“We are in an age of unprecedented change, it’s a ‘revolutionary’ time to be alive! The question we need to be asking ourselves is - ‘Am I leading that change?’ I believe we all have a choice to step up into personal, professional and social leadership. We have a choice to become agents for change, amplifiers, thought leaders to upgrade our thinking and lead our very own revolutions.”

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Entries in public speaking (60)


Plug in your audience

I love images in presentations. I love the Keynote (Apple's PowerPoint) software. I love high quality, carefully selected, conceptual images, as a picture really does paint a thousand words.

AND...try presenting without any!

In a high-tech world, a low-tech approach could make a huge difference!

Try this next time you present, pitch or attempt to engage a group...

  1. Put up one big slide with either a montage of images or a series of statements, graffiti style on the screen. Don't look at it, don't refer to it just let it be a backdrop to your fabulous presentation.
  2. Draw a diagram with your body. If you have an XY graph or a 4-box quadrant model, animate it with your physicality as you move across the stage.
  3. Tell more stories.
Unplug your technology to plug in your audience. You might be surprised with the results!


Anticipate what might go right... or wrong

Many leaders and certainly Thought Leaders who present, are often loathed to prepare for unlikely events. World class presenters head off disaster before it happens. They anticipate what might go right or wrong and build in key concepts or frames to manage the possible fall out.

A word of caution goes with this idea. Often in anticipating a situation, we actually create the situation. If you are coming from a lack of confidence or even some flawed assumptions about your audience, you can make things worse using this idea. If I could repeat this paragraph several times through this idea I would. So every few paragraphs, read this one again.

I have stumbled onto a recurring problem in my Inspired Leader series. The keynotes, workshops and full day programs unpack what it takes to be inspired and be inspiring. I had not anticipated (perhaps naively) that there would be a few people who want to throw a wet blanket on anything at all, either up or hopeful. It was not every program, but I started to notice that certain people might white ant the message of hope and self-accountability in the breaks between sessions. I had to fix it and fast! So I started to build a key message about the difference between a Cynic and a Sceptic. I encouraged scepticism and communicated a zero tolerance for cynicism. I defined a cynic as someone who had hope and now ‘polutes the attitude pond we all drink from'. A sceptic on the other hand is someone who suspends good or bad judgement until they're convinced. This frame is very powerful as it makes thinking OK and negative whiney judgement as not. It doesn't fix the problem completely, but it does set the tone.

Start with writing a list of what might go wrong when you speak. It's not negative thinking to prepare for all eventualities. This is the intellectual challenge that scenario planning has an idea. People who are particularly superstitious don't like discussing the downside of any idea. It's as if for them, the considering of the idea makes it more likely to happen. It is something you have to think through as a speaker.

So what might go wrong?

Not logistically wrong, but conceptually or culturally wrong? Here are some examples…

  • There may be cynicism to your key ideas. A negative undercurrent might be running through the audience that you have seemingly no control of.
  • A major disaster happens just before you go on stage. 9/11 is a good example for this for many of us who were working that day.
  • The Speaker before you may deliver some bad news that leaves a lot of unanswered questions in the minds of the audience members.
  • You might have an accent that the audience stereotypes to mean a certain mindset. E.g. Australians in New Zealand. Americans in Canada.
So, what would you do in each situation?

Here are four approaches that help deal with situations like those listed above.

1. Name the elephant.
One of the quickest ways to shut down a problem is to name it plainly and accurately. You state what's on peoples minds and you have better chance of getting onto something productive or possibly managing the issue. "I know what I might be thinking in your position, another Australian telling Kiwis how to do it better..." "I just want to say from the outset, I have learned so much at this conference seeing the innovative ideas many of your local awards winners have used to increase sales. My notebook is full and I can't wait to get back and try some of them in my office."

2. Give up control to gain it.
In tough situations I like to list the 7 points I planned to speak about and ask the audience if we only had time for 3, which 3 would they choose? Then go around the room asking them to vote. You then mix up your sequence so it serves the request of the room. Of course you need to know your presentation in idea chunks or modules to do this. The audience feels like they designed their own speech, you of course are delivering what you planned to but doing so in a flexible way. I heard it said once that a person's degree of happiness is directly proportional to their degree of control. In this case you can turn tough crowds around as they get to exert a little more influence on the agenda. This is particularly useful when something has just been taken away from the audience or they are used to making decisions.

3. Respond with a story.
Developing a bank of stories you can draw on at a moments notice is definitely a skill of world class presenters. A perfectly placed story that responds artfully to what has just happened or the prevailing mood of the room is an antidote to negative situations.

4. Plan to be spontaneous.
Anticipate what might go wrong and prepare in advance for these situations with off the cuff one-liners. A waiter walks in front of you while your speaking and you might say ‘don't worry it's just a stage your going through' (direct and yet satisfying), you fall off the stage onto the floor you might say ‘OK I will now take questions from the floor', a mobile phone goes off you might say ‘If that's my mum tell her I am working damn it.' You may of course find better humour than these seemingly lame ‘o' punch lines. It's not the size of the laugh that counts it's the sense of cool you bring to a potentially tricky situation.

There is nothing wrong with focusing on the potentially hazardous stuff that could come up. Some people seem to be superstitious about even considering what might go wrong, it's as if by doing so they make it possible. So, grab your rabbits foot, cross your fingers and start to hope for the best while you prepare for the worst. You may never need it...but if you do, you'll be glad you spent some time building in a plan.



Lightning talks and the power of a short speech

I have been watching for a couple of years now, the evolution of a concept around the discipline of preparing short talks. It goes by a bunch of names like Ignite, Pecha Kucha and Speed Talking. My favourite is the IT industries adoption of the term 'Lightning Talks'. This metaphor works for me.

They all operate with slight variations in duration of sessions and number of slides.

This is my favourite format so far:

  • 5 minute presentation
  • 20 slides only
  • 15 second automatic transitions
I love Jason Preston's example... How to break up with someone on Twitter - watch it here.

Create a lightning talk using this format, as it forces you to get to the point and lifts your energy as a presenter.

Go on, give it a go!

P.S. Learn about Lightning Talks and more... Improve the quality of your speaking, from mastering advanced presentation techniques through to formulas for creating compelling speeches during Matt's Speakership Week in October. Read more...


The Million Dollar Expert's Revenue Model

Extract from Matt's soon to be released new book; Sell Your Thoughts - How to become a million dollar expert...

In traditional Japanese martial arts (Karate, Judo, Jiujitsu, Kendo, Aikido) originally there were only two belts - a white belt and a black belt. For years you wore a white belt and then eventually got your black belt. Typically, it would take seven to ten years to get a black belt. Some schools and some styles still operate in this way. In the early nineteenth century one of the Judo Masters decided to begin using multiple coloured belts to help students to identify their progress through this journey. It has been since adopted in many other forms of martial arts and is widely used today.

The purpose was to create a more efficient and effective training model based on gaining proficiency in certain techniques at each level before moving onto the next level. At white belt level the student would practice and become proficient at the most basic techniques - a straight punch or a simple throw. At the higher levels more complex moves would be introduced and the student would have a sense of their progress toward their goal of a black belt.

This process allows people to run before they walk. It also creates a trusted framework for focus. Focus on this now and you will then be able to focus on harder things. In martial arts there is always someone who comes along and wants to perform advanced moves on day one, sometimes they pull it off. More often than not though they hurt themselves (which can create great learnings) or others (which is not so great).

Through our work with thousands of infoprenuers over the last decade we have created the MDE Revenue Ladder. We borrow the martial arts belts to identify the different stages, and what to focus on at each stage. The journey to black belt and beyond typically takes three years.

We have identified several pitfalls that commonly occur when people are climbing the levels.

  • Failing to clarify their message and their market
  • Attempting to move up the Million Dollar Expert Revenue Ladder too quickly
  • Writing a book too early
  • Over-investing in office, staff and overheads
  • Doubting their ability to generate a million dollar practice

Like learning a martial art, you will progress more quickly in your practice if you take the appropriate actions at the right time in your practice. This methodology tells us what to focus on and what to do at each level in order to move through the belts to black belt and beyond as efficiently and painlessly as possible.



Can you feel it?

There is a critical mass developing in the world of smart. Smart people are speaking out for what they want. And, there are many types of clever!
  • It's in the massive shift from monopolies and control paradigms to meritocracy’s and empower paradigms - The net is driving this.
  • It's in the discernment around substance and value with commercial offerings. People are moving away from long form sales letters and money back guarantees to legitimate learning partnerships - Gen-Y are hugely responsible for this.
  • It’s in the shift from annoying marketing to just for me, the way I want it - Highly competitive marketplaces are driving this.
So, what to do?
  1. Focus on servicing people around what you know and love. There is no room for you to exploit a marketplace you know nothing about. Your expertise is what it is and always has been.
  2. Become obsessive around delivering value. Work on a 10x return on investment with anything you sell. Can the end user get 10 times the value of the their physical and intangible investments? (BTW: it's about aiming for this, not promising this! You are 100% responsible for your end and so are they...)
  3. Reboot your knowledge every 90 days. Thought leaders are at the leading edge of thinking. Imagine that everything you knew last quarter was out of date this quarter (it’s not, but that’s a commercially useful mindset).
The smart (and no, I don’t mean high IQ) will drive all value and lead many of the commercial innovations going forward.

That’s why we at Thought Leaders have hitched our cable to the mantra “Helping Clever People Be Commercially Smart”.



Mode Capabilities

Extract from Matt's soon to be released new book; Sell Your Thoughts - How to become a million dollar expert...

What we have identified below follows 6 modes of communication and the key capabilities to think about in each. We recommend for people at the white belt level to focus only on those skills they need to get their capabilities functional in each mode. Mastery is a great pursuit but often one achieved at some commercial cost. Speak well enough to share your ideas, coach well enough to serve your ideas but leave mastery for later. In other words, it is best to just start and begin to achieve the easier skills, then when you are up and running, focus on the higher level skills.

Speaker Mode

Speaking is about telling. It often involves speaking to many people in a direct way that delivers a specific message. Speaking is the broadcast channel. The minute a speaker gets platform, they are able to influence significantly more people than the other modes. It’s a leveraged way to gain influence. The nature of the love experience is such that people get caught up in the positive energy of the crowd as they respond to your great ideas. Speakership is the 21st century voice of leadership, it's the key to greater influence, engagement and driving energy through your business.


Authorship is also about telling, however through a different channel. It is the transference of your message to others on their time and in their place. Alongside speaking, writing is one of the most powerful and common means of delivering your ideas. Writing enables you to speak with one voice to many people at great distances regardless of time and if translated, even language barriers. Writing gives you huge leverage in a global market. The word author comes from the root word authority and as an author, it immediately positions you as an authority in a chosen topic. Usually when we think of a writer or author we automatically assume they write books. This has been the traditional model for the past 400 years. However during the past two decades, and especially in the past 5 years, authorship has reached the electronic age. Thought Leaders now publish their ideas not only in books, but also through whitepapers, e-zines, blogs, or other leveraged products. In fact, in many respects these electronic forms of writing are more effective than publishing a book. Electronic publishing can be written and distributed quickly to capture a moment and market interest--and e-books now outsell physical books!


Training is about showing. It often is sharing a process to a group of people that allows them to learn a new skill. Training allows you to show others what they need to do--and how to do it. It is about providing a set of skills and a process to create a behavioural change across a group of people. Training allows others to take these ideas and implement them step-by-step in the pursuit of a better outcome. This is a skill as it requires thought to analyse the unseen steps that occur in a particular way. It also forces you to find new approaches of showing ways to improve skills and capabilities--and often allow others to change their approach. When you develop an effective training approach and the group you are training enthusiastically apply what you have taught them, great things happen. Targets are surpassed, people are unified and results are amplified across a group of people that are aware that they have accomplished something that they may not have been able to before the training.


Mentoring is about sharing your past experience. This often is in a 1:1 setting that allows you to show insights that you learned in similar situations or similar roles. You actually get to participate in the journey of the person you mentor and this helps refine your thinking and clarify your instincts in such a way that you can leverage them again and again. Rather than just getting the benefit with mentoring, you get to capture it. This of course serves the person you mentor but it serves you, the mentor, just as much. Mentors make it their job to understand what they do so well that they can reverse engineer it for other people. They have to go from being great at something to masterful. The mastery comes when you know it inside and out and are able to teach the process to others so that they get benefit.


Facilitating is about asking a group of people questions. Often this is to guide the group in a particular direction by drawing out their viewpoints. Facilitation allows you to draw out of a group of people their ideas, aspirations and thoughts. By asking questions to a group of people, you are able to set the tone of the discussion without telling them what ideas to discuss. This allows you to be viewed as a guide encouraging exploration of issues, concerns or solutions that all come from the group. Another advantage of facilitation is that it allows you to maximise your time by asking common questions to a group of people--rather than individually.


Coaching is about asking an individual key questions. Often it is about allowing them to explore their own viewpoints and reflect on the issues that they currently face. Coaching is the art of asking great questions to an individual in a one on one setting. To be a coach you do not need to be an expert in a particular skill, position, or industry (unlike a mentor). You need to be able to ask powerful questions that inspire a higher level of thinking and understanding in your coachee. Coaching often provides a touchpoint that assists them in focusing in on a particular area--without you having to tell them exactly what it is. Great coaches ask questions that plant a seed in the individual that blossoms and takes their thinking to another level.

For more details, refer to Chapter 6: Choose Your Channel in the Thought Leaders book, here we identified the 6 modes and the 102 skills including the 6 key capabilities and an additional 5 Competency and 5 Mastery Skills.

When to Use Which Mode...

To be successful you will need to select the most appropriate channel for the outcome that you desire. Be careful not to get “stuck” by using just one delivery mode to get your message across. Also never, ever have on your business card your title as the primary mode that you deliver in. Every time we meet someone that has “coach” or “trainer” on their business card we cringe. Unfortunately this has labeled you as only able to deliver in just that one mode. You need to establish your expertise above the mode of delivery--and demonstrate that you have the capability to leverage your ideas in a range of delivery methods.

Remember these skills take time and many masters demonstrate them naturally. Your task is to select the right channel for the right person at the right time! The skills for delivering your Thought Leadership are awesome and developing mastery in the modes is key to sustaining a brilliant black belt practice. In this book we are focusing on the commercialisation of 6 modes and how we can use them to achieve strategic direction.

Not all modes are created equal...

The tell modes (speaker and author) need you to have platforms and a list. A list of people will buy your book if you tell them about it. Equally there is no point having a speech if you cant find a bunch of people in a room who are happy to let you stand on a platform and share your ideas.

You gotta know people.

The show modes (trainer and mentor) need you to have deep knowledge and contacts. If you don’t know people who can help accelerate their career or path of a protege, then it's hard to be a mentor. Equally, if you don’t know a subject inside and out then it's hard to be a trainer of much worth.

You gotta know something.

The ask modes (facilitator and coach) require you to have deep relationship skills and be tuned into what is happening for people in the moment. It's about having a strong awareness of whats happening in you, in them and in the room or conversation.

You gotta be present.

Modes are like the channels you use to deliver and sell your ideas. They also act as strategy filters. Each mode helps you organise your ideal cluster--and leverage your income.



Leveraged and Transactional Modes

Extract from Matt's soon to be released new book; Sell Your Thoughts - How to become a million dollar expert...

Each of the six modes of the Million Dollar Expert (speaker, author, facilitator, coach, mentor, trainer) has both transactional and leveraged versions. In your early days as a MDE (Million Dollar Expert) focus on the transactional versions. Getting to blue belt and onto black through some traditional day rate work is key (Take a look at the MDE ladder here for a refresher). Once you have established yourself and built a solid revenue foundation you can then start to explore leveraged versions of each mode.
This may feel a little trying to drive fast with a handbrake on. You may look at the leveraged options listed next and be seduced into exploring them as options for you and your practice.
Leverage is the focus at Red Belt, so the appropriate time to implement the leveraged examples is when you reach Red Belt - when you are making $50k a month or more. Like writing a book (a positioning activity which comes in at Blue Belt) at White Belt can hurt your practice (you’ll write an ordinary book, and won’t have the resources to organise proper promotion and distribution) so too focusing on leverage too soon will result in the wheels coming off your practice. You might experience a few months of wasted effort (if you’re lucky). If you are not lucky, you can seriously under perform on your revenue targets in the early stages of your practice and set yourself back years.

Mode: Speaker

Transactional Example

$5,000 a speech as a corporate speaker on the professional conference circuit.

Transactional Revenue

$5,000 per speech

Leveraged Example

Speaking at networking events with a $5,000 success system in boxes at the back of the room and averaging 20 sales per speech to audiences of 150 people.

Leveraged Revenue

$100,000 per speech

Mode: Author

Transactional Example

$30 book that you sell back of room and through your website

Transactional Revenue

Sell 10,000 at $30 equals $30,000 for the life of the book. Assuming you self publish and don’t factor in cost of production.

Leveraged Example

Build a membership site and sell $990 annual membership

Leveraged Revenue

Assuming 100 people are engaged per year you could make $100,00 per year on the site

Mode: Trainer

Transactional Example

Sell yourself as a trainer for $4000 a day

Transactional Revenue

$4000 per training day

Leveraged Example

License your IP into an organisation by first training internal trainers in your IP then running a per head license agreement every time they run the program

Leveraged Revenue

Upfront investment $5000 per trainer and 6 trained ($30,000 on off) then a $500 per person run through the program and lets say 250 run through the program over its lifecycle. A further $125,000 in practice revenue

Mode: Mentor

Transactional Example

Sell mentoring packages of 10 private sessions at $500 each.

Transactional Revenue

$5,000 per person you mentor per year.

Leveraged Example

Run quarterly group mentoring sessions at say $12,000 per year. Mix some one on one and the 4 major group days.

Leveraged Revenue

Assuming 30 people enroll each year you have a $360,000 cluster to add to your practice revenue.

Mode: Facilitator

Transactional Example

Sell your facilitation at a day rate of $4,000 per day and get 3 days a year through a company

Transactional Revenue

$12,000 per client

Leveraged Example

Run residential retreats with a $2,500 per head costs per weekend and get 55 people to attend

Leveraged Revenue

$137,500 per retreat

Mode: Coach

Transactional Example

Sell coaching packages to individuals in organisations

Transactional Revenue

$10,000 per 8-12 sessions sold.

Leveraged Example

Certify coaches in the use of your methodology

Leveraged Revenue

Upfront investment per coach $10,000 and a further $5000 per year license fee for the commercial use of your ideas. Lets say 12 people a year do this. $180,000 per year.

Next week, I’ll explain the key capabilities for each of the MDE modes.



Strategies Missing Link

How well is strategy distributed through the organisation? It's the leaders responsibility to take the developed strategies and deliver them with great flexibility into all levels of the organisation.

There are a few steps to this process:

  • Get strategy (assume you have this)
  • Think through the various 'audience' groups who need to hear the strategy
  • Create a variety of ways to deliver the strategy. Not just mechanical means but also conceptual means.
  • The strategy must make sense on the factory floor and the boardroom.
  • Develop capability in your leaders to deliver this.

To do this well, the strategy needs to be turned into a suite of communication pieces.

  1. A keynote TED style 18-minute presentation that outlines the strategy.
  2. A series of simple diagrams that are used when chatting informally about the strategy (these are always drawn and are not on PowerPoint).
  3. A website or intranet (perhaps internal use only), with short videos explaining the strategy.
  4. A white paper that walks through the strategy linearly.

Just to name a few...

This is Speakership - the missing link between strategy and leadership.



The power of narrative

Speakership is the missing structure that links strategy and leadership. You have to be able to bridge the gap between your organisations strategy and it's people. Recently I worked with a team of senior executives on the art of storytelling. This is one of the eight roles and capabilities leaders will acquire when they develop their speakership.

Stories are old school, really old school. It's the first way you learnt right and wrong, it's how most great learning occurs. Think back to your favourite school teacher and I reckon that at some level they were a great storyteller. They bring the dry and academic alive through the artful use of story.

Stories bypass the logical and get inside an audiences head. It's easy to find resources to help you be a great storyteller. I have one as a gift at the bottom of this newsletter that is great. What tends to get less focus is the power of letting others tell you their stories. If you want to get inside the world of someone else and understand what drives them, then become an engaged audience.

Next time one of your team shares an anecdote about their world, tease out the detail that makes this a story. An anecdote is to a story what a one liner is to a comedy set. Anecdotes follow an abbreviated recount format. The classic template being incident-point-benefit. Most people don't want to bore you with the details in a business context and so default to anecdote.

This is a lost opportunity!

Next time you are listening to a hasty anecdote from one of your staff or customers, seize the moment and dig for more.

  • Ask about the characters. Get the teller to give more detail, describe the people.
  • Ask them what they were thinking at that point in the incident.
  • Ask if there was anyone else in the picture.
  • Ask them what, if anything, they have learned from the experience.
  • Ask them what meaning they put on that.
  • Most of all be patient (note to self). The richness of the telling is in the detail.
Speak as though you are certain, listen as though you are not.


Profitable Positioning

One of the pieces of commercial communication we all have to get good at is the art of positioning ourselves profitably. This is often harder when you are selling intangibles like services and truly challenging when you are positioning yourself.

The key is to manage the process through the three filters of YOU, IT and THEM.

The following diagram explains it:

Start by disclosing a little about you, then become objective and outline the process you use and finally explain how this makes a difference in their world.

Answer the whole question next time you are asked ‘what do you do?’


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