Speaking in front of 50, 500 or even a crowd of 1,000 is one thing. Being the only external keynote speaker at a sales kickoff for 10,000+ insurance agents is quite another. After speaking to 20,000+ (10,000+ in Jakarta) people during a 10-city speaking tour across Indonesia, I’m sharing 8 things to do before, during and after speaking to a large audience of 10,000+.
1. Get noticed. I spoke to an audience of about 1,000 people in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on the topic of Social Selling and was approached by a buyer afterwards who mentioned there could be a future opportunity. About 18 months later the buyer engaged me for a 10-city tour, speaking to 20,000+ insurance agents across Indonesia, including 10,000+ in Jakarta. Fredrik Haren often says, if people don’t approach you after your talks to engage you for future sessions, you need to improve your talk.
“Be so good they can’t ignore you” - Steve Martin
2. Ask for help. I reached out to Andrew Bryant and Tim Wade, who had worked with that buyer before and asked them to share some advice based on their experience. Ask what worked best and worst, highs and lows, and what they would do differently if given the chance. It’s natural to feel nervous speaking to an audience of 10,000+ so it was reassuring to hear someone say “Just be yourself. They’ll love you buddy!”.
“You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.” - Cesar Chavez
3. Practice your speech. Finalise your content, key message and slides early in the process so you have more time to rehearse. Practice on your own, with a buddy or an audience if possible. I was working with the same translator for the 10-city tour and we practiced together so often, he could interpret me on stage and capture the essence of my message from the biggest gestures to smallest facial expressions.
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." - Abraham Lincoln
4. Start and end with a bang. As Christian Chua says, "It’s showtime!”. I took the stage to high energy music, hands clapping, huge smile and a bellowing “Selamat pagi Prudential Jakarta!!! Apa kabar?!?! Add a genuine mention of your love for the local food, (“saya suka rendang daging”) and you’ll build instant rapport. A few words in the local language scores points and adds more impact to your message. I ended with the audience reciting an affirmation and I hammered the point home by getting them to repeat after me “Aku pemenang!!!” (I'm a winner) three times and closing with “Anda pemenang” (you're a winner) to thunderous applause.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou.
5. Don’t forget the people in the back and the sides. What’s the point of speaking to an audience of 10,000+ people if you’re only really speaking to the first few rows? I covered every meter of the massive stage and engaged every corner of the exhibition hall. Engage the left, centre and right sides in friendly competition - shouting, clapping, dancing, etc. The folks at the very back can easily feel left out so I pointed to them and said “I can see you and now I want to hear each and every one of you - make some noise!!!” They immediately felt included and emboddied the event theme of ‘Greater Together’.
NOTE: Working with a translator on stage (or in a booth) presents unique challenges when speaking in front of a big crowd. Be sure to complete your sentence and pause to allow time for translation and crowd reaction.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” - Proverb.
6. Go big or go home. Exaggerate your body language and gestures to be more easily been since most of the crowd is watching from far away and/or on big screens. You’ll need to be more expressive than usual and push yourself beyond your comfort zone. When making key points, I would sometimes put one foot on a big loudspeaker on stage, with one fist in the air like a rock star. I took the stage dancing to party music in each city (including some NSFW gyration in Pontianak) that had the crowds going berserk. You’re not giving a speech, you’re giving the performance of your life. Be rememberable.
“I won’t be a rock star. I will be a legend.” - Freddie Mercury
7. Recharge your batteries. After giving the performance of your life and taking countless 'wefies', you’ll be on an adrenaline high and want to crash at the same time. Drink lots of water, go out for a nice meal and put your feet up. You’ve earned it. My wife and kids joined me in Jakarta which was special. The following day we took a train to Bandung for a short holiday before my next speaking engagement. When the 10-city tour was done, we went to Bali for a well-earned, much needed 2-week vacation.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” - Proverb.
8. Take it to the next level. You’ve just had your '15 minutes of fame' so now what? Update your marketing collaterals, include footage in your speaker demo video, share with your audience on social media and your database. You’ve just joined a small group of speakers who have addressed an audience of 10,000+ people so you’ve just taken your speaking business to a whole new level. Celebrate this career milestone and then ask yourself, what’s next?
“The future depends on what we do in the present.” - Mahatma Gandi.