Fireside with Voxgig for Professional Speakers

Andrew Grill

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Andrew Grill
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Richard Roger
Voxgig Founder
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Andrew Grill
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This week, we decided to revive the 2018 podcast with Andrew Grill as we bring up public speaking, the rough journey of becoming a public speaker and such. If you are in DevRel you are probably a public speaker, or want to be one. Listen to Andrew for some great advice. Andrew Grill calls himself a ‘practical futurist’. He is a professional writer, blogger and conference speaker—which means he gets paid to talk. And he wants to help you do the same.
You’ll learn why the first 90 seconds of a talk are vital, how clichés kill your talk, and how to tell when you’ve hooked your audience. Andrew also gives us tips on how to survive when the tech lets you down (something many of us can identify with). He shares his insights on why Blackberry failed, why we need to broaden our understanding of quotas, and why digital diversity is the next big idea in tech.
In this day and age, we can use smart devices to perform better as speakers, so we touch on how technology can benefit us when adversity kicks in. Learn more about Andrew here:

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View all show notes, links, and more brilliant public speaking resources at If you like what you hear on Fireside with Voxgig, don’t be shy―tell everyone! Use #firesidewithvoxgig on your social media.

See Show Transcripts

Interview Intro

Richard Rodger: [0:00:00] Welcome to the Voxgig Podcast. We talk to people in the developer community about developer relations, public speaking and community events. For more details, visit All right, let's get started.

In this episode, I speak to Andrew Grill. Andrew is a professional keynote speaker. That means he's good enough to get paid to speak, and knows a thing or two about how to get there. Andrew is a practical futurist – and you'll find out what that means in a minute – and has launched and led multiple companies in Australia and Europe. He's spoken at several TEDx events and is also a writer and blogger.

You will not regret reading his thoughts on his site, which is the very cool and easy to remember address, I'm delighted now to sit down with Andrew for a Fireside Chat about not just public speaking but a host of topics, from diversity to our shared digital future. [0:00:57]

Main Interview

Andrew Grill

Richard Rodger: [0:01:02.] Okay, so let's get started. Andrew, can you remember your very first professional speaking engagement? [0:01:11]

Andrew Grill: [0:01:12] I can. It was about 19 years ago. It was at the online field show in Ballarat, Australia. The way it transpired was, my boss, a lady called Libby Christie, who was a senior executive in Telstra at the time, said, "Andrew, I'm busy for this event. I want you to do it."

And so, pangs of panic came over me. Oh, my goodness, I've now got to replace my boss and be intelligible and logical at a big event where lots of people are going to be watching me speak, so I suppose I better go and do this. And that was 19 years ago, and as they say, the rest is history. [0:01:50]

Richard Rodger: [0:01:51] So, you were literally just dumped into it. Did you have any previous experience speaking in public? Did you do musicals in school anything like that? [0:02:00]

Andrew Grill: [0:02:01] Luckily, I did. I was a debater at school and I famously remember, when I was in grade five in Adelaide, Australia, debating the grade sevens, and we won. And I always had the gift of the gap. And I'm often asked how I overcame my fear of public speaking and it's a really interesting story.

Probably 25-26 years ago, in Adelaide, Australia again, I was involved in a young – youth organization, and they every year had a public speaking competition. And I thought, one day I might need to have this skill, so I'll enter the competition, which I duly did. I turned up on the night; on the night, I said to the organizer, "I'm not ready. I haven't got my cards." And he all but waved his finger at me. He said, "Grill, you're going to do this."

And the way it worked was, there was a six-minute prepared talk, and to this day I have no idea what I spoke about. But on the night, the way they ran it, they would give you an envelope, and in that envelope was a topic. And you had to rip open the envelope and there and then craft a talk for four minutes.

And I nervously ripped the envelope open and the piece of paper said that your heroes have let you down. And I often ask people, "Guess what I spoke about for the next four minutes?" So, Richard, maybe you can have a guess. What would I have possibly covered over four minutes with that topic? [0:03:09]

Richard Rodger: [0:03:11] That your heroes, the teachers have let you down. [0:03:13]

Andrew Grill: [0:03:15] No. It was much simpler than that. I said that the Muppets had led me down, that Miss Piggy and Kermit weren't real and that they'd let me down. Now I knew in the first 30 seconds – in fact, I'm getting goosebumps now remembering. The first 30 seconds, I realized, "I can do this. I'm really enjoying it." And so, I had to force myself to do that, go through the four minutes.

At the end of it, I realized that it wasn't as hard as I expected, and I got a natural high. I really enjoyed doing it. So, fast forward probably 5-6 years later when I was thrust upon that speaking engagement by my boss, it wasn't as daunting as it might have been. But I tell all speakers that starting out, you have to overcome that fear, and the next 19 years is easy. [0:03:54]

Richard Rodger: [0:03:55] Presumably, you didn't get to speak about the Muppets again at that professional talk. [0:03:59]

Andrew Grill: [0:04:00] No, but if – I use that story as a filler. So, let's say there's a technical problem; I have two stories to cover that. The first story is when I did have a technical mishap and I was left onstage with a computer that had frozen. So, I got the sound people to put some music on and they – I got the audience to stretch. If I've already told that story, the second filler story I use is how I overcame my fear.

Now what it does is, it's a beautiful deflection, because the audience then forget there's a technical mishap; they hear an interesting story. And then that gives me four minutes to get things going again, so that's another tip. Always have an anecdote up your sleeve that may be even – talk about what's happening. We've had a technical snaffoo; reminds me of the time in 2004 when I was onstage. And it disarms people and they forget there was ever a technical snaffoo. And it allows you to remain composed and not get flustered by the problem at hand. [0:04:50]

Richard Rodger: [0:04:50] And this is the – this is an important one to remember. A lot of people are afraid, have a fear of public speaking, because they haven't developed a skillset around it. And having things in your back pocket like this, things that you can bring out when the AV fails. This is how you do it; this is how you overcome the fear. I've been in similar situations. I haven't been quite as well prepared, but I'll certainly take that one away for my… [0:05:20]

Andrew Grill: [0:05:21] I'll give you one more tip. What I also do – again, I generally present from PowerPoint, and if anyone's seen me present, I generally don't have lots of words there: beautiful pictures and phrases. So, actually, with the version that's going to be prepared and shown, I convert it to a PDF file and I email it to myself. And I have it on my iPhone in my pocket.

So, let's assume all the tech completely destroyed itself; it didn't work anymore. I can at least look at my iPhone and look at what the slides would have said. And I can describe them, because they're very devoid of language; they're more visual. And that again gives you a backup that maybe they'll get the system working again. But in my – literally in my back pocket is a backup of the slides that I could look at and read them and still carry on. [0:06:02]

Richard Rodger: [0:06:02] And yet another thing that is really useful to do. You can install PowerPoints or Keynote or whatever on your phone; copy the stuff over. I would do that as well, and it's interesting. It's like a talisman or something, a physical thing, maybe in your back pocket that you notice there. One thing that a lot of people ask me about is, how do I get started? And I don't mean how to get started at public speaking. I literally mean when I walk on stage and I freeze, how do I get over that? How do I actually start speaking on stage? [0:06:37]

Andrew Grill: [0:06:39] Well, I always say the first 90 seconds is so important, and I've been doing this for a while. But I even have to know that that first 90 seconds I have to nail. And often, I'll – if I play a video fairly early on and I'm sitting back and watching the audience watch the video, I mentally say to myself, "Yeah, we're away. We're underway. I've got through the first 90 seconds. I've given the impactful quote."

And I was the sort of speaker that used to say, "It's great to be here. Thanks for having me. Good afternoon. I'm the thing between you and drinks," which are all the clichés. And a good friend of mine, Martin Brooks, who is called the impactologist. He's a great friend, one because he's a great human being but secondly, he does this for a living.

He watches speakers and he watches my talks. And I then get an audio file from him almost as a present overnight, and he says, "You should do this, that and the other." And one thing he taught me was, you need to have real impact from that first 90 seconds." So, for example, one talk I walked on the stage. I had my own walk-on music; it died down, and I said literally this quote: "Since 2000, 52% of the Fortune 500 have been destroyed through digital disruption." And I paused.

And what grabbed the audience was, this wasn't someone saying, "Hello, happy – nice to be here." It was: "Here is a quote I need to listen to." And I could hear the whole room completely quiet, and I had them from the first 90 seconds. And I felt the energy, that the audience was with me saying, "Wow, what's he going to say next." And it allowed me as a speaker to get into my rhythm.

So, I always rehearse the first 90 seconds. It might change on the day; it might be that a speaker before me had said something so amazing that you've got to replay that back. But to your point, always make sure that first 90 seconds is nailed, and the end 90 seconds. What are you going to say? Not, "Thanks very much. It's nice to be here." End with something that is substantial and will make them think. Once you've got the beginning and the end almost rehearsed in your head, the rest is easy. [0:08:29]

Richard Rodger: [0:08:29] I think you're right. And this is where – sometimes, if you are doing public speaking, because you've been asked to by your boss, and you're just thinking about conferences that you have attended, and you're just pretty much copying what you've seen, you're not reaching the level of excellence that you could.

And part of what we're trying to do here is find out, how do you get to the next level? So many speakers do that, and I do it myself. I know I start dying inside when you start going, "I'm all that stands between lunch," because it is cheesy. You've got to make that impact; you gotta get some hook for the audience right at the start and right at the end. [0:09:09]

Andrew Grill: [0:09:11] It's the hook; you know you've got them because they look up from their phone and they're looking at you and you have their concentration. And they're not forced to go back to do something else because they're distracted. They're saying, "What is he going to say next? This is really interesting." And you keep them going.

And also, as a presenter, you then look around the room and you see that all the eyes are watching you rather than buried in their phone. And you know that you've got to maintain that level of credibility and that – maintain that level of energy to keep them engaged for the full 20, 30, 40 minutes. [0:09:39]

Richard Rodger: [0:09:39] Absolutely. Let's turn to the subject matter that you talk about, which I find really intriguing. You describe yourself as a futurist, so maybe take the floor and tell us what that is. [0:09:51]

Andrew Grill: [0:09:53] Well actually, I describe myself as a practical futurist, and I do that deliberately. Because there are some wonderful futurists out there and in fact, I use one of them in my talks, Arthur C Clarke. 50 years ago this year, he co-wrote Space Odyssey 2001. And there's a brilliant interview that an Australian journalist did with him in 1974, and it was actually filmed in a computer room so it's quite noisy. And the journalist asked Arthur what would life be like in the year 2001.

Now Arthur nails it; he gets it right. He talks about the fact that you'll have a computer in your own home; we'll be able to work remotely. He even talks about the societal impacts of what's going on. What Arthur was doing though was predicting the future in 30 years' time. Most of the audiences I present to haven't got 30 years; they haven't got 30 months, haven't got 30 weeks.

They need to know right now. What should they do next week, next month, next quarter to stem the threat of disruption, to protect their business or grow and innovate. And so, I deliberately call myself a practical futurist. Two things: it's quite easy then to get a domain name. I've got practicalfuture.list. [0:10:55]

Richard Rodger: [0:10:55] So important.

Andrew Grill: [0:10:57] And also, when I put the word practical futurist on my conference badge, people see that and go, "What's that?" And if it just said futurist, it's, well, I know what a future is. But I don't know what a practical futurist is, so it invites a discussion and it forces people to think differently.

And I kid you not; I did a talk up in Leicestershire – in Leicester rather – a few months ago. And on the day, I did the talk and I got a lovely tweet from a lady saying, "That was very useful." 25 hours later, she tweeted again saying, ""We've just run Andrew's ideas at our next – our latest team meeting, and we're going to put them into place.

And that proves to me that I'm giving and delivering practical advice that they can take away and use straight away. I almost tell people in the first five or 10 minutes; I explain. I'm a practical futurist and I want you to leave this room with three or four things you can do differently. We may cover this in the end and often, I get off stage and people say, "That was fantastic." It's flattering, and I appreciate that.

But what I then say is, that's very nice, but what will you do differently? And they go, "That's a good question." And in fact, two Thursdays ago, I was speaking at the Ingram micro cloud summit. Literally I was in the lift; had walked offstage going up to drinks. And a lady said, "That was fantastic." I said, "What will you do differently?" She said, "I've just sent an email to my boss saying we should have more dynamic management meetings."

And I almost hugged her; I said, "Thank you." It takes a lot to prepare these presentations and it's nice that you think my delivery is good, but I want you to do something fundamentally different." And she was telling me that she was. And that for me is the mark that you've got through and you've resonated with the audience. [0:12:34]

Richard Rodger: [0:12:34] Wonderful. It's interesting that you mention people coming to you after your talk. That seems to me to be one of the easiest ways that speakers can network. And one of the reasons that I speak is for the networking. But I'm terrible; as an introvert, I'm terrible at opening conversations with people. That little period of time after you've spoken is really golden time, isn't it? [0:12:59]

Andrew Grill: [0:13:00] It's totally golden, because they know who you are. And what's – the downside is that I probably speak to 10-15,000 people a year around the traps. And so, if people come up to me saying. "Andrew, how are you?" And I don't know who they are. I've not – they know wo I am because they've seen me. So, you're right. You've just come off stage; you're in their immediate thoughts. They want to ask you a question. You can then do what I do and qualify; what is it you'll do differently. But they then remember you.

And I often try and ask to speak first in the day; one, because I - my style is – It's energetic and it's inspiration. But then it means the rest of the day, everyone knows who you are. And in fact, I deliberately take my badge and my lanyard off, not that I'm arrogant; know who am. But it's like, you haven't got a badge. You must be the speaker. Andrew, let me …

And what I've done with many of my talks, I'll stay for the whole day. One, because often the organizers say, "Can you stay a bit longer? We've had someone drop out. We need someone for the panel. You can help them out." But secondly, in a room of 3-400 people you can't get to all the questions. And often people aren't happy to ask questions with their peers in the room.

And if you're standing in the back minding your own business, I literally will have 15 people come up to me in the space of an hour and ask me a one-on-one question. And they feel like they get more value, and I feel like the organizer then feels they get value as well because I've hung around. I haven't just turned up, given a talk and disappeared. I've provided real value to everyone that's there in their own learning style. [0:14:24]

Richard Rodger: [0:14:25] I think that's a wonderful thing that speakers can do. If you're looking to get speaking experience. If you have done a talk, always hang around, because people always disappear for the panels; it's a great way to get more stage time. Referring to the practical futurist thing, you talk about making organizations digital proof. I'm skeptical. Is that even possible? [0:14:52]

Andrew Grill: [0:14:55] You've got to start. If I said to you 25 years ago, Richard, you're going to carry around a piece of plastic with you all the time," you would have said to me, "Andrew, you're bonkers. Why would I want to carry this thing around?" And I was one of those people. Back in 1994, I bought me my first analog phone; cost me $1,000 when I was a student. And all my friends went, "Why would you want one of those?"

They then said – they saw that I was getting more work, more consulting gigs; people could contact me. And slowly, slowly, everyone now has one. So, if you were to say, "I'm going to mobile proof you," back then or something like that, or – you would have said I was a bit crazy. Can you future proof a business? I think you need to be aware that you're being disrupted.

One of the charts I show on – In my talks is a great chart from Deloitte in Australia, where they mapped in the different industries. And they called it Short Fuse, Big Bang. The fuse is how long do companies have until they're disrupted and the bang is what's the impact. And the big reveal is that this study was done in 2012, which means that every single industry on that map has been disrupted. And the audience then goes, "Wow. We're already being disrupted. We don't know it."

So, starting – in fact, another organization, PwC, did a study that showed that the – there's more harm by doing nothing than the disruption itself. Some of these industries do have a few more years before they're disrupted. And if people sit around for a year going, "I'm not sure what we're going to do," they're wasting valuable time.

But what the problem is, the top table has to be digital ready and able to see things through a digital lens. And I think the problem we have on many FTSE 250 boards, many advisory boards, is the board doesn't understand the language of digital, and so they don't know what they don't know. And I think that's even more dangerous. [0:16:33]

Richard Rodger: [0:16:33] It is. And I don't dispute at all that digital disruption is extremely dangerous. You only have to look at what happened to BlackBerry and Nokia to see that. But what could they have done? How could BlackBerry have – and I mean, this is really putting you up to it, because how could they have gone up against Apple? What could BlackBerry have done? [0:16:57]

Andrew Grill: [0:16:58[ Well, if you look back – and I was a BlackBerry user for many years and a Nokia user. In fact, my iPhone is only my second iPhone ever; that's how wedded I was to their platforms. BlackBerry was cool, and in fact, I remember back to the times of the London riots some years ago. It was BlackBerry Messenger, BBM, that was fueling some of the messaging secretly between the different groups and gangs. And back then it was hip to have a BlackBerry because it had BBM.

Around the same time, the IFO came out and we all know how that ended. I think BlackBerry, again at the top table, they didn't see where are the trends. What's shifting? We're very arrogant because we think we've got the most secure messaging platform. That's great, but the look and feel of our phones is old and so what can we do?

And had they tapped into the zeitgeist of what was going on – Nokia to the same extent. Nokia got so big and so arrogant, they didn't see Apple coming. Now Apple are now in that place where they can't be complacent. They have huge market share, but what's stopping the PlusOne movement from coming and stealing that away.

Richard Rodger: Exactly. And this dovetails into another subject that you care an awful lot about, which is the diversity issue. And not just the classical stuff like gender diversity, but also diversity in thinking. It's true to say that the company boards, the leadership of a lot of companies, suffer from a certain extreme level of homogeneity; could do with a bit more diversity. [0:18:26]

Andrew Grill: [0:18:29] Yeah. When the board came from the same pedigree – they're ex-bankers, ex-lawyers, ex-CEOS – they'll all think the same. An Australian journalist called Alan Kohler a couple of weeks ago penned a very interesting piece saying while he agrees there should be quotas for women on boards, there should also be a quota for people with tech knowledge and overseas experience.

And I think he's right. Because back to the – seeing things through a digital lens, a board full of ex-lawyers and ex-bankers, probably there's a low percentage of those that really get digital. But if you have one, or more importantly two, so that the person's not on their own, that could serve on a board under their own steam, but also see the company through a digital lens, that's going to help you see a bit further apart.

And Alan's point about the international experience was also important. I'm an Australian; I've been away from Australia for 12 years. I read the Australian press every day; I can tell you exactly what's going on in the Australian media right now. But I see Australia through an international lens and vice versa.

So, if I was an Australian company listening to this and saying, "Where are we going to find international people that get Australia?" Think of Aussie expats an in reverse, Irish expats and British expats. People that understand the global situation, see things through a digital lens, are then going to provide a very different, diverse view at the board.

And I'll take my name on this. If boards don't become more diverse in terms of diversity of thinking, tech and international experience, they will all go the way of HMV and Jessops and Nokia and BlackBerry; they won't have a chance. And everyone nods in wild agreement that we should do this; then they go, "Well, we're not going to change the board out for a while or they're already in their terms.

If you Google A&P and Commonwealth Bank in Australia, their boards have been completely decimated because they got it wrong. In fact, as we record this overnight, the Commonwealth Bank in Australia have just been hit with a $600 million fine, because of actions that happened at the board level that shouldn't have happened. This is a real problem; boards are not fit for purpose if they don't have this digital diversity and this diversity of thought on (inaudible) 0:20:36

Richard Rodger: It seems like it can't be – it has to be something that happens actively. And you'd wonder whether that requires a really strong leader at the top to make that happen. In one sense, you could say the startups like Voxgig have an advantage in the sense that we can bring in all this new blood and we can have this diverse thinking.

But as a practical matter, a small company's very small; it's got a tiny number of people. A large company has an inherent advantage in terms of the people that it can bring to bear on a problem, literally if only they could open the doors to the boardroom. [0:21:15]

Andrew Grill: [0:21:17] You would think so. And I saw a stat the other day that only 1.8% of FTSE 250 have someone on the board with digital experience, and that is woefully low. And I can think of 100 people right now in London alone that could sit on a board, that would see things through a digital lens. And we're not being tapped on the shoulder because Andrew, you haven't got 20 years of board experience. Exactly, that's a plus; I haven't been doing things the same way for 20 years.

I keep hearing all the negative views, but then when pushed deeply, people go, "Well, we should do something about this, but then they hold off. Whereas you're right, startups such as yours – I ran six startups over a 12-year period, so I've got similar startup experience. We can pull on people in real time, because we think like a startup.

And to the point of where should it start, a quota system that's being introduced for women on boards is a good idea. Why not have a quota system for digital diversity That would start the ball running. But it's the chair of the board, the chair. He or she has to go, "Looking around the room, we're all the same. Where do we get diversity of thought? I, as the leader of the board, need to shake things up a bit. So, either a couple of you give up your board seats and we'll rotate you out. Or we're going to set up two completely new board seat - we're just going to do it, and we're going to go and source the best and brightest digital minds to help us navigate this new world." [0:22:36]

Richard Rodger: [0:22:37] And isn't this a healthier approach than simply trying to outsource the problem to business management consultants. Do you see activists, investors or private equity firms having a role to play here in terms of pushing boards in this direction? Have they failed? [0:22:54]

Andrew Grill: [0:22:54] They do, and I've been approached by a number of them to say, "We're interested in what you're saying." Whenever I blog about this, it always smokes out the people who are interested in this. But they then go, "Well, we'll just have you on file and maybe when we turn the board over or we look at a new investment, maybe then we'll bring you in."

And I'm thinking – again, I would almost do this for free. I want – I don't want companies to fail because they are blindsided by digital disruption. So, it is the role of people who have a portfolio of companies to say, "Have we got it stacked the right way? Do we need to inject some more thinking?" Because there's report after report of what happens when boards stay the same. It's – I don't think we're going to solve that on this podcast. [0:23:37]

Richard Rodger: [0:23:38] No. But it is something; it is something very near and dear to my heart, in terms of I'm building an organization and how do you go about creating the right culture? How do you go about creating a culture that can make good decisions? It's a very hard problem to solve. [0:23:53]

Andrew Grill: [0:23:54] You know what you need? You need a board member who is a fervent public speaker, understands digital and has international experience. I'm not sure where you're going to find one of those. [0:24:01]

Richard Rodger: [0:24:01] Well, if you know of any, let me know, Andrew. [0:24:03]

Andrew Grill: [0:24:04] Yeah, I'll let you know, yeah.

Richard Rodger: [0:24:05] Returning to the speaking question, we found – I've done a number of startups myself – that getting involved in events and getting people out there to speak is great for business. And it's one of those skills, if you are founding a business, that really pays off. Have you found that in your – [0:24:25]

Andrew Grill: [0:24:26] Absolutely. It's free advertising, and companies are hungry for great public speakers. The balance though is, you can't pitch from stage. Now I was 12 years in startups and then four years at IBM. And in both situations, I had people say, "Andrew, love you to come and speak, but please don't pitch." To which I'd say, "I don't know how to pitch from the stage."

I will give you thought leadership; I will give you interesting insights. I will entertain and inspire your audience. I'll let them know where I work; that's fair. But I won't overplay that. And speakers that turn up with – the first slides are all about my company that I want you to know about. It's really boring.

What was interesting in both sides, from the startup side to the IBM side, when I was running a startup, we go on stage to places we could never afford to, because it would be 1, 15, 20, 30 grand to sponsor something. And I got there under my own steam, and I would then natively promote the organization that I was in.

Fast forward to IBM. I got IBM onto stages they would never get onto even with payment, because there was a competitor there or they weren't prepared to pay that amount of money to sponsor. So, I got on stage; they saw that a very – great set of content was produced and presented. And that person also works at IBM; I wonder who else is there.

So, big or small company, it should be the role of the founder and the senior management team to have that public speaking experience. Because you know what? 99% of people that sit in front of me don't want to do that, so be the 1% that do, and have a voice. And if you say something useful – literally, l would come off stage, wipe my brow, and there would be a line of people wanting my business card, even though I hadn't pushed any product onstage. It's free promotion, and if done properly, it can be really interesting as well. [0:26:13]

Richard Rodger: [0:26:13] And very effective. This is the number one reason to get up off your arse and see; get out there and speak. Get over your fear, because it helps you sell. What I see happen with quite a few companies is, they push the salespeople out to speak, and of course, they do product pitches, because that's their bread and butter. They're used to 10 people in a conference room, and they have a sales deck and off they go. And it falls flat or worse than flat; it's a disaster. [0:26:43]

Andrew Grill: [0:26:43] It makes the company look bad, and people go, "Why did they put them up?" [0:26:46]

Richard Rodger: [0:26:48] They paid for sponsorship, didn't they? So, then it looks like graft, and it's not good; it's not good. [0:26:52]

Andrew Grill: Doesn't work. [0:26:53]

Richard Rodger: [0:26:53] Of course, the hard work is coming up with a little bit of original thought. But then you did sign up to be CEO, so that's – it's part of your job now. [0:27:02]

Andrew Grill: [0:27:03] Or crowdsource it, again, diversity of thought. Go to the team and say, "Hey, we've got this great opportunity. It's – they've picked me, but we as a company have the opportunity to be onstage. What should I say?" And crowdsource it. And then in the talks, you can say, "My millennial Betty or my millennial Terry, I was just talking to them the other day and this is what they suggested," so you can actually loop them in. Or bring them up onstage; get them onstage for a part as well, and involve them, to be dynamic. [0:27:26]

Andrew Grill: [0:27:27] And here's where the practical bit comes in, isn't it? Because in order to make use of diversity in your company, you have to do things like crowdsource the ideas. That's a fantastic suggestion. Let's return to the skill of public speaking before we wrap up. You talk about always getting filmed and you talk about always getting feedback. That's pretty rough. I cannot stand the sound of my own voice on a recording. How do you get over that? [0:27:59]

Andrew Grill: [0:28:00] I'll tell you why you can't stand the sound of your own voice and I can't either. We hear our voice differently to everyone else in the world. When we talk, we hear through our ears and our ear canal and the open air. So, we sound funny when we hear a recording, which is what everyone else hears.

When I heard that scientific explanation one day, I thought, that's why I sound funny; get over myself. What I started doing in very basically with my phone and a tripod was filming my talks, and then watching them back. And I've got to tell you, it took me two years to overcome the cringe factor and watch them back before I could be critical.

Once I got over that and this person said, "This is why you hear yourself in a funny way," I then watched the talks and I went, "That bit was really good. I can't remember doing that. It was a spur of the moment thought and it came across really well." And then I came across people like Martin, who would professionally say, "I'm going to watch your whole talk and I'm going to provide you with four or five things you can do different."

And I kid you not; I'm up on stage. Martin's voice in the back of my head going, "Don't do slide surprise. Don't do this. Don’t do that." And so, when I film them, I've got two assets. I've got an asset I can watch back and say, "That was really good." I then have a high-quality footage that I own the rights to from my showreel. And the third thing is, I put it up on my site, and I kid you not, I've had people say, "I've just been on your site. I've seen this talk from the 15th of February. Can we have one like that?"

And I have not seen any other speaker around the world do this. They often rely on the organizers filming it and giving them the footage, which you don't own. So, I literally lug my camera and tripod and wireless mic kit around the world and I now set up livestreaming. And people say, "No-one's ever asked this before."

And I then at every talk that I do – when I had permission obviously – I have high material that I own the rights to that I can use later on. And it's incredibly valuable and so much so, I've even got a section on my website that explains all the kit in detail. But I've yet to meet another speaker on the circuit that has brought their own kit. [0:29:53]

Richard Rodger: [0:29:54] I must read that. What is your website, just for our listeners? [0:29:57]

Andrew Grill: [0:29:59] is my speaking website, And there's, again to be different. People then say, "I haven't heard of that." It's a bit different. I know how these things work, so I've tried to get an easy to remember website. It's my name and where I live; it's really easy. [0:30:15]

Andrew Grill: [0:30:15] That's fantastic. Let's narrow in on the subject of speakers' rights; I like to talk about them. A lot of the time, the speaker is providing a free service, because most of the time you don't get paid. And I think that it's a pretty decent quid pro quo for organizers at events to give us access to our own recordings. And it's so useful for you as a speaker to be able to have a page on your blog or your site or whatever that's literally just a list of the talks that you've gone to.

And I have – I've done that in the past, and then you link out to conference websites or whatever. But then they change and you lose the video, things like that. It would be a nice, very polite convention to develop in this industry, for us to at least – speakers at least have access to our own material. [0:31:12]

Andrew Grill: [0:31:15] Well, I negotiate that; that's why I take my cameras. So, I always – and they say, "We're filming it anyway," to which I go, "That's fine, but I tell you what's going to happen. In three weeks' time, I'm never going to get the footage." But he – I also have a section on my website about what to do before the event to be a speaker that people want to have back.

The first person I befriend onsite is the tech team. I go and introduce myself and say, "I'm the keynote speaker. I'm speaking third on the day. My name's Andrew. What's your name?" "My name's Peter." From that moment, when you have made a personal connection, Peter will do anything within reason that I ask him, because I bothered to learn his name. I go up and I say, "Look, I've done your job before as a volunteer," and they go, "Thank goodness, someone who realizes how hard my job is.

And I often ask to have my laptop on stage, which may mean running an extra table. I kid you not; I've had techs relay the whole system hours before the events because I've asked them nicely. And then a couple of times recently, again with permission of the organizer, I've gone to the tech guys. In fact, this happened a few weeks ago at the Intercontinental at the O2. They had a three-camera setup broadcasting live. I took my own camera and got decent footage.

So, I befriended – I think it was Chris, who was the AV guy. I'll go and get the cable. He gave me a 135-gigabyte file, three-camera, professionally switched, HD quality vision that I could use. And I just grabbed it onto my laptop and I went, "Thank you so much." And he was like… we had a chat about the equipment. If you befriend the crew and the producer and the organizer and the tech team, you are working as a team. It doesn't matter whether you're being paid or whether you were there for free. They want you to look great, but they also need respect.

So, I found that even the photographer – I go and find the photographer, name's Gary or Lisa. Hi, I'm Andrew, I'm the third speaker. I use my hands a lot." They go, "Great." Because they want to take really interesting photos. And guess what? If there are a number of streams running, they hang at my stream, because they know they're going to get great visuals. And I then afterwards say, "Can I please have the photos, with permission?"

And guess what? I use for my business cards. On the back of all my cards are a great shot of me, in flight, presenting. Little things like that can make you stand out. And also on the day, the crew goes, "We'll have him again, because he was a delight to work with. He respected us; he knew how hard our job was, and he made things easy for us to make him look great. [0:33:32]

Richard Rodger: [0:33:33] This is pro-level stuff, guys. The AV people – you're absolutely right; it's a really tough job. And especially if you're nervous and you haven't been speaking that much. You can be so inside your own head that you can forget that – if you work on the crew, you only have downside. If you do your job wonderfully, nobody notices. [0:33:54]

Andrew Grill: [0:33:55] Nobody notices, yes.

Richard Rodger: [0:33:55] They have a really high stress job, and if you just pay them a tiny bit of respect. Like you said, just say, "Hi Peter, hi Paul," whatever their name is. They love you. Because a lot of people- [0:34:06]

Andrew Grill: [0:34:07] Because you've bothered, because nobody else gives them the time of day unless something goes wrong. Whereas here am I, getting there early, befriending them, understanding that. And I have a bit of a geek chat about the gear they're using. They then go, "This guy's a pro. He knows what he's doing. I want to make him really good." [0:34:21]

Richard Rodger: [0:34:21] Yes. And they'll cut you a little bit of slack if your time runs over. [0:34:25]

Andrew Grill: [0:34:27] No, Richard, your time never runs over, because you've spent 79 pence on Pclock, P, then clock. This is an iPad app I've been using for years, Pclock, one word, 79 pence, 50 cents on the app store. It's a dedicated clock, and so I take the iPad on stage; it counts down in minutes and seconds. And I know exactly how long I've got left and I have never, ever run over, because I've always known when I'm out of time and I finish.

It respects the organizer; it respects the next speaker. And you haven't got someone flashing their arms at you when you've run over, and you know whether you need to speed up or slow down. It's so simple; it'd run on na iPad or an iPhone. And the funny thing is, I'd blogged about it years ago, and the developer who made it emailed me saying. "Thanks for the post. My mum saw it and she was so proud of what I'd done, because my mum had no idea what I did. " So, I've got another fan there.

But Pclock is so simple; it's for presenters. And it means that I take the iPad on stage; it's not visible to the camera or to the audience. But out of the corner of my eye, I know that I've got five mutes and 22 seconds left. It's just things like that that are so simple, that anyone can do regardless of their level of public speaking. But it shows that if you're just starting out and you're timing your own presentation, people will notice; they go, "You're taking this seriously." [0:35:40]

Richard Rodger: [0:35:41] Yeah, it's all these little details that you pull together. I must admit, I struggle with the timing thing. I either come in way too short or I have to rush the last couple of slides. And it's one of those things that's a challenge. But little aids like this PClock thing, that's a great idea. It's obvious when you say it, but … [0:36:02]

Andrew Grill: [0:36:02] But also, I do rehearsal. Every time I speak, I've done a rehearsal, either several on the day or several the day before. I know exactly whether I'm long or short to cut things out, and I time it using the PClock. And I even know that I've got three or four slides to go. If I'm at the three-minute mark, then I've got to get it in or I've got to then dos something different. But rehearsal, you're confident.

First of all, your first 90 minutes and your last 90 seconds, you've nailed those in rehearsal. And also, you know exactly whether you'll be on time or not. Things like that make a difference. And often, I've had people come up to me and say, "That looks so easy." And I said to them, "If only you knew how many rehearsals I'd done." And they went really?" I said, "Yeah, really." That's why it looks so effortless. [0:36:40]

Richard Rodger: [0:36:40] Well, it is something you have to be professional at. Andrew, this has been fantastic, really interesting. A bunch of really cool tips out of this. And if you're just starting in public speaking, you're the place everybody wants to get to. You know exactly what you're doing. You've got to the keynote level.

But it's really nice to know that a lot of it boils down to simple but obvious tricks and skills and a mental approach that says, "I'm going to do a good job." It's not just some wonderful skill that I was born with; it's something that I have to work at. That's what a lot of people have to get over; they have to realize that it's just – you can just work at it and you can get better over time. [0:37:29]

Andrew Grill: [0:37:31] Each time you practice – and that's why I record them – each time I speak, I get better and better, and I would like to think in the last year alone, I've seen an improvement in what I've done just because I change things or slightly modify things. I look at it – if I was an athlete, which I'm clearly not, I would have a coach. And that coach would be saying., "We want to get our personal best" faster and faster and faster.

I surrounded myself with coaches; I have an agent. I have Martin and other people that try and make me better and better. Because I do charge for my talks and so, people are investing time and money in seeing me speak. It's up to me to ensure that they get the best of the best, and each time I present, I want to get better and better and better. [0:38:09]

Richard Rodger: [0:38:10] Yes, and that's – and it seems to be working. If you want to see some of the wonderful stuff that Andrew's done, is the place to go. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about what you do and what you offer, Andrew, before you sign off? [0:38:26]

Andrew Grill: [0:38:27] Yeah. I obviously do the keynotes and I do panels and moderation and those sort of things. I'll pretty much speak at any event that people have me at. But I talk about a number of different topics, and in fact on the website, I lay them out. But the talk I'm most often asked to present is about digital disruption, because everyone understands they're being disrupted and what they needed to do. And so, I talk about that across multiple industries.

And often, I'm learning myself. A few weeks ago, I was in Amsterdam doing a talk to the logistics industry, and then the week before, it was the financial industry. So, I have to learn about what's happening in each of those industries. I also talk about this notion of social selling. When I was at IBM, I sold $100 million worth of consulting time through social selling and those sort of techniques.

We were talking about this digital proof business; I talk about that. I also talk about more cultural things like workplace of the future, rising above the noise, personal brand and digital diversity from both sides. While I'm a technologist, I don't just talk about technology; often, I'm talking about the cultural impacts of technology. And because I'm this practical futurist, I like to leave people with practical ideas. So, every talk I do is that little bit different; it's crafted the audience that I'm speaking with. I've just done a bunch of podcasts today as well.

I have an opinion and view, and I have had for a long time, and I'm happy to lend that to various forums, so I'd welcome anyone that would like to read what I write. And again, on that website,, you can see examples of me speaking. And maybe, just maybe, they might inspire a brand-new speaker to get to the next level, and I'd love to hear from people. I love to lend my time to give my tips. The last 19 years have been an overnight success, some would say. [0:40:12]

Richard Rodger: [0:40:12] That's what they all say. [0:40:13]

Andrew Grill: [0:40:13] So, I'm very happy to help young speakers with these tips and get them ready, and I want to see the next wave of speakers come along. Someone once famously said that when you're up in the elevator, it's your responsibility to send it back down again, and so, I want to teach people the skills I've learned. I don't want them to have to wait 19 years to get a keynote; I want them to do it in two years. [0:40:34]

Richard Rodger: [0:40:35] And that is absolutely a great thought to leave with. So, Andrew is willing to take your calls if you're trying to learn how to be a public speaker. And keep an eye out as well for his upcoming gigs; I certainly will be after this. Thank you very much, Andrew, it's been fantastic talking to you. [0:40:53]

Andrew Grill: [0:40:53] Richard, thanks. And good luck with your business too. I hope you can help speakers connect and grow. [0:40:58]

Richard Rodger: [0:40:59] That is the plan. Thank you very much.


Richard Rodger: [0:41:00] You can find the transcript of this podcast and any links mentioned on our podcast page at Subscribe for weekly editions, where we talk to the people who make the developer community work. For even more, read our newsletter. You can subscribe at, or follow our Twitter @voxgig. Thanks for listening. Catch you next time. [0:41:27]