Point Blank: Keynote Killer!
When a guru preaches there are those in the audience with an IQ of 160, but there are those with half that — he has to connect with them all
The other day I was having dinner with the cleverest friend I have. First of all, I must clarify that by clever I mean wise and intelligent — his brain works at three levels above ours. Second, I’ve got to also clarify the friend thing —he’s not a friend like someone who you go to a movie with or down a few beers with. He is more like a mentor who, for some reason, finds me entertaining, so meets me more or less whenever I want. Which is good. Because in my (and other people’s) reckoning he is easily among the 25 most powerful people in this country. Yet he is not preachy or overbearing. He likes to listen and speaks only when he thinks he must.
Anyway, we were catching up after a year or two so he was quite curious about the startup world and said he had heard I was doing a thing or two and making a difference.
First he asked about the money. He said, “I heard that some people gave you half a million dollars a few years back, what have you done with it?” So I told him, all going well, they would get three or four times that quite soon. He seemed happy with that.
So somewhere along the way we got around to discussing the fame and success thing.
I told him that lately I had been going to quite a few places and giving keynote speeches and sitting in panel discussions.
He nodded and waited patiently (with him you have to get to the point quickly). “Most of the speeches I hear are reverse engineered,” I said. Aha…that caught his interest — he waved for me to go on.
“What I mean to say is that these so-called successful people aren’t really telling the real real truths. They are saying what sounds good. They are saying the stuff they want in their legacy. So someone says ‘Chase your passion and money will follow’ because it will look good on their tombstone. Another says, ‘If you find what you love to do, you will never have to work a day in your life,’ while yet another says, ‘Every mistake that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!’”
“So what’s wrong with that,” he asked.
“Well I don’t think it really connects with, say, a young guy of 20 who’s wondering what to do with his life. He’s unsure, he’s confused. He has Brexit, Trump and demonetization around him. He knows that he has to find a good job and start earning good money but he doesn’t know how to go about it. Believe me 80 per cent of an average audience is exactly like him. There are 20 per cent who get these lofty ideas but they didn’t need to hear the speech anyway.”
“A true guru speaks to the common denominator,” he said. It was my turn to look curious.
He explained, “When a guru preaches there are those in the audience with an IQ of 160, but there are those with half that — he has to connect with them all.” I nodded.
Then he asked, “What do you say in your speeches?” I answered: “In my last one I went on stage in front of 500 MBA students. I said, ‘I was dropped on my head as a child, I was nearly expelled from school twice, I lied to get my first job, was thrown out of my second job, cried when I thought I couldn’t get my daughter into a good school, have been bankrupt twice, am scared of the dark, have no idea how to handle stress and have found success mostly by accident — are you sure I’m the right person to talk to you?’”
He nodded and smiled.
Then he said, “Eat you soup, it’s getting cold!”
This article was published in BW Businessworld issue dated 'Dec. 26, 2016' with cover story titled '35 Years Anniversary Special'
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