Most people probably don’t consider “speaker” as a proper job. Maybe the fact that I look at my kit bag (an assortment of cables and connectors) with the same fondness as a painter her brushes is an indication that I can’t quite believe it is a job either. Whatever the reason, my little bag of tricks is important to me.
That little blue bag keeps me calm. I know it has everything I might ever need to support of an A/V crew short of spares.
Amongst it all, taking pride of place, is my new clicker. That little “TED approved” beast is full of gadgetry magic that elevates my job to James Bond status. It vibrates in my hand when I have 5 minutes left. I can programme three buttons to complete any manner of tasks. It complies with my demands when I walk amongst the audience in an auditorium in a way my children never have.
Its killer feature, according to fellow speakers, is the way it has replaced the laser pointer with a magnifying/highlighting feature. Yet, that acclaimed feature is the one I will never use.
A speaker who needs to point to something on a slide is a speaker who has never met my mother. She was very clear – “Never point. Pointing is rude”.
This should be in the mind of any speaker. If you need to magnify anything on your slide it is badly designed. Slides are visuals that augment your point, not notes that record it. Most audiences can read faster than a speaker can speak, so why bother making a speech if they can read it.
Not only is a badly designed slide a poor reflection on a speaker, it also means that the speaker will be poor.
The focus of any keynote should never be the speaker or the slide. The only thing that matters is the audience. Respecting them means not getting them to do the work for you. The minute you need to point, you are cheating them out of an experience that should have transformed them by asking them to complete a task that demeans them.
I love my clicker but only because I love my job.
Interview with Emmanuel Gobillot
Do you have a favourite experience from your speaking career?
Every speaking engagement is different and every single one has always been fascinating. I love hearing other speakers and integrating my thoughts and ideas with theirs so as to help participants create something unique in their organisation. I recently did a “double act” with Fons Trompenaars (the culture guru) which was fun as we got to play with each others’ ideas and thoughts.
I also spoke at an event recently in Prague where I was given a three hour time slot (a luxury in our business) which means I had a chance to interact with the audience and really work with them to make my ideas practical for them, in their context. The best events are those where I get the chance to interact with the organisers and understand what they want to achieve so I can tailor my intervention.
How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?
There have been a number of research papers into the role humour plays in leadership and all have showed both correlation and causality between humour and high performance. Humour is fundamentally a trick of the brain, usually based on the collision of different propositions which when put together surprise us (hence the fact that we laugh as a reaction).
Because humour engages and refreshes, it is, in my view, a critical element of a speaker’s toolkit. The trick is to make a speech fun and informative at the same time. The fun ensures engagement with the ideas and increases the chances of implementation.
What skills are needed to be a good leader in today’s increasingly international world?
You are right to point to internationalisation as the key disruptor to established leadership recipes. Many people will tell you that the rate of change has increased. I doubt that is true. Anyone alive at any point probably feels that the world is changing around them. What is truly different today is the diversity we encounter in our working life.
Navigating this increasingly complex landscape requires a huge degree of self awareness (in order to understand the drivers for our thoughts and actions) along with the ability to listen to hear and understand rather than to argue or reload (which, in my experience too many leaders still do). It is only through that process that constructive conversations will emerge rather than clashes of culture based on fundamental misunderstandings. The more we talk the faster our actions will yield results.
How do you keep yourself up-to-date on the newest leadership models and theories?
I divide my time into three. I spend a third of it researching and writing. I read a huge amount and maintain a database of interesting things that are happening in the world of business to spot emerging trends. I also spend a third of my time speaking at events where I get to hear from other speakers and audiences on their main concerns and emerging issues.
Finally I spend a third of my time consulting which enables me to not only see what is going on on the ground but also to develop new ideas and models practical for clients (which in turn feed my writing and speaking). This cycle has worked well for me over the years. The key driver to all of it is curiosity and love for what I do.
Why should clients use you for their next event?
Thats a difficult question to answer without sounding like an advert! Fundamentally I do think there are two things that should go into choosing a speaker – content and fit. In terms of content I do believe that I bring a fresh approach to leadership and collaboration borne out of sound research but adapted to the practical needs of my audiences. I work to engage and inspire but recognise that inspiration without implementation is a missed opportunity.
In terms of fit I do believe in practising what I preach so I aim to collaborate with the organisers and to develop something that will make their event unique. I also have a view that it is only appropriate for me to accept engagements I believe I can contribute to so there is no harm in at least getting into a conversation!