An interview with Paul Robinson; India’s leading motivational speakerJanuary 6, 2016
How did you get started in this field? What made you take up motivational speaking when you already had a demanding professional career?
I began my career about seventeen years ago as an entrepreneur with a sales company. Motivational meetings were essential to drive sales every day. I had hundreds of frontline executives at various branches, who needed an ‘impact’ every morning with my brief motivational sessions to get fired up and get going. Over a period of time I began to notice a fluctuating pattern in the sales report, that when I do motivational sessions, sales go up to almost 30% high. I could literally measure the impact of motivational words in people’s performance and productivity. It made me realize that you can’t motivate people but you can inspire them to find their true motivation to be more and do more. Motivational talk is a means to stretch people’s abilities to be at their best and challenge their comfort zone to tap into their greatness. Indeed everyone can find their bit of motivation; all they need to do is ask the right question and find the answer to: why they do what they do?
When people become purposeful in their actions, they become a productive force. Words can make a huge difference. It can help people to unravel the purpose in them. Eventually I thought ‘why not take the power of motivational speaking to the corporate world’.
If you study history, you will know that words have moved people. It started wars, and won freedom and brought changes in many countries, organizations and cultures. I began to experience the power of spoken words from the time I began listening to tapes and audio from Earl Nightingale and Jim Rohn. I started listening to motivational tapes to overcome my negative self talk and it worked. This inspired me to launch my own motivational audio programs under the brand name Positive Revolution, way back in 2008. As a company we began to pack breakthrough ideas in the form of a speech to inspire the listener to take action on their goals.Today we have over a dozen best selling authors whose books and speeches are converted into daily doses of inspiration.
When did the speaking career take off?
I wasn’t keen on becoming a speaker in the beginning, but my business associate, Vani was already getting enquiries from corporate houses to speak at their seminars and events. I did a lot of debates and extempore speaches while I was perusing my formal education and I came second at the university level. That prior experiences came handy when I reached the podium. Then the good words began to spread and that changed everything to take speaking professionally.
What is the secret of being a good motivational speaker?
An effective motivational speaker constantly challenges the status quo. They throw questions to primarily challenge the audience’s assumptions. The important aspect of learning anything new is to unlearn first and learning is just secondary. We live in a world where 90% information is just created in the last two years. It doesn’t mean that we have created 90% of knowledge in the last two years. There is so much of junk data and biased misleading information out there. We need to separate the signal from the noise and that’s an important task for a speaker. Secondly a great speaker presents ideas that will stick with the audience and inspire them to take action. The speech has to be actionable. Knowledge is overrated but it is action that is underrated today. If the speaker has acted as a catalyst to trigger some decisions among the audience to improve their performance and productivity, then the podium time is well served.
What are the challenges in the message delivery?
The attention span of corporate executives is reduced to close to nine seconds, due to the information overload on media and internet and multitasking. The challenge for any speaker is to get the complete attention of the audience, hold them on to their seats and simultaneously deliver s messages and insights that stick with them for long.
What is the X-factor that differentiates a good speaker from a mediocre one?
Great speakers are transformation experts. It is the result that counts ultimately. No one likes to see the motivation leaving with the speaker after a conference. Th motivation must stick with people to decide on something and take action. The X factor for a speaker is to connect with the audience at all levels, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. High energy and great content can achieve this task.
Mediocre speakers are boring. Boring is a number one sin in motivational speaking. Some people will entertain the audience, but they lack content. Some will have great content but they do a ‘voice over’ on their power points. What gives power to your presentation is your personal energy and high vibrations with high quality message. As a speaker you must have lots of them, otherwise the audience will leave you dry and sucked off energy at the end.
How is your approach different from others? What is it that makes you such a success at such a young age?
My content comes straight from the audio books I have written. I like to throw in new ideas and concepts to the audience that is modeled from other successes and moulded by my experiences. I have observed that people will not pay a heeding ear to the usual stuff; you need to be little outrageous with your statements. People take notice when we challenge existing assumptions like ‘what if customer’s are not always right?!; and then you make an interesting point to support your theory. As a thought leader my job is to present new paradigms, question the old models and pave way for the new ones to shape up and change the workplace.
The audience finds me simple and easy to connect with and I give fewer hassles to the meeting planners. Moreover I prefer to travel economy, keeps the fee reasonable, duration of speech flexible and I keep the interests of the organization close to my heart. Each session is a bespoke addressing to the challenges each organization face and the goals they are aspiring to achieve.
What is the kind of audience that you deal with on a regular basis?
Most of the speaking assignments have an audience ranging from managers to CXOs from diverse verticals from healthcare, consumer products, automobile, telecom, research, IT, BPOs, insurance, finance, retail etc. I speak at Annual Kick Off sessions, SMT (Senior Management Team)meets, Dealer’s Conference,Sales Meet, Summits etc.
It is easier to address participants in open workshops, because they have volunteered to participate in the learning process and they pay for the session. But with corporate, where training requires mandatory attendance, few will have their resistance to learn anything new. Some of them will only have fun in their agenda.There fore its highly important to make the session engaging and fun learning as well.
How do you handle the learning resistance?
I prefer to pre-frame an objection even before they occur. You need to set the mood, like the proverbial saying goes ‘the teacher appears when the student is ready’. It is important to ease up your audience and remove resistance and lighten up the setting, because no one wants to be preached to. Once you set a positive energy in a room, the atmosphere turns warm and enticingly refreshing fro fresh perspectives.
How often do you travel for your talks and workshops and where all do you conduct them? What exactly do you do at a typical session?
Positive Revolution, the company I have co-founded organizes open workshops and in house training sessions at various locations in India and abroad. We also work with organizations abroad who independently organize Intensive Learning Workshops and pyro- sessions for skill based training in the Asia Pacific region. I do close to 60 sessions a year and travelling is frequently required across metros.
A typical one day workshop will involve workbook based activities, experiential learning by engaging games, discussions and interactions with participants. To achieve a transformational learning, total immersion is required with the learning process. To achieve this goal we keep the session interactive. On a keynote session, since the time is limited to sixty minutes or less, we will stick to key points with a brief Q&A at the end.
Broadly, what are the topics that you deal with?
A wide genre of thought leadership will range from performance management, sales, motivation, leadership, innovation, inter personal effectiveness, team building etc. Topics like ‘going beyond the boundaries’, ‘good to great’, ‘raising the bar’, ‘lead in challenging times’, ‘where good ideas come from’, ‘sell like a pro’, ‘creating lasting change’, ‘never fly solo’, ‘creating the wow factor’, ‘developing global talent’, ‘exceptional quality’ etc. are popular for keynote themes. I deal with over 50 management topics and I have a holistic approach to connect each one to another. I do not see ideas in isolation, so jack of all do not apply to me. Now I have added a new topic that may sound cliche but the talk is about the how part- ‘how to think outside the box?’ based on the book that I am currently writing.
Please outline at least one or two instances where your intervention has helped people realise their potential and achieve their goals?
Our continued interaction with delegates from the ‘open workshops’ keeps us informed with the progress of our participants. The primary intervention in tapping on to human potential lies in breaking the comfort zone of an individual and enabling them to take action on their ideas. During several occasions, the participants have shared their experience like how they applied their courage to plunge into the unknown, like starting a new venture, taking a bold step in their career, making a financial decision etc. after attending one of my seminars.
In strategy sessions participants find their ‘eureka moment’ and they make continuous notes on their action plans, while they are attending a seminar or workshop. Fresh perspectives of ideas presented to them on practical grounds can trigger action. People do not lack ideas, they lack action. Period.
As per the organizational interventions are concerned, through training and keynotes, the sessions will act as a frame work to build new strategies for growth. Often the session will be planned as an opening note or as a finale, depends on the conference theme. After my session the key players of the organization will process the strategic points brought out in the session and rework their agenda for constant improvement.
What do you think about the ‘speaking industry’ in India?
Speaking industry is huge in the western countries and seminar industry brings in billions in revenue. In this conceptual age, we no longer manage information, instead we create them and share them. In the conceptual age, ideas hold the power to shape individual and organizational destiny and thought leadership is vital for any kind of leadership today.
For Indian corporates its a new awakening. To promote professionalism, we need trained workforce and a well trained employee is three times faster and smarter at executing work than the average ones. Learning and development can build up immense confidence in people and it boost their morale.
Today on an experiment bassis seminars and events are planned with an external speaker in mind. To some of the successful companies in india, this is just an annual practice that has given them the results. As a growing industry practice, companies now hire speakers for their annual conferences. When I started off in this field there were few established speakers, but now the numbers are growing exponentially. Many established trainers are now scaling up to the shoes of motivational speakers. The good news is that there are speaker bureaus and many motivational speakers rising up in our country to fill in a large void of thought leadership in India.
Is there anything interesting that happened during the course of your training sessions. Something you can share with the readers?
I did have an interesting participant once for my open workshop. He was an ardent learner, a very successful businessman running a multi-crore enterprise with several divisions. The only challenge was that he could not understand a word that I spoke in the entire seminar, but he had brought along two of his English speaking managers to make notes and they were having intensive discussions during breaks.
After the seminar he wanted to sit with me for a strategy session as to how he can apply the new ideas in his business. Interestingly I was amazed by the efficiency and the studiousness of this participant, and he was delegating the work to the managers right away. He also bought several motivational audio books in English and started playing them in his car while he took long rides. After the seminar, he also took a decision to learn English and improve his communication skills. Attending seminars was like a new found reason for him to take his resolutions seriously. What turned out after two years is that, he began to speak with confidence and striking more business deals with other participants. His new found confidence and enthusiasm has led him to diversify to other industries, which he hesitated once, because he had a language problem.