Bangalorean Harish Bijoor – brand expert and CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc – stands out today as the go-to brand consultant and speaker of choice, both in India and abroad. A brand-building activity that once started off at Rs 3000 an hour, Bijoor’s talks and public speeches are now priced at a range that stand testimony to his value as a speaker, particularly when it comes to topics that fall within his turf – marketing and branding. Having recently completed his 10,000th public-speaking hour, Bijoor downloads to Varshini Murali of Explocity on the art of public speaking, and how he’s grown as a speaker: from fumbling with his delivery at first, to eventually finding the right words to say what needs to be said.
My first talk must have been in school.
I was good with my words, terrible in my diction, horrendous in my delivery and totally nervous in my approach.
My first paid public appearance as a keynote speaker was 18 years ago. It was a forum of women entrepreneurs, who had assembled at Krabi, Thailand.
It was fun to speak to, what was then, a ‘large-sized’ audience of 220 people.
It was fun to see the difference pre-talk and post-talk.
Pre-talk I was just a face in the crowd and post-talk, I had people milling around me, discussing my talk animatedly. This meant that I had made a difference.
This was a big motivation. I had showcased some of my original theories in branding at this talk. In many ways, this was my first litmus test of the content
I had delivered. I was on a high. A talk-high!
This first talk taught me many things.
Like the fact that original content is appreciated. People are tired of listening to the same old things touted at conference after conference. This made me decide that I would build every one of my presentations myself, anew each time.
I do not let my secretary handle any of it. Even the visuals I incorporate in my presentations are sourced by me. To that extent, when I talk, it is 100% me.
I do believe public speaking can be learnt over time.
I used to be a terrible speaker. I was good with content, but lousy in delivery. Over the years, I have learnt to better my delivery. If I can speak, I think any Tom, Dick and Harish can speak.
My most interesting talk was the one corporate session where the chairman of the company offered me a job in New York.
I have never seen a quicker decision than that. In one hour of hearing someone talk. His entire Board of Directors were at that presentation in Manhattan but he discussed it with no one. He just got me closeted in the anteroom with an offer he believed I couldn’t refuse.
My most amusing talk was when a lady in Istanbul gave me major smacker as she handed over a memento on stage.
There were peals of laughter all around. For me this was amusing and bizarre as well. And most certainly embarrassing.
The worst feedback I received was in Delhi.
A senior gentleman in the audience said that I had good content, but I was a bad speaker. He said I needed to look into people's eyes to talk. That I should not talk to the walls of the auditorium at large. He told me this some 15 years ago, and ever since, I have been trying to peer into the eyes of my audience.
For me, the most encouraging response is when, at the end of a talk, I have people sharing animated feedback with me, in person.
Today, of course, my biggest feedback mechanism is Twitter. After every talk, I get about 2-5% of my audience following me on Twitter. The digital medium is a great mechanism of feedback. It is easy, quick and brutal.
Over the years, I have evolved from being a very aggressive in-the-face speaker to a more emotive one.
Today, I speak differently to every audience.
If it is an American audience, the tone, tenor and decibel is different. If it is a Japanese audience, it is diametrically different. There are subtleties, which one must be aware of. God is in the details. Just as the devil is.
Public speaking is a part of my primary vocation of being a brand-strategy specialist.
When you are in the realm of research and study, you come up with seminal new stuff. This stuff cannot reside just with you. It needs to be shared. The talk is a tool you use to share all of this.
It is content that has driven the delivery.
I am so glad about that. When it is the reverse, where delivery is more potent than content, you tend to become a hollow public speaker. I have consciously stayed away from that path. And this has worked.
I never do a talk in a sector where I am not convinced about what I am saying.
Integrity is the corner-stone of everything you talk about.
I tend to add style to the delivery that is just enough to keep people involved and awake.
I completed my 10,000th public speaking hour on 25th June, 2013.
My bean-counting secretary reminded me about it just 18 talk-hours ago. My 10,000th hour session was in Mumbai at the CII, National Marketing Committee Meet. The subject was one very close to my heart: ‘Building a more inclusive marketing mindset in India.’
I showcased my favorite theme that harps on the fact that marketing and branding as a science has become just too focused on money and exclusivity.
Brands today are an ‘exclusive’ concept. Exclusive concepts ‘exclude.’ I have presented a format and a concept that will help make marketing more inclusive.
It is a concept that will include the underprivileged classes of India and indeed the world. I am currently writing a paper for the Harvard Business Review on this concept.
I am now onto my hour 10,002.