36 hours in the life of a leadership speaker:
By David Lim, CSPGlobal
I thought I would share for the first, and possibly only time here, a peek into 36 hours in the life of a professional speaker/expert; and then share some self-leadership lessons I have learnt along the way. You can scroll all the way down for these if you don’t want to read the whole post. The following day is a typical day or so, when I am travelling somewhere regionally to deliver a motivational or leadership presentation, and this one really did take place recently.
0600hrs: the alarm goes off on a Thursday. I lie there for a while until the snooze function kicks in. I get up, turn of my secondary alarm, wash and run some cleaning chores in the cats’ room before dressing, and checking all my carry-on luggage. I drink a mug of water with my vitamins and supplements, and head down to get to the airport for my Hong Kong flight
0830hrs: having had a seamless check-in, and boarding, I kick back in my flight; go over my presentation again and catch up on a movie. I often pick movies my wife and I won’t watch together, or a foreign language movie that’s otherwise hard to find in the video rental store. Brunch is an excellent fry-up with ham, poached eggs, fruit and some wholemeal bread, washed down with green tea
1230hrs : I collect my Macau ferry ticket and help a fellow traveller less familiar with the ferry process, and then head for the Skypier, where you can get ferries direct from the airport to Macau. On the ferry, I shift smoothly from HK airport’s free wifi to the ferry wifi; working throughout the hour-long journey. I receive a last-minute email offer to speak at a conference by email at a fraction of my usual fee. I make a counter proposal and negotiate a different fee. Owing to my schedule, I inform the client they need to make a decision by the next day (Friday).
1600hrs : The pickup from the Macau ferry terminal is faultless, and I soon connect with my hosts, managers from the events and corporate communications side of one of the Big Four accounting firms. Over 500 of their senior leaders are gathering at the hotel for a big kickoff event. The 25-metre wide screen is fabulous but demanded some special treatment of my slides and embedded videos. The focus is on building a more unified team, and the theme of my presentation is a fit with their intended learning outcomes – creating purpose-driven leaders. I bring a few simple gifts for the team that’s been working hard pulling together this big event, signed copies of some of my books
1730hrs – I hit the gym and torch calories in a 30 minute session on a stair climbing machine; my 4th workout of the week.
1900hrs – I reconnect with my hosts, get introduced to the Chairman of the firm, and head to a nearby hotel for dinner. There I get to meet someone I had hitherto only known on Linkedin. Shaun is an expert of macro trends in China from a finance, and economics perspective. We take some fun snapshots at the ‘corporate fun’ corner set up by the client. Most large conferences usually have one or two external speakers only, and we are those two! It’s a happy meeting and we agree to keep referring business to each other
2330hrs: I make sure I make a nightly video call to my wife and our dogs and cats when I travel. Lights out after going over my client notes taken over two teleconference calls in the previous weeks. I want to be ‘on message’ as much as possible
0700hrs – I wake, soak in some email and social media updates; dress, and checkout before breakfast
0745hrs – the audio visual check works out fine despite a hiccup. I advise a shift in the large screen focus to create a better audience experience
1050hrs – I deliver my 60 minute presentation, posing a key question related to why people do what they do, and finish strongly with a message, call for action and an emotive video clip. The key to making memorable presentations with ‘sticky’ calls for action is to intrigue an audience at the start make them laugh a lot for the right reasons, hang your best points on key stories – yes – do tell stories; and end strongly. We think with logic but act on emotion, I meet the Chairman again and we chat. I thank all my clients and head for my flight
1345hrs –I head back to reverse my ferry and plane ride sequence. At the Macau end, I search for, and quickly locate a shop selling the much-liked caramelised Portuguese egg tarts for my family.
En route to Skypier, I receive news from the last-minute client that my counterproposal for a fee 400% larger than their original budgeted fee has been approved. I also quickly respond to a call from a London speaker bureau wanting a speaking date for his client in January. I quickly do a scan on flights, and inform him it will be possible to fit in a return timing to match my Miami-bound flight that same evening
1630hrs Back at the airport, I continue working on programmes coming up in the lounge while awaiting my flight home.
12midnight : Home sweet home.
So here are some quick lessons I think may be useful:
1) Stay fit and healthy for your sake and the clients. It seems incongruous to be talking about self-leadership if you are grossly overweight and obviously have some self-control and health discipline issues,
2) where practicable, make backups for your wakeup alarms, as well as flight choices. Try not to catch the last flight of the day if you need to make an early presentation or meeting the next day.
3) make use of technology to be more effective. I use Skyscanner.com for flight scheduling, a weather app so I dress appropriately, not to mention a few other useful navigation apps, and Linkedin to connect with new prospects and clients, or simply interesting people I meet in the course of my work. Include back up of key documents and e-tickets in the Cloud or a thumbdrive. I use Backblaze and Dropbox as practical backups in the ‘cloud’.
4) Be authentic off stage as you are on it – people can spot a phony a mile away. You’ll have more fun and so will the people you meet
5) Last by not least, have your family as a big reason as to why you do what you do at work
David Lim is Asia’s Leadership Coach, and best known for leading the 1st Singapore Mt Everest Expedition. Since 1999, he has helped organizations build teams and grow leaders. Send him a note today at to subscribe to a no-cost leadership e-newsletter.