PSS2020 – Exploring Professional Speaking Globally

We were chatting in the huge warm hall bustling with activity on a brisk foggy morning in Delhi. The speakers exploded with music to a catchy beat as Kumar Achanta, the MC for the day, danced in and got us going. We got to our seats and were on our way. I was at the Professional Speakers Summit 2020 which was being held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Delhi near the Airport on February 1st and 2nd 2020. 

This was only the second annual summit of PSAI, so one could be forgiven for not knowing that PSAI stood for “Professional Speakers Association of India”. Yet, this summit had 152 paid attendees from India and, hold your breath, representation from 10 countries around the world (Australia, Singapore, US, Germany, Netherlands, France, Russia, Mauritius, Dubai and Nigeria). Globally, PSAI came under the umbrella of the Global Speakers Federation (GSF), which in turn had 17 countries under it. 

Founder-President Kiruba Shankar started off the proceedings followed by congratulatory video messages from Paul Ter Wal (President, GSF) and Ron Kaufman (International Keynote Speaker). Representing the GSF board, Cathy Johnson introduced the summit’s theme – “Speaking in the New World”. 

Tim Wade (from Singapore) kicked off the first session with “21 Ways to Grow Your Speaking Business” but over-delivered to give away 46 ways in his unique humorous style. The highlight of his talk was however quite something else. When he came on stage, the welcome was rather miserly as people clapped sparsely. Putting aside his talk, he made us promise that we would give each speaker a standing ovation (at the end of their talk, of course). We practiced a couple of times before moving on. This act of gratitude was followed without fail through the 2 days. 

Why this attitude of gratitude? Well, there were 26 speakers of which only 14 were from India. Yet, every speaker paid for their own travel & accommodation and were there to support fellow Professional Speakers unconditionally. However, this is not complete without anecdotes involving some speakers. Plagued by visa issues, German Sonja Piontek left for India late. When she called her mother from the airport to say goodbye, her mother was gasping for breath. Worried, she called a friend who took her mother to the hospital in time for her life to be saved. Sonja could have stayed back in Germany. Yet, she chose to honour her commitment to the summit and flew in to deliver her keynote on Day 2. Since Sonja was delayed, American Jane McMurry stepped in at short notice to speak in her slot on Day 1. In another case, Dutchman Tom Sligting got the attendees gifts on his own dime. If these don’t represent dedication, what do?! 

The two days were a whirlwind of connecting with inspirational people, making new friends and learning the art of taking professional speaking to the next level through keynotes, breakouts, masterclasses, panel discussions, book releases as well as an unconference. The topics covered everything a Professional Speaker would have to do in order to be successful. Nobody summed it up better than International Speaker Fredrik Haren when he questioned his 20 years as a Professional Speaker. How would we differentiate ourselves if we were competing with over 136,000 Professional Speakers globally? Evidently, people follow the message we stand for, not the speakers themselves. He got us to start thinking differently just as he did when he went from a “Creativity Speaker” to a “Creativity Explorer”. 

At the end of the summit, these were my 5 takeaways

  1. Niche and Followable Message – It is not enough to be good at speaking. Focus on your expertise. What message do you stand for that people can follow?
  2. Brand – Do people know you? Develop your network in different ways and connect with people
  3. Ask – Tell people what you want. If you don’t ask, you don’t get 
  4. Know your audience – Make your speech global and emphasis local to get mindshare. Be aware of the generation you are speaking to
  5. Share – Give your knowledge and experience back to the community. The stronger the community grows, the more the world will believe in it

All in all, an exceptional experience thanks to a hardworking Vikas Jain and the PSAI Delhi team. The PSAI Hyderabad team has taken the PSS2021 baton a step ahead into a residential summit. If you want to join PSAI to work towards becoming a Professional Speaker, you can do so HERE. To register for the PSS2021 Hyderabad Summit, please do so HERE. To learn how to speak, join the Toastmasters. 

As we left for the airport, it was with Cathy Johnson’s message ringing in my mind at the end – “It may be only 2 years since PSAI was setup but in my mind, India has arrived on the world stage!” 

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sudhir Rao
With over 28 years of IT industry experience working across 3 continents, Sudhir focuses on growing a strong leadership pipeline for Organizations and helping people recognize their leadership potential by looking within! Based out of Chennai in India, he is a certified leadership coach through CCA and MGSCC under the umbrella of ICF.

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