Work Hard – and Very Specifically – for Every Client
Leading up to a speech, I spend time talking to the event planners about their goals and needs. We start with a detailed phone conversation. What is the planner trying to accomplish? Who will be in the audience? What are their hopes and aspirations? What tone do they want my presentation to set?
Example — Microsoft
Not long ago I spoke to the top 1,000 executives at Microsoft. The COO, Kevin Turner, wanted me to talk about my book, The Soft Edge, and how to create a healthy and innovative culture for the long run. He hoped my talk would support a top goal of Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella – which is to reshape the Microsoft culture, make it more innovative and take more risk. We had a perfect match.
Example — Temasek
Recently I spoke to the board of directors and top managers of Singapore’s big sovereign wealth fund, Temasek. They invited me to speak about The Big 7 — 4 megatrends and 3 best practices that are shaping our future. But I knew that in order to win the trust of this very sophisticated audience, which included Ho Ching, Temasek’s CEO and wife of Singapore’s prime minister, I had to put my futuristic speech into the context of today’s extremely volatile global financial markets. That’s because political and financial volatility form the present-day climate that Temasek, and all global funds, now face.
Speak To The Higher Aspirations of Everyone in The Room
More than 300 organizations have hired me to speak. Typically, these are companies, banks, investment firms, trade associations, and economic development groups. They might be in North America, Asia or Europe. But I always remind myself that while organizations want to be successful, so does every single person in the audience.
All of us want to be more effective in our jobs. We want to see into the future and make good decisions. We want to inspire the people around us. So when I speak to organizations, I make a special effort to speak to the concerns, hopes and higher aspirations of every person in the audience.
Forbes Media Is a World-Class Observation Deck
Steve Forbes hired me in 1992 to start a futurist magazine called Forbes ASAP. In 1998 Steve promoted me to publisher of Forbes magazine and asked me to write a regular column on innovation. Let me tell you, Forbes is the best perch in the world to analyze the U.S. and global economies, financial markets, technology and tech driven change, innovation, and success.
Forbes gives me unique access to CEOs and major investors around the world. The best part of my job is soaking up insights from the most successful people in the world and sharing them with audiences.
Onstage Interviews Are Also Fun – and Thrilling
Some of my favorite events with clients are not speeches, but are leading panels and onstage interviews. At a recent Morgan Stanley private wealth management conference, I interviewed the firm’s U.S. and global chief economists. At another investment bank event I interviewed Michael Dell. For the U.S. division of Spanish bank, BBVA Compass, I interviewed former NBA Commissioner David Stern and Alabama football coach Nick Saban. I once interviewed former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, in front of 14,000 people at Toronto’s Air Canada Center. Ballmer didn’t need a microphone!
My job as moderator is to bring out the energy and excellence of my panelists. Panelists, you know, are there for a reason: they are successful at what they do!
What being an entrepreneur, investor and board member has taught me
Let’s face it. Journalists and book authors are not always the most trusted sources of business information and insight. That’s because many pundits have never had their own skin in the business and investment game. I’ve had the opportunity to start two business magazines from scratch. Believe me, I sweated the financial and management details along with the content. I cofounded Silicon Valley’s largest business club, which today has 7,500 members. For that achievement, I won an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
I’ve also personally invested in startups, both directly and through venture capital limited partnerships. I’ve sat on boards of directors. Sometimes making money, sometimes losing money, I’ve learned the lessons of business, management, organization and financial return from the inside.