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In this episode of The Speaker Show, Maria Franzoni interviews Nick Jankel.
Nick Jankel inspires, motivates, and empowers audiences all over the world to forge the future —rather than fail it. He has led over 100 transformational innovation programs for enterprises like Diageo, Novartis, Vodafone, Tesco, and Microsoft leveraging his own and proven Exponential & Sustainable™ process
He aims to eliminate confusion as a futurist with clarity; take the pain out of business / digital / sustainable transformation; blast through the barriers that block innovation; and transform the challenges of cross-functional teams by unlocking agility and safety.
As a trained scientist, Nick uses the latest biology and “neuroleadership” insights to influence audiences to change and transform.
He is the author of a number of books on creativity, leadership and transformation, including his latest – Now Lead The Change.
In this fascinating episode, we discuss:
- Transformational Keynotes
- The Power of a Keynote
- Mistakes Speakers Make
- The Secrets to an Epic Talk
- Transformational Innovation Programs
Maria Franzoni (00:16): Hello. And welcome back to The Speaker Show with me your host, Maria Franzoni. Today, we’re talking about transformation, but specifically how to use a keynote to catalyze transformation. The Speaker Show is brought to you by Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau for the world’s most successful organizations. Providing keynote speakers for events, conferences, and summits. My guest inspires, motivates and empowers audiences to forge the future – rather than fail it. He has led over a hundred transformational innovation programs for enterprises like Diageo, Novartis, Vodafone, Tesco, and Microsoft leveraging his own and proven, Exponential and Sustainable process.
Maria Franzoni (00:56): He aims to eliminate confusion as a futurist with clarity; take the pain out of business, digital, sustainable transformation; blast through the barriers that block innovation; and transform the challenges of cross-function teams by unlocking agility and safety.
Maria Franzoni (01:12): As a trained scientist, he uses the latest biology and neuroleadership insights to influence audiences to change and transform. He’s the author of a number of books on creativity, leadership, and transformation. His latest is Now Lead The Change. Please welcome my guest, Nick Jankel. Nick, it’s lovely to see you. You’re looking rather tanned.
Nick Jankel (01:37): Yes. It’s not from a ski holiday or some Barbados action. It’s just from the pale winter sun.
Maria Franzoni (01:45): Fantastic. Well, it really suits you. Anybody who’s obviously listening to the podcast won’t appreciate this, but anyone watching the video will see that you’re looking fabulous. So I’m gonna go straight in, straight in here, Nick. Tell me, or tell us about your area of expertise before we dive deeper.
Nick Jankel (02:01): So, I’ve been talking for about 20 years about what I could closely call the human side of business, and business change. So that means for me, the creative aspects, the psychological aspects, the mindset aspects, the heart aspects, the culture aspects, the purpose aspects. And I point to all to how those people bits human bits can in fact impact the hard stuff, supposedly hard stuff of innovation, business transformation, agility and strategy. So I’ve done both. I’ve worked in both strategy and innovation consulting. I’ve also spent the last 15 years on leadership, culture, org dev type bits. And my chisel is to bring them together and show that you can’t get the hard bits. You can’t get breakthroughs in innovation and transformation and strategy without breakthroughs in hearts and minds. And you needed to bring them both together.
Maria Franzoni (03:03): Totally agree with that. I love the fact that you used the word chisel. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a speaker to use that word before. You got very down with the kids, Nick. That’s fantastic. So tell me what got you into speaking?
Nick Jankel (03:14): Well I was, it was demanded of me my first proper proper job, having changes of medic and left medicine. And I got a proper job in advertising. And the job of, my job was called a creative strategist or planner, brand planner. And my job was to persuade people 20, 30 years older than me, very senior leaders that this idea we’d had at the agency for their brand, for their vision, for their future, for the meaning of their company, was the way got to go. And I was very young. So when you have very little vertical power, as in the power to tell people what to do to tell people what this is, the strategy, you have to build up horizontal power, which is influencing and persuasion and inspiring, which is storytelling. And so that was really, really from the beginning of my career.
Nick Jankel (04:05): I’ve been put in front of people who are older and wiser and more knowledgeable and had to use whatever I had here right now in this moment, to bring them to a bit better place, a bigger place and more excited place, which is really the key of keynote speaking. And then I guess, five or six years into it, I’d been invited into speak at conferences and whatever had to love, just the actual speaking part of it. And then I was invited by clients to actually do keynotes at their events directly. And that then was like, hold on a minute, there’s actually an industry around this. I didn’t know that at the time. And then I got involved with a more professional, trajectory of keynote speaking, and really then started to develop a craft of it. And I take that craft very seriously.
Nick Jankel (04:54): And for me, that craft is about how you show up in the room as the speaker, but also there’s a whole, almost invisible craft around how you take a brief, the questions you ask of the client, how you prep, how you show up on time and in the right mood. There’s a whole lot of stuff like an athlete. There’s a whole lot, you don’t see like the training and the recovery, whatever, just for a little bit that you do see. And as I’ve learned myself, how to deliver, you know, as brilliantly as I can, I’ve learned how important that other stuff is as well as just the storytelling, the persuasion, charisma, all that stuff.
Maria Franzoni (05:35): It’s so true that sort of like 45 minutes of speaking has hours and days often. And then it, if you’re adding travel onto it on top of that as well, there’s this so much that goes into it. I know I remember those days. Amazing. Yeah, absolutely true. Now what’s interesting about you is that you really genuinely believe that keynote speaking is very important, but you would believe it’s an important service to the world. What do you mean by that?
Nick Jankel (06:01): So, a keynote is a extremely rare moment in, in our human experience that you don’t get very often where a bunch of people, the audience, give you this very, very rare thing called attention, and they give it to you, without, hopefully Facebook notifications and WhatsApp messages and hundred emails that they got in that hour. And they give you their attention and it’s shared attention. So it’s a group of people. It’s either, you know, a group of leaders or it’s a group of colleagues, or it’s a group of industry, executives or sales people across an industry. And they’re all giving you this moment in time. And you can use that moment, to do a lot of different things with, depending on your craft as a speaker. And what I think is important is you can use that moment to actually transform the audience, potentially the organization, if people will leave that, that moment with a different sense, feeling, sort of togetherness, or an upgrade in thinking or, and a language that they can share. So, so that’s why I think this, that 45 minutes, that half an hour, that 18 minutes, hopefully not that five minutes. That’s not a conversation. The hour is a moment where you can shape the future of the audience and the people who weren’t there, who couldn’t make it also. And that’s extremely rare because you don’t get those 20, 45 minutes of attention very often in the world.
Maria Franzoni (07:31): No, absolutely. Especially these days. I think the attention span’s gone right down, I don’t what the figures are now, but they’re, yeah, it scary. So can they be powerful live or virtual or is there a difference?
Nick Jankel (07:43): Yeah, well, before two years ago or whatever, before lockdown, I’d done a handful of virtual talks and leadership programs, and I’d always struggled in the little bit, did my best. And obviously one of the great challenges of the age is to take what’s happening to you and metabolize it into something of value. That’s one of the things I teach people, and so rather than mourn about a virtual, I was like, right, I’m gonna become a really good virtual speaker. And I learned it’s actually quite different. There are similarities, there are differences in how you speak, in how you design it, in how you craft your story. But there are diff, they are different. And I think the world is now seeing them as two different things and they’re both useful for different reasons. So for example, I think virtual in some, which can be better at intimacy because you’re beaming into someone’s usually comfortable place where they feel comfortable and therefore they’re of often not got the camera on.
Nick Jankel (08:39): So they’re not trying to pretend they’re amazing and brilliant, handsome. They’re just listening and then you can get them to actually be really intimate with you and reflective and share in a way they might not do in front of a thousand other people or their bosses, bosses, bosses, et cetera. So there’s kind of an interesting value. That’s unique about virtual. There are other things too, around the technology you can use to, to do stuff online, which is very cool. And then there’s the in person, which is so exciting around that moment and that sharedness, and that why we’re call in it togetherness that you can do live. And particular thing that you can do in person that you can’t do very easily virtually is as a speaker, you can sense the mood of the room. You can sense the system. You can sense where people are at, whether they’re upset, frustrated, scared, excited and you can respond live to that experience.
Nick Jankel (09:31): As well as asking them questions and getting them to stand up and put their hand up, making it experiential, and you can pull them with you towards a place that is harder to do virtually. It can be done, but it’s not as easy. So I’m excited about a kind of dual, dual mode keynote speaking, where you’re doing one virtual when virtual’s a better solution, which is also by the way more sustainable for the planet less flying all that stuff, which is very cool. And you can do all this deeper stuff and you can get people doing stuff together and using cool boards and putting suggestions in, and then they will have this other thing called, you know, in person keynote speaking, and that will have a different role to play. So I’m excited about both, actually.
Maria Franzoni (10:16): It’s really interesting your, your points about virtual. I hadn’t considered the fact that you are, I mean, you’re absolutely right. You’re beaming into somebody’s personal space, where they are comfortable. And they, you know, and that intimacy that you could have, I hadn’t considered that. And I think you are absolutely right when I think about it. And of course, obviously we all know the benefits of being in person. And I think we all, all looking forward to doing a bit more of that. And, and also the fact that when you’re in person, you are three dimensional, Nick we’re here at the moment we are on, we are on zoom. You’re two dimensional. I’m getting used to being two dimensional, actually. I’m I sort of, yeah, I sort of, I think I’m beginning to like being quite flat.
Nick Jankel (10:55): I’m quite looking forward to more or three dimensional experiences. And actually I think what also this more 3D in every sense, right? It’s more panoramic. You can see more, you’re not just focused like this, and there’s a whole bunch of psychology around broad panoramic views bringing you into a more reflective creative place. So that’s a quite exciting for me. And also that I think it then hopefully inspires bookers, event managers, producers, clients, to use the in personness for what it’s good for and not just a default to in person. That’s what we did for 50 years. And that’s what you do when you have a event or a conference, but to say, do we want it in person, if it’s in person, how do we make the use of in personness? And long boring presentations with lots of bullet points in PowerPoint is probably not the best use of the in person time. And I think that’s been one of the great benefits of this, sort of disruption to our industry, is to be just wiser and more aware and more creative about these different formats and how to do things.
Maria Franzoni (12:03): Yep. I love all that. So obviously you are an expert in transformation and you believe that you can make a keynote transformational. So what makes a keynote potentially transformational?
Nick Jankel (12:14): Great question. And this is very live for me ’cause I’m thinking through this at the moment. So, I’m, you’re the first person who ever asked me that. So I’m gonna share what comes to me. So if you think about this traditional keynote was motivational, right? You bring people into an elevated psychological state, yeah. Who, excited. And then often it dissipates immediately afterwards, right? And they might have a vague memory of one thing you said or whatever, that was the first level. Great, powerful. You need to be able to do that. Then I think I built in a second layer, which you could call inspirational, which is where you’re looking at, how to open up, let’s call it a possibility space for the future. You’re inspiring the group, the audience to go, this is what’s possible in the future. And it could be on the level of breakthrough strategy innovation or as a team, it could be like this.
Nick Jankel (13:02): So that’s like the next level of layer that I’ve been sort of worked on for many years. And then the layer I’ve been working on for the last few years is the next layer top of that, which is not just bringing people into an elevated psychological state and a kind of excited state, not just showing them what’s possible opening up that, but actually working with what’s in the room. The schism, the elephants, the frustrations, the disappointments, the unspoken resentments, the hierarchical challenges people have had, the disillusion, the disengagement, all that stuff. And rather than pretending, it’s not there, ’cause I’m a keynote speaker. It’s nothing to do with me. And that’s your problem, HR, chief happiness officer, whatever, actually working with it. So you’re designing your keynote to essentially meet people where they’re at, bring their think about, everyone’s got like a thread, everyone’s got a thread in the group and this could be an in company or across an industry and you’re bringing the threads together.
Nick Jankel (13:59): And then you are using your motivational inspirational energies to then bring it together into a moment and in some way kind of heal and weave the group. And then you open up a possibility space that people can then go, okay. I’ve been felt where I’m at now. And you’ve brought me higher, which is actually the key to storytelling anyway, is not just telling a story, but meeting people where they’re at and finding them in the moment. And I think we have to transformation is reliant upon really acknowledging people’s emotions, beliefs, assumptions, biases etcetera. And their sort of habits of thought and habits of behavior. And so that’s what transformation ultimately has to do always is transform feelings, thoughts, and behavior. So if you’re doing it as a keynote, you’re actively trying to find where people’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors are. And then design your talk and design how you show up, which is just as important as the talk, to make a significant shift in those feelings, thoughts and behaviors.
Nick Jankel (15:01): And it requires a kind of, a bit more of a partnership and a trust with the client, the producer, the event manager, because they need to give you some of that information cause you can’t just make it up for yourself about a 10,000 person, group or an entire industry where the industry’s at. So part of the briefing process for me is trying to find the insights that people have, who are experts in their company slash industry, and then use my talk and my briefing to bring out insights just as I used to do with market research and focus groups and whatever about customers, where customers are at and transform customers, you’re using it to transform whoever the audience is. And it’s a really interesting and slightly different way of doing things. And it really works. It really, really works. When the, whoever is running the event, understands that that’s possible. And I don’t think that’s really fully understood as an industry yet that this 45 minutes can actually catalyze transformation as well as deliver motivation and inspiration.
Maria Franzoni (16:08): I’d love to be in an audience when that this is happening. This sounds absolutely fantastic. I can see many organization’s loving this, but I, and also the point they really need to trust you. They really need to trust you to do that. What’s the most impact a keynote can have on an audience, would you say?
Nick Jankel (16:23): I guess the most impact, there’s two impacts that I look for. And I should tell people this before I show them my keynote, because I want them to know what I’m there to do and I’m not there, I just say, I’m not comedian. I’m not here to make you laugh. I’m not gonna tell you about winning a gold medal in something that happened sometime ago, I’m here to, two things, really three things, plant a seed, a seed of transformation. Some people in might pop in during the keynote summit pops in the few days after summit pops, literally you, I had people emailing me going. I saw you a thing didn’t really whatever. And now I’ve totally, you know, popped. So that’s one thing you plant seeds. I think the second thing is this moment you create a shared moment and it can be a shared moment of whoa, wasn’t that an intense experience.
Nick Jankel (17:11): Those last two years now, where we going, or this is the moment where we commit to this new transformation vision as a company. So you’re creating a shared moment. And then the other thing that I think is really important with an impact is to provoke and challenge and to shake up the box and the mind set because otherwise what you tend to see is people. Guys, it’s a really nice keynote. It’s a really funny, but they have no idea. Are you year later? What, what it was, they just, it just passes into the ephemera of the rich experiences we have and the constant content we’ve got. We’ve all got great content, right? You can watch a Ted talk. You can read a great book, so much of that going on. So I said to people at the beginning, if I haven’t provoked you or challenged you during this 45 minutes, I haven’t done my job.
Nick Jankel (17:54): So that if you’re feeling like something is like alive in you, that’s good. That’s the good thing. That’s not something to be looked at negatively. That’s something to be accelerated. And that’s what transformation does, right? Transformation doesn’t just flips fit, you know, fit into what you’re already doing. It shifts you, it breaks you, it step changes you and you can’t do it without, without some kind of breakthrough moment, some kind of provocation. So those are some of the impacts. Obviously it’s only 45 minutes, an hour, so you can’t change the entire planet with one talk, but you can certainly contribute to long term change.
Maria Franzoni (18:31): Love that. And I was, while you were talking, I was sort of going back through the various speeches I’ve heard, cause obviously I’ve heard quite a few. I’ve been in the industry a while and I’m thinking there’s probably only a handful that had that ability to really make me change and think differently and act differently. It was that it’s interesting that we do, we do get, as you say, the content, but those that remain with you. So it’s great that you’re doing this. What does an event producer or a client need to do to get the most impact from the investment that they make in a speaker, which sometimes can be quite considerable.
Nick Jankel (19:05): It can, and it should. So I think there’s a, some practical stuff. And I think there’s some sort of psychological stuff. So the practical stuff is, that’s what I say to clients. If you’re flying me out somewhere cool and exotic, and then you get there and you want me to make a super short speech or just join for lunch, then why not add in a workshop element or why not add it in one of the tools that I use or why not add, you’ve got me for the day. Doesn’t cost very much it more to, to use me in other ways. That’s the first thing. Use your speaker given the time now, not all speakers like to do that. They just wanna do their keynote and off they go. But I like to be, if I’m there, then let’s, you know, put me on a panel or have another thing.
Nick Jankel (19:48): So that’s kind of one practical thing is use the day. You’ve bought someone basically for a day. Pretty much, occasionally I have done two, two gigs in one day. Not something I, you know, do regularly. So let’s use it practically. But the bigger thing is psychologically. And again, I don’t know how this translates to all speakers, ’cause they everyone’s at very different levels of development as a speaker. But someone who knows what they’re doing, they’ve done it for 20 years. And there’s, as you say, a handful of us who really, really do this craft, it’s a craft, we craft spoke. And we take it very seriously. Trust us. Trust us to design something that works for you. Trust that my keynote slides on Apple, which are beautiful than stunning will work on your, Microsoft system.
Nick Jankel (20:31): You know, this kind of levels of trust. And what’s interesting. And often a lot of the talk I give is about how, we’ve now realized that the brain networks we use for creativity and connection and empathy are actually different from the ones we use for control and getting stuff done. And often a lot of event producers quite rightly are in micro control because there’s so many things can go wrong in an event. We know that and it’s amazing how many still do after a whole orchestra of people have put together an event. And that kind of sort of, quite rigid spreadsheet thinking is really great for when the food is gonna arrive and all this kind of stuff. It’s not usually brilliant for the speaker to get the best out of the speaker. And when you are paying a high amount for a high quality speaker, you can trust, they’re gonna deliver, they’ve done it many times with all sorts of different people.
Nick Jankel (21:22): So that trust piece and that sort of collaboration piece is really, really important. And the more a client can give me depth of insight about their audience, whether it’s their company audience or, you know, current, I being briefed on a, on an entire industry, that’s gone through a crazy world cause it’s a industry level conference. The more they can give me that insight, the more I can put it out, the more I can deliver something really awesome. So those briefing calls really, really important. And I also would say actually fit, fit check. So I’m now super into pre-booking calls. I used to really not want to do them because while I wanna spend 20 minutes unpaid, that may never be recouped, but actually, it’s a place for us both to go, am I kind of speaker you really want? Do you really want transformation? Do you want inspiration? Do you want to shift things or draw? Want people to laugh and have a good time and move on? And I’m not that other kind. So don’t book me and I can be much clearer and going, I don’t think I’m the right speaker for you, through that little call. So that’s a kind of part of that developing that rapport and that collaboration, that’s really useful in the end result.
Maria Franzoni (22:33): I’m so glad you said that because I, when I was running my bureau, I wanted speakers to do prebooking calls. I think it’s so important. Not only for, you know, to ensure that the, the fit is correct, but also you get a great understanding of what’s going on in the marketplace, what’s going on for clients.
New Speaker (22:46): Definitely.
Maria Franzoni (22:47): And it keeps you up to date. It’s fantastic knowledge. So, and why wouldn’t you spend time talking to clients. So was that one of the mistakes you made in the past? Cause you’ve made a few big mistakes haven’t you ? And you’ve seen others. You’ve seen others. We all have. Right?
Nick Jankel (23:00): I could write a book called the mistakes I’ve made as a speaker and what to do about them. I’ve made every mistake possible. One of them was resisting prebooking calls. And I’ve remember clearly not having one being booked for a gig, flying off somewhere in Europe to deliver the gig. And I’ve never seen so many people, sort of, eyes zip out of interest in me. And I was like, okay, I’m never doing this again. I’m never gonna go into a client where we haven’t had that fit check. Very interestingly I actually did another keynote for them about, same company, about few weeks ago, you know, 10 years on I’m different, they’re different. And it was a brilliant success. So it was a nice like cycle to come back, and sort of feel that wound. So yeah, pre-booking calls are really important.
Nick Jankel (23:50): I think another thing that’s important is managing expectations of what can and can’t be done in a conversation, in a keynote. And also third one is really making sure that they know they can trust you. So for example, one of the things I’ve done over the years is create an FAQ’s document so frequently asked questions after the booking. So then you get all these emails coming in. What’s the photo? What should we call him? What does he want water? Well, so over the years we’ve packed it all into a kit. It goes off, it’s got literally everything I’ve ever been asked and everything ask new or add to it. And that also not to give everyone the information and reduce the amount of transaction costs of running, you know, six, seven keynotes a month. It also creates trust. Cause they’re like, oh, this person knows what they’re doing. They know they might call him ‘Yankle’ and his name is Jankel. Great. They’ve, he’s done this before. It’s not his first rodeo. And it’s got, you know, technology, staff and everything. And so this kind of built, making sure you take responsibility for your clients to trust you, is super important. And, yeah, those are some of the things I’ve learned on some interesting journeys.
Maria Franzoni (24:59): Fantastic. So finally, would you like to leave us with any more thoughts? Because I think you’ve already given us lots of answers, but what else could make a talk really epic?
Nick Jankel (25:10): Oh, so let me see if I can find anything I haven’t shared. So I think the most important thing, actually I will share one thing and there’s something that I think a few speakers know. I think a lot of speaker bureaus know and a few bookers know. But I don’t think it’s out there fully, which is your talk and all the knowledge and the cool slides and whatever you’ve got, you know, your clever metaphors, your memes, all that stuff is half of the talk, the keynote. And the other half of the talk is who you are as a person. And whether you embody what you share and for a long time, people think the cleverness, oh, he was a prime minister or they were a general and all this stuff is what you’re getting. That’s half of it, the other half is, does this person particularly in my area, right?
Nick Jankel (25:58): Innovation, creativity, courage, purpose. Do I live every single day what I speech? Because I know if I say something like something about integrity or something about showing up the courage. And then yesterday I wasn’t doing that myself. It takes away like 5% of my power. And so I have to live my chat in order to do what I do as a speaker. And I think a lot of speakers don’t know that there’s this other 50% of the talk, which makes it go from good to great, which is you live the, what you write here, you are living it every day. You are sharing it every day. And that allows you also to be really vulnerable. And it allows you to share yourself because you’ve mastered it inside. And so I can share my vulnerabilities and my failures because I know I’m really, really good at what I do because I had those failures and because I made mistakes. So that being it, as well as speaking it, you know, walking the talk, the walking is as important as the talking, even though people only see the talking for that 45 minutes.
Maria Franzoni (26:59): I so, so agree with you. I’m so glad you said that. And actually you would lose more than 5% in my eyes when I was a booker. Absolutely.
Nick Jankel (27:06): Yes. You’re super new, you are super sophisticated, right? So, you know, pull down that he’s not walking the talk. Right? And, I think that, but I think overall audiences are becoming much more discerning about their speakers and what they, what they want. And they, the glitz and the glam and the gold medals are becoming less important than show me who you are on stage. And that you are who you say you are and what you tell me to do, you are doing. And that is ultimately, you know, the question. So you are, keynote speaking is a leadership act in that level. It’s an act of a leader.
Maria Franzoni (27:41): Nick, thank you so much. That was really fascinating. Thank you for showing us who you are. Thank you for sharing your insights and thank you for showing us how a keynote can truly be transformational. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.
Nick Jankel (27:53): As always Maria.
Maria Franzoni (27:55): Wonderful. And all that remains is to thank everybody for listening to The Speaker Show. And if you enjoy this episode, please leave a rating on Apple Podcasts. You can keep up with future episodes on the Speakers Associates website, which is (speakersassociates.com) or your favorite podcast app. And if you would like to invite Nick Jankel not Yankle to speak at your next conference or event, please contact Speakers Associates in plenty of time to book him. So you won’t be disappointed as you hear he’s pretty busy. I will see you all next week. Bye-bye for now.
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Maria Franzoni is an established and recognised speaking industry expert and one of the most experienced speaker bookers in Europe.
As well as working with speakers, Maria also hosts live shows and podcasts. She currently hosts The Speaker Show podcast for Speakers Associates.