1) What do you want people to learn / take away from your presentations?
I want them to understand that they are more creative than they may have previously imagined. I want to see them smile and have a light go “ON” in their eyes. And I want them to take away practical skills that will help solve their most important business problems.
2) How do you prepare for your speaking engagements?
My life is preparation. My speaking is a reflection of who I am. And I prepare for each engagement by tuning in to the client and focusing on achieving the results that are most important for them.
3) Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements?
Yes. Many! Among the most memorable:
- In 2014 I spoke to a group of 1000 in Ankara for Turkish Innovation Week. The sponsors handed out my Edison book in Turkish as a gift. They invited high school and college students to attend and the enthusiasm of these young people is something I will always remember.
- In 2012 I followed His Holiness The Dalai Lama as a keynoter in Australia for an audience of 3,000. People asked if it was hard to follow such a powerful presence but actually it was one of my easiest engagements as the audience was already in Bliss when I began to speak.
- In 2009 I had the privilege of speaking to a group of company presidents at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (They arranged for exclusive access). I spoke about How to Think Like Leonardo while standing in front of the Maestro’s paintings!
4) What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?
Over the years I’ve spoken to people from all walks of life and many different professions. And, my keynotes are especially popular with groups that are predominantly analytical: PhDs, engineers, financial analysts, MBAs. My presentations open their minds to the more imaginative and intuitive aspects of intelligence.
Here’s a note from a client who recently sponsored my presentation for a group of 200 MDs and PhDs:
On our quest to innovate and bring future to life at the Rome off-site PDC meeting 2014, we invited Michael Gelb as a guest speaker. We were going through a challenging transition and it was important to find someone who would be able to understand the situation and the same time engage with teams and spark the interest.
Michael Gelb, in his inspiring and thought provoking way layered with Italian charm, accomplished much more. Skillfully navigating through the initial anticipation and skepticism, Michael reminded us of the often ignored power of our senses and imagination once again. He reignited our need to feel, absorb, and process our uncertainties and ambiguities and unleash our own creative spark. Guiding us elegantly through the Leonardo da Vinci’s principles, we were reminded that creativity is not rushed but comes from living in harmony with oneself and the deep appreciation for the rich world around us. Perhaps the most powerful and telling effect of Michael’s lecture were the smiles on the faces of the usually evidence driven, serious, audience of scientists who suddenly recovered that suppressed urge to play, enjoy life and allow their dormant potential to reach the surface. ~Dragana Bugarski-Kirola, M.D., Genentech, meeting organizer
5) What inspired you to start doing speaking engagements?
I had something to say and people were willing to pay to hear it!
6) Why would you recommend that clients use you as a speaker for their next event?
Here are 10 reasons:
- Energy: Clients describe my energy as “scintillating,” “inspiring,” “electric,” “charismatic,” and “enlivening.”
- Experience: With more than 35 years experience, I will deliver an excellent program under all conditions.
- Reliability: In 35 years I have appeared at every scheduled engagement on-time.
- Originality: Learn from an original thinker and creator.
- Authenticity: All keynotes are an expression of my lifetime interests.
- Passion: My passion for inspiring your group will lead to a presentation that exceeds your expectations.
- Global: I have spoken in more than 25 countries and have extensive experience working with multi-national and multi-cultural groups.
- Relevance: After careful consultation I will focus my message on your most important organizational issues.
- Humor: People learn better when they laugh and I inspire laughter in the most serious groups.
- Results: I focus on achieving the results that are most important to you. I’m frequently invited to keynote the same conference in multiple years because people get real benefit from my presentations.
7) Which of your keynote topics are the most popular? How are your keynote presentations unique? Which of your keynote speeches do you enjoy the most and why?
How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci is my most popular program. It’s an expression of my unique study of Leonardo’s advice to his students and how that advice is relevant in our world. Innovate Like Edison is also very popular. Edison is the supreme role model for anyone who wants to profit from innovation. I enjoy all my presentations. If I didn’t I wouldn’t do them!
8) How much do case studies, personal stories and humor factor into your keynote speech content?
Examples, stories and humor make a presentation engaging so I use them liberally.
9) What are some of the successes you’ve helped clients make?
It’s probably best for my clients to answer this. Here are a few comments:
We are at least twice as productive as before. We plan, document and communicate with greater efficiency. Our organization’s productivity improvement has been phenomenal. ~Dr. Thomas Jenkins, DuPont
Our organization hired Michael because of his novel approach and unique programs inspiring innovation, creativity and leadership. We designed a 3-year program that resulted in substantially and permanently changing the culture of our 300+ person department; from executives to union employees. There were measurable, significant increases in employee satisfaction, team effectiveness and communications. Michael’s programs are for business executives/leaders who truly want to leverage the creative and innovative talent in their department, division or company to improve productivity and employee retention. ~Liz Faison, Project Director, Merck
You gave participants an experience that they are the creators of their own future. Four of my people were able to step up to the challenges of the next grade/role as a result of your program. ~Ketan Patel, Greater Pacific Capital
Michael Gelb has worked with HRCG over the last four years to design, develop and deliver leadership development training. Michael’s programs on Creativity and Innovation, Executive Presence/Presentations, and Leadership Communication are of the highest caliber, and he delivers them in a way that consistently engages our engineering-oriented, time-pressured team. Michael adds value by consulting with us on how to leverage these training, and his outstanding team-building programs, to support the evolution of our leadership culture. One of his most important contributions was helping us craft a new, more compelling statement of our Vision, Mission and Values. He also helped us envision and institute an annual leadership retreat where he was the facilitator. Michael offers a unique combination of practical business savvy, original intellectual capital, and inspiring creative teaching skill. I highly recommend him as a leadership development resource! ~Sarah A. Murray, SPHR Director, Human Resources, Hunter Roberts Construction Group
10) So, in addition to keynotes you also offer workshops and longer term business consulting?
Yes. I leverage my unique intellectual capital and years of experience to partner with clients to help them achieve their most important leadership development goals. I’ve been on retainer with a number of clients for more than 10 years.
11) How can people nurture independent thinking, creativity and innovation in the workplace?
First, they need to learn the skills for thinking creatively. Then they must understand how to facilitate a culture of innovation. I call this: Innovation Literacy. If you want to innovate you need to have a critical mass of people who know how to think like innovators. It helps to have positive role models, so I use Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison, among others.
12) Could you give us three tips for balancing mind and body to reduce stress?
- Learn how to recognize the physiological manifestations of stress.
- Learn how to recognize the psychological manifestations of stress
- Learn to shift your posture, breathing and attitude in a way that transforms stress into enthusiasm and positive energy.
I’ve been studying the simplest and most practical ways to do this for 40 years. My study is more than just academic-as a 5th degree black belt in the martial art of aikido, a teacher of tai chi, and a professional juggler -I’ve learned how to stay centered under stressful circumstances. I share the most effective methods in my book/presentation entitled Creativity On Demand.
13) What are Edison’s Five Competencies of Innovation and why are they helpful for organizations now?
Peter Drucker emphasized: All organizations need one core competence: Innovation.
With 1,093 United States patents, Thomas Edison is history’s greatest practical innovator. Beyond his invention of the phonograph, motion pictures and a system to light the world, Edison invented the rigorous, disciplined process of innovation.
In addition to creating the world’s first Industrial Research and Development laboratory, Edison was also a master at promoting a culture of innovation. Moreover, he understood that the principles of personal success and organizational innovation go hand-in-hand. Personal success and fulfillment requires you to learn how to think like an innovator; and, for your organization to be successful, innovation is now more important than ever.
Edison’s Five Competencies of Innovation™ are:
- Solution-Centered Mindset
- Kaleidoscopic Thinking
- Full-Spectrum Engagement
- Master Mind Collaboration
- Super-Value Creation
I bring these competencies to life for my clients and show how to apply them in the workplace immediately.
14) Describe some ways people can improve their mind as they age:
In Brain Power: Improve Your Mind as You Age I share the research-validated practical things that we can all do to prevent dementia and improve as we get older. They include:
- Adopt a positive attitude toward aging. (Take a daily dose of GFH –gratitude, forgiveness and humor)
- Devote 15 minutes to learning something new each day
- Exercise daily
- Enjoy fresh, wholesome food and stay hydrated
- Appreciate beauty every day
- Invest in your social wealth
- Get 8 hours of sleep (not per week, every night!) and learn to meditate
15) What is accelerated learning and how can it be applied to the workplace?
Accelerated learning means to learn faster and more effectively. It’s essential in the workplace because change is accelerating. The ability to adapt and learn has become the most important sustainable competitive advantage. I have many tools for demonstrating this but my favorite is to teach everyone how to juggle. (I worked my way through graduate school as a professional juggler and performed on-stage with The Rolling Stones.)
16) What are your main professional passions?
One of my clients calls me a “One-Man World-Class Leadership Development University.” My passion is to live up to that description by continuously deepening my knowledge of creativity, innovation and leadership.
17) What projects are you currently working on?
I’m writing a book on the principles and practices of Conscious Leadership.
18) You wrote a book entitled Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking and you offer an evening team-building program that features wine-tasting and poetry. Please explain.
The philosophy behind this team-building exercise is simple: Create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere and gently guide participants to get a glimpse of the creative spark in their colleagues and themselves. In the sometimes-impersonal world of commerce we need to create an environment where the soul can shine; where we can gain insight and appreciation of the hidden depths of our associates and ourselves. The key is to do this without causing any unnecessary additional stress; and to avoid invasive, touchy-feely activities.
Fine wine and poetry are the perfect catalysts.
This exercise involves a comparative wine tasting and poetry contest (we usually arrange for a comparative chocolate tasting for those who don’t drink wine). Although most groups don’t think of themselves as poetic, after the second glass of wine everyone is a poet!
Participants discover how the love of fine wine inspired the Ancient Greeks, Renaissance Masters and America’s Founding Fathers.
Here’s a review from a recent participant:
In my all my years of participating in team building events I’ve never experienced anything like this! We went way beyond the usual “consultant-speak” to discover a new approach to creativity and sensory awareness. My group of biochemists and pharmacologists all enjoyed the wine, and then translated their experience into poetry. In the process we all WOWed our colleagues into a new dimension! ~Emily Hickey, DVM, PhD – Merck & Co.
19) Your 14 books have sold more than one million copies. Are you more of an author or a speaker?
Both! The research for the books ensures that I always have something fresh and new to share with my audiences. Writing is a wonderful way to learn, and if you’re not continuously learning you probably shouldn’t be speaking about creativity, innovation and leadership.
20) You wrote a book (Present Yourself: Captivate Your Audience with Great Presentations) about giving great presentations and you’ve taught seminars on presentation skills and executive presence for many years. What are the most important elements in a great presentation?
The most important elements are:
- Combine passion with knowledge: The best speakers combine intense passion with in-depth knowledge of the subject.
- Make it memorable: Understanding isn’t the same as remembering! Great presenters make their message unforgettable.
- Demonstrate body/message integrity: Shakespeare wrote; “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” Great presenters demonstrate a seamless integration of body language, voice tone and message.
- Provide take home value: The presentation offers useful information/insight that improves the quality of the audience’s life, professionally and personally.