then I got to work. Get emotional my dad used to say. I literally made myself cry and looked at that piece of paper and the stories and content it held like it was the best thing I had ever seen and felt. I remembered that baby like it was tattooed in my head and aced all my exams with this simple method. But don’t forget I still did the work. I turned up to all classes, paid attention, took notes, summaries my notes, revised my notes before the next session and studied from early morning to late in the evening every day. But so did many others. The difference was not intelligence. It was the fact I retained the information for the exams better than others because I had developed a method to do so.
And I now use the same methods with my keynotes. I use extended story maps and always write my entire keynote down on one A4 sheet of paper in pencils, just like I did my classes and get emotion over them and look and feel my stories and the points I want to make until I can see every word of that story map without looking at the paper.
This allows me to present in any situation, with or without slides. Should the slides not work at the last minute. No problem. And it allows me to relax more and just get on with telling the stories in my story map the best way I can. I explain what story maps are and how you can use them in lesson 5 of my free public speaking course where I teach you the 10 most powerful lessons I can give you to be a confident and powerful public speaker.
I do not need to remember anything because the story map is in my head and I know my stories as I have lived them out or practiced and presented them many times so they are at a level I know the audience will enjoy. They have proven themselves before. Occasionally, I will try a new story I have never taken to the stage, and test it to see how the audience reacts to it and see if it’s an improved iteration I can take with me to future keynotes.
So, get emotional about your own content and stories. Get the audience emotional by getting them to feel what you feel. And make that emotional connection that will have them remember you long after your keynote ends. Make them emotional enough and they will remember you to their grave.
Great speakers use the power of storytelling to make powerful points that drive behavioural change in others. These stories often come from the life experiences of that speaker. These experiences are woven into stories and used to make points on the core ideas the speaker is trying to get across to the audience. Points can also be made upfront which are then backed up by personal stories that give them more credibility and make them more believable and actionable.
You already have 100’s of stories you can draw upon right now to enrich your presentations and support your ideas and the points you are trying to get across. These stories are found by identifying any situation in your life where emotion was involved. The more emotion you experienced the more powerful the story has the potential to be.
Everyday, you experience new situations and can collect stories and build a repertoire of stories you can draw on in future presentations. But you need to write them down or record them in some way because most of these situations and potentially valuable stories you will forget.
So use a story journal to document and organise them. I want to ask you this - when do you get your best ideas and aha moments? For me, it’s often in the shower, on a run or at the gym. It can be on the go, in a flight when I am disconnected and just reflecting on things. It’s important and very effective when you have a system of noting down ideas, concepts, aha moments and experiences that can fuel existing and new stories. For this I use a tool called Evernote and it’s free. Evernote is great because it is fast and syncs seamlessly across all your devices. Plus you can easily save just about anything to Evernote for later retrieval. Evernote allows you to create notes in their own notebook of which you can have as many as you like.
I also have a story notebook where I add stories on a continuous basis. It often takes me seconds to minutes to add a story. I give it a title which is usually the first thing that comes to mind. The question I ask myself to generate this title is “what is the story about?”. Then at the top of the file I place a minute range like 1-3 minutes or 2-20 minutes which is basically how long the story would take to tell on stage and is a minute range I will adjust as the story matures. Then, I will make the point or points this story makes. For this I ask myself “what is the point of this story?” and “Why am telling this story?” and “What’s in it for them?”. Basically, what are the points I want to make to the audience through this story. Then I simply start to bullet point the full story from beginning to end. Short and to the point bullet points that take me step by step through the story. And finally at the bottom of the file on a new line I will add keywords that will help me find this story in Evernote when I need it. An example of keywords I will use are fear, happiness, innovation, failure, speaking, mentor, hard work.
So now you can see that stories make up the toolset of a speaker in order to make the point that drive action in people through memories. And stories are best gathered from real life experiences because these stories are not just the best ones to tell, but the easiest to tell because they happened to you and now you can simply relive them on stage and tell the story as if it were happening at that very moment. By doing this you pull the audience into the story and make them feel what you feel. The more interesting and the more variety you have in your life, the more stories you will collect and the more versatile and equipped you will be as a speaker.
So get out there, see the world, meet new people, go deep when you can and always be on the lookout for stories that appear every time you feel and are emotional about something. The more feeling and emotion you experience, the more powerful the story will be to an audience.
I am going to come out with it. If you finish your keynote late, you create a problem for the event manager. If you finish your keynote early, you create a problem for the event manager. And what was the first mindset we talked about? Yep - Make the event manager's life as easy and pleasant as possible. And what was the 3rd mindset? Yep - Always come with a no problem attitude. You don’t want to be creating problems because this is not going to make the event managers life easy and pleasant. When you don’t finish predictably on time, you create problems and sometimes major problems for the event manager. And that is not what you want.
You want to be that speaker that always finished on time no matter what the circumstances. The only exception to this rule would be if the event manager asks you to cut your presentation short or extend it longer at the last minute (or sometimes even during the presentation itself with a signal). You finish when the event manager wants you to finish. It does not mean you finish you presentation in the 30 minutes you have been allocated. If you start late and the event manager hints about having a problem and needing to buy time, you help them out by saying “no problem” I can speak for 20 instead of 30 minutes, would that help? This mindset of always finishing in time no matter what the circumstances feeds into the next mindset we will talk about.
I have made it a trademark to finish in time. It’s almost a signature I carry around with me and have turned it into a game of actually finishing on the second. Yep, literally on the second. Why do I do this? Because nobody really cares if I finish a few seconds later or early, or even a minute or 2 for that matter. I do this because I am a professional speaker. And professional speakers, at least the better ones, understand that this is a muscle you need to exercise just like any other muscle. A professional speaker knows how to use stories and adjust the length of these stories to finish a keynote on the second. Every time. No exceptions.
The more relaxed you become with this mindset, the more this will become a problem for you and your client (the event manager). One minute overtime becomes 2, becomes 5 and becomes annoying for everybody and especially to the event manager who is experiencing your craft for the first time. There is nothing worse than a speaker going minutes overtime and everyone in the audience wanting to move on to the next session (which may even be more important for them). A speaker that an event manager needs to cut off because the next session and next speaker is a speaker that almost never gets invited back (unless they are a major sponsor and paying money to be there). You will find that it is often these “amateur” speakers that go over time and try to take up too much of the events attention.
My dad was a pilot. He was chief pilot of Vanuatu Airlines, a small group of islands in the Pacific Ocean where I was born. Some of these islands were so small that the airstrip spanned from one side on the island to the other. If he landed his plane 30 seconds early he would crash the passengers into the ocean. If he landed that plane 30 seconds later he would crash the passengers into the ocean. My dad had to land that plan on the second and in the right place and there was very little room for error. This is the mindset I take to the stage. Always finish on time.
I kept this one for last. And I did that for a good reason. This is a foundational one and one many struggle to deal with. Because it will test you to your core. If you watched any of my public keynotes in 2018 (many are on YouTube), you will see that this mindset in the slide I often finish my keynote with. For me, it means a lot. For me, it's a strategy. A good strategy for anyone operating in today’s busy society and wanting to stand out, be seen, be heard and make a difference in this busy hyper-connected world. Whether you are an individual, team or organisation, this quote will help you be noticed in the right way.
This mindset is designed to bring out the best version of you. Not to be the best, that depends on the market and factors out of your control, but instead, to be the best version of yourself, which you always have full control over. This quote helps us deal with and overcome all those insecurities you have about ourselves. All those things we are afraid other people will think of us. Remember the 18-40-60 rule I describe in lesson 2 of my free online public speaking course.
Nobody is thinking about you. And if they are, they are simply thinking of themselves and what you are thinking about them. Many will disagree and this time I brought the explanation to you in a much more confronting way. And this rubs some people the wrong way. Or maybe I should say in the right way. The way they need to be rubbed. To not agree with this quote in a reflection of the limiting beliefs you have about yourself, your past achievements and the possible achievements before you. To not agree with this quote is simply an excuse to not be the best version of you. Sometimes, it’s tough. It takes a lot of work and courage. It takes persistence and grit. It takes seeing it through and doing the work long enough to see the results. It also takes grace and generosity and humbleness. Doing the right thing for you and the people you care about. Doing the right thing, is always the right thing to do.
Whether you like it or not, the perceived universe actually revolves around you. You are at the center of everything that is real in your mind. And you are responsible for everything that happens in your life. To blame someone else for your shortcomings, misfortunes, weaknesses, insecurities, and anything else you want to add to this list is simply avoiding confrontation with your inner self, your soul. You are making excuses and although they may make you feel better in the short term, they actually hold you back from being the best version of yourself in the long term.
You are the only one of you in this universe. No one else can be you and you can’t be anyone else. Being the best version of you, whatever you decide for that to be, is what this mindset is all about. This is not about being better than the other guy. It’s not about competing with anyone but yourself. This is about you discovering yourself and being the best version of what you discover. And this takes work, persistence, faith, commitment, sacrifice, grace, and being happy with who you are.
This is one of the hardest mindsets to perform and you will never master it completely. If you ever do, I can guarantee you will have a bright future and do very well in life. Because the “ignore you” part is the counter effect. This is on the one side about being the best you can be, and on the other side being something so remarkable to others they can’t ignore you. And you can’t be all things to all people. Which means you must pick your battles and know your target audience and be true to being so good for them, they can’t ignore you.
The mindset manifests itself by executing flawlessly on the other 6 mindsets. Once you do become so good they can’t ignore you, you will get repeat business, attract a fan base, attract agents who want to work with you, attract clients of all sorts who want to do business with you, attract fellow speakers who want to learn from you, attract mentors, trainers and coaches who want to help you and even partner with you. It will power you forward in ways you never imagined. Be so good, they can’t ignore you.
This concludes the 7 mindsets you need to have to become the best public speaker you can be. Now you need to write them down and stick them up on your wall where you can see them every day. Revise them before every presentation you give and use them as inspiration on your journey. Use them as a decision making framework. When you become confused and your decision machine struggles due to cloudiness in your mind, go back to the 7 mindsets and the decisions you make should hold true to each of these mindsets. Never, should you break one for any reason.
So what's your favorite mindset? And maybe you have one to add to share with other fellow public speakers who got to the end of this article as you did!? Share it by commenting below.
To your public speaking success!
Chris Baldwin, PhD
Take my free public speaking course on the 10 most powerful public speaking lessons I can give you. It's 100% free and you can even gift it to someone you care about. Go to 10xSpeaker.com where you can signup for free!
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