We were recently interviewed by Christina Hinze, CEO of A-Speakers in Denmark – here is the result:

What is the message you hope people take away from your presentations?

People tell me that the the takeaways they get are things like:  The practicalities on personal and corporate reinvention;  A huge shot of inspiration, plus some practical strategies and tools to take back to business;  The event made me think deeply and for a long time afterwards about our company’s strategy;  Practical creativity and great ideas for product / service innovation

Do you have a favorite experience from your speaking career?

One of my favourite events was at Unilever in Rome.  They asked us to provide a mixed media evening as part of a 3 day strategy conference.  This involved: A keynote on marketing strategy before dinner; Some lighthearted inputs during dinner;  A team building task with music after dinner, which produced great energy and creativity, as they wrote songs for an advertising campaign for one of their brands.  It was so successful that the evening then continued into an ‘aftershow gig’, where the company played songs into the early hours.  It was exhausting but huge fun!

How do you prepare for speaking engagements?

In great detail is the short answer.  To do a 30 minute, 45 minute event is much harder than a day or 24 hour immersion event because every second counts.  So, I want to find out exactly why the company has hired me, what they are trying to do in overall terms AFTER the event is complete, in other words, what outcomes / results are they looking for?  What balance is to be struck between intelligent and thoughtful input and enjoyment / fun?  What level of provocation is required?  The balance between formal presentation and participative content.  Also how people are to be prepared for the event so that they are ‘oven ready’.  Finally, what comes before and after our input.  Proper prior preparation is essential to get the best out of a short session.

What do you consider a successful speaking engagement?

When the client actually does something with what they gained afterwards.  We brand our offering ‘serious fun’.  This means that, although we use music to get our messages across which is great fun, the ‘fun’ must not overwhelm the intellectual content we embed into our presentations.  When we get that mixture right for the client, not only do they remember the event for years to come, but they are moved to take action.  In one event we did for a Pharmaceutical company, they reported to me that they went on to develop 4 new product innovations that were worth $millions.  That justifies some of the ‘Rock’n’Roll lunacy’ that is a part of our unique offering! 🙂

Would you classify your keynotes as provocative?

At one level, yes.  We draw parallels between music and business excellence and that is unusual and challenging.  This means we bring guitars and other musical instruments into the venue to teach people improvisation and its link to innovation in business.  Members of the audience self select to come onstage and ‘rock out’ whilst others watch from a safe distance.  At another level, we are not provocative at all.  People willingly get involved and they tell me that the delivery style ‘seduces’ them into thinking differently about aspects of their business they had previously considered to be unchallengeable. So, our work is provocative, but because we use music to explore challenging business concepts, people tell me that the ‘pills go down much easier’ than they do using the usual methods. That said, we are sensitive to our audience expectations.  We’ve done sessions with ‘smooth jazz’ and classical music rather than rock music when it’s important to harmonise with a particular culture or expectation.  At the extreme, we have access to a roster of rock stars if a celebrity element is required.  Most recently we worked with Ozzy Osbourne and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan’s guitar player.

We make people think differently about business problems and opportunities

How are your keynote presentations unique?

We offer a unique blend of top level business thinking, blended with music.  There are great business speakers out there.  There are also some great musicians who perform to audiences.  We are a unique fusion of the two, reflecting my background of a solid career in leading innovation in corporate life, MBA level business academic, original life as a scientist bringing life saving drugs to market and as a rock and jazz musician.  We don’t just deliver presentations, we offer a potent experience, which reaches both heads, hearts and souls.

How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?

I do use a degree of observational humour in my speaking engagements.  Many times the humour actually comes from the client through improvised dialogue and repartee.  As a speaker, I believe you can only engage people if there is a conversation with the audience.   Part of our unique approach is to blend solid presentation with witty dialogue.  That also means that I don’t attempt to force standard jokes into cultures that may not necessarily understand or appreciate them.  I think that humour is a hugely personal thing, having travelled widely fixing factories around the world.  Our approach respects that.

Why do you feel that music is related to businesses?

The philosopher Emmanuel Kant said that music is the language of the emotions.  Madonna said something similar of course! 🙂  Businesses are emotional as well as rational machines.  Great leaders understand that.  Whilst a cool head is needed to analyse your markets, select strategy and so on, making strategy happen and employee engagement is all about reaching people’s hearts as much as their minds.  Our approach crosses the artificial boundaries between art, science and business for a whole brained approach to business leadership, innovation and creativity.  At a practical level, introducing musical ideas into a business event offers a ‘multiple intelligence’ approach, which means the learning is etched into people’s minds for the long term, rather like the way we associate pieces of music with particular memories and so on.  In the warped words of The Rolling Stones “It’s only Rock’n’Roll Business, but you will like it”.

You can find our speaker offerings at A-Speakers for bookings across Europe.

More interviews at The Royal Society of Chemistry and The HR Zone.

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