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Discover How I Mastered Public Speaking to Become a Keynote Speaker

I tell all.... on Pomona Partners Podcast

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It was lovely to be asked on one of my keynote talks / public speaking agents Pomona Partners new podcast all about events and public speaking.

Why do they do such a podcast as an agency for the UK's best public speakers?

Well, they asked their clients what was the biggest challenge for any leader? And the answer was…

“Events, dear boy, events!”

Former chancellor Harold Macmillan also apparently said this, supposedly. (Ed. I am not 100% sure he did but it’s a nice idea.) Now he may (or may not) have been talking about world events, but anyone involved in business events knows what a huge challenge it is to make them successful. And that’s what this podcast is all about.

The highs and the lows of organising, and speaking at, business events. Which is something I know a lot about after more than 20 years of doing just this.

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Being on the podcast got me to thinking - not just about keynote speaking about the future of work, technology and AI. But public speaking in general. As a lot of people are realising - the ability to speak well in public - is going to the very thing technology and AI can’t do. Not just yet…

"Public speaking - might very soon - be the ONLY thing that the machines can’t do." (Dan Sodergren 2023)

So public speaking, going on podcasts, appearing on TV and the radio, the very things I do for a living as Dan Sodergren, might become the very thing everyone needs to get better at. The world of public speaking is about to change forever - and maybe for the better. So I believe public speaking, whether it’s about tech and AI or not, is something you could get better at doing…

So here are some thoughts.

Breathing Life into Your Public Speaking

Do you remember the first time you encountered a crowd and felt those nerves creeping in? For me, it was at a talent show around age 13 or 14. I didn’t have a specific talent to showcase, so I ended up hosting the event, narrating and presenting other people’s amazing talents.

It's ironic, right? Hosting because I didn’t feel “good enough” to perform. This pattern continued in various roles—DJ manager, nightclub runner—but always behind the scenes, never the star.

Fast forward to several years later, and here I am as a professional public speaker. My journey took a pivotal turn when an old business mentor asked me to do a talk about my experiences in Mexico, which back then had ended in financial failure. That talk led to more speaking gigs and a snowball effect that shaped my career.

Today, I speak to varied audiences, from students and university training attendees to corporate leaders and C-suite executives. I focus on topics ranging from innovation and company culture to the future of work and artificial intelligence. My ultimate goal is to inspire change and ignite passion within the people I address.

Overcoming public speaking challenges wasn’t always easy, for me, but the rewards have been immense. (So much so that I wrote two books on the subject. Overcome for beginners just starting out public speaking and Conquer for more advanced public speakers.)

From personal satisfaction to helping others transform, each speaking engagement is a powerful experience. So, if you're facing your own public speaking hurdles, remember there’s an art to mastering this skill, and the journey is well worth it. Now, let’s dive into some strategies to conquer those fears and deliver speeches that leave a lasting impact.

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The Art of Breathing Life into Your Words

Public speaking is not just sharing information. It's about breathing life into your words and igniting passion in your audience. When you speak excitedly, you energise the room. That’s what makes a good public speaker unforgettable. Think of it like breathing fire—a powerful, engaging force that captivates everyone present. Without this spark, you're simply sharing facts, not inspiring action.

One of the key elements of inspiring public speaking is genuine passion for your subject. As a speaker, if you don't love what you're talking about, it shows. Your audience can sense your disinterest, and the energy in the room drops. The future of work, technology, and AI naturally excites me, and that excitement translates into my talks. When you care deeply about your topic, it resonates with your listeners and compels them to pay attention and engage.

The Impact of Energised Speaking

Public speaking has both opportunity and responsibility. When people take the time to listen to you, whether it's ten or a thousand individuals, it's essential to honour their time by giving them your best energy and insights. A highly-energised talk can be transformative.

Many times, people have approached me to say how much they loved my talk and how it has inspired changes in their lives or businesses. This is the ultimate reward of public speaking—the chance to make a meaningful impact on others.

Moreover, not every public speaking experience will be flawless. Technical difficulties and unexpected challenges can arise, but they shouldn’t deter you. Being prepared and adaptable can turn potential disasters into memorable lessons. For example, knowing not to rely entirely on live technology and always having a backup plan is crucial.

These experiences, though frustrating in the moment, sharpen your skills and improve your future performances. The goal is to ensure that every presentation, regardless of hiccups, leaves the audience feeling energised and inspired.

The Power of Storytelling: More Than Just Words

Inspirational keynote speaking and public speaking is more than just addressing a roomful of people. It's about connecting with your audience on a deeper level. Through storytelling, I share my personal anecdotes—from my early days comparing talent shows to my ventures in Mexico— and here I am not just telling stories. I hope I'm building bridges of empathy. By doing so, I help my audience see themselves in my experiences. This connection empowers them to believe they, too, can overcome challenges and achieve their own dreams.

Inspirational speakers do more than just impress with their knowledge. They ignite a spark for change. My presentations on the future of work and artificial intelligence don't just inform corporate leaders about new trends. They inspire them to take actionable steps.

This energy, palpable in my sessions, so people say… transforms listeners from passive recipients to active participants, ready to revolutionise their own workplace practices and personal lives.

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So some questions to think about ….

1. Why is public speaking important in the business world?

Public speaking is crucial for conveying inspiring messages, driving innovation, and encouraging change. It empowers leaders to communicate their vision effectively and motivates employees to perform better.

2. How can one overcome nerves associated with public speaking?

Preparation and practice are key. Also, understanding that everyone experiences nerves can help. Focus on your message and the value it brings to your audience rather than on yourself. (Maybe read the book OVERCOME too - as this has some great tips in it.)

3. What makes an effective public speaker?

Passion, authenticity, and the ability to connect with the audience. An effective speaker engages their audience with energy and delivers clear, inspiring messages. (Maybe read the more advanced book CONQUER - as this has some great tips in it.)

4. How does technology, particularly AI, influence public speaking today?

AI and other technological advancements provide new subjects and tools for public speakers. Topics like the future of work and digital transformation are prevalent, and technology aids in delivering engaging presentations. I am not 100% sure that we are quite there with the AI tools that help create powerpoints and slides. But I am a bit old school and keynote speech creation is my passion so….

But there are some good ones - read my book about AI and marketing to learn more. As it has over 111 different tools I have tried over the years.

5. How can public speaking inspire change within a company?

By presenting compelling visions and actionable strategies, speakers can motivate employees and leaders to embrace new ideas and drive transformational change within their organisations.

Final thoughts….

Public speaking is not just about delivering a message; it's about inspiring action, driving change, and connecting with your audience on a deeper level.

Whether you’re addressing a large conference or a small team, the power of your words can shape the future. So, find your passion, share your message, and watch as your audience becomes empowered to make a difference.

Want to learn more about events and public speakers and their stories?

Listen to my podcast episode here.

And you can even watch it here on Youtube.

Want to hire me to inspire your people?

Chat to Pomona Partners, or VQB or JLA about your event.

And be happy to help.


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Want to become a professional speaker?

I might just launch a course about this before the end of the year.

So do be in touch if you would like to be part of it.

Yours sincerely

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References for the piece…