Becoming a Public Speaker

Last night in Guangzhou, I gave a keynote speech at a business conference organized by London Business School for Nestle executives called Leading the Nestle Way. Basically I told my story of working at my missile factory in the 80’s, which provides a broad social context of China’s economic reforms and opening up. In the past few days during their leadership training programme, the executives have learned enough about dry figures. Now they heard a real life story: personal story can often bring history to life, especially when told with humour and insight.
It went really well. About forty Nestle executives asked a lot of questions, which is always a good sign. One man said to me that this was the highlight of his China experience.
This talk is the fifth of the 18 such conferences organized by LBS and I’ll continue to come down to Guangzhou regularly in the next eight months.
My career as a public speaker is fairly recent. It started after I published my memoir “Socialism is Great!” in 2008. I was then invited to give book talks. Slowly I received invitations from all sorts of organizations, universities and social organizations not only to talk about my memoir but also about China and China related issues. I discovered that I enjoy giving public speeches: well, I was the number two child in the family who never got much attention. Now I savour such attention. Of course, it fits in perfectly with my
self-appointed mission in life – to be the cultural bridge between China and the outside world. And a speaker is usually well taken care of. My speech agent books my flight. Upon arrival at the airport, as if by magic, a driver is waiting for me, holding a placard bearing my name. Then I’ll be taken to a decent hotel, always Grand Hyatt in Guangzhou.
It’s a balmy sunny day here. Through the large window of my hotel room, I can see a lovely park outside. And my heart is filled with contentment and gratitude.

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