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So what do I do?

16 January, 2015

Following the advice in my previous post about “elevator pitches” (i.e. what you say to answer the question “what do you do?” when meeting people for the first time) you might wonder how I answer the WDYD question myself! The answer is… with some difficulty! The reason being that as a freelance corporate speaker the problem I have is that I “speak” at different types of event – each of which requires a totally different type of “speech”.

For example – many of my speeches are delivered at conference dinners – after the day’s work is done, when delegates are relaxing. Thus as as an “after-dinner” speaker I am more of an “entertainer” …. where the aim is to be light hearted, humorous and funny! Yet I am not a “comedian”…. as I do not tell “jokes” – and always include elements which relate to the business of the client. Thus the answer to the question WDYD could be “I cheer people up” or “I make people laugh” …. both of which follow my rules of being short, teasing and inconclusive answers – thus inviting other questions …. such as “how?” “to whom?” or “where?” etc. However – this implies that I am a “comedian”!

Eopa_2014_John Simonett 1

After-dinner speech, Amsterdam

 I also deliver keynote speeches and seminars on creativity and innovation, under the umbrella title “Restless Curiosity”. These are delivered at conferences – either to open the day, or in the “graveyard” slot after lunch to wake everyone up – or at the very end to close the day on a high, create a buzz and send everyone home invigorated! The aim is to examine what can best be described as “possibility thinking” – what it is, why it is important and why it is difficult! So to answer the WDYD question I could say “I encourage people people to think differently” or “I challenge people’s assumptions” (one of my themes!) or “I energise conference delegates” … all of which follow my rules!  The problem here is that it suggests I am akin to a university lecturer – a bit “dry” – without the blend of message and humour that all good speakers should employ! (After all – if an audience is laughing – they’re listening!)


Opening Keynote: Restless Curiosity – The Business Travel Conference, London (By the way – can you solve the puzzle in the slide? Left brained, logical people often struggle to do so!) Let me know in the comments box below if you work it out – who will be first?

In addition I often act as a conference host or MC, where the aim is not to be the “star” of the show, but to run the event and make others the stars! These can be very involved and require much homework to become part of the event and know the business of the client and the aims of the conference in order to facilitate it’s success. The role involves much more than being a time-keeper or reader of introductions! So I could say “I help run efficient meetings” or (tongue in cheek!): “I boss people about at conferences”.

So which do I use? Depends on who I am talking to! In reality … more often than not I break my own networking rule about not giving your job title – and just say “I’m a Speaker”! This does however follow the rule of generating another question – which is (inevitably!) “what do you speak about”…. then I can give them a quick run down on the above!

So here’s my final take on the WDYD question: if your job is a commonly known one … don’t give your job title first as people will immediately pigeon-hole you (see why in my previous post). If your job is unusual – it’s OK to tell people who ask what your job title is – as long as it provokes another question! For example – wouldn’t you be interested to know more about someone who told you they were a “wrinkle chaser”, “coconut safety engineer” or a “crack filler”? (Look them up!).

In my next post I will examine the difference between an after-dinner speaker and a comedian – are they the same thing? What do you think? Please use the feedback form below if you have an opinion to share!

If you are looking for an entertaining keynote or after-dinner speaker – please get in touch to discuss your event!

Office:  +44 1453 828568
Mobile: +44 7774 675222


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