Blog Speaker Contest 2022

6 Learnings from the Speaker Contest Amsterdam Semifinal

Yesterday, on the 31st of March, we hosted the fourth 2022 Speaker Contest semifinal. Chantal Schinkels, Pep Rosenfeld, Emilia Bunea, Mark Tigchelaar, Mark Robinson, and Raymond Hofmann gave short presentations on the topics of future of work and organizational culture. Each semifinalist offered interesting ideas during their keynotes, and here, you will find a short summary of each presentation.

Chantal Schinkels – Why Future-focused Leadership is All about Cultural Impact

Chantal started her presentation by stating: “If you had asked me several years ago if men and women are treated equally, I would have said yes.” However, after a personal experience and speaking with several female colleagues, her views have changed.

She detailed a movie in which the main character, Purl (which stands for Pro-active, Unify, Response, and Lead), forced herself to adapt to a male environment in the workplace by becoming more masculine. This, according to Chantal, is a common response from women who may experience differences in salary, difficulties getting promotions, or even feel unsafe.

Instead of women fixing themselves, she asks, “why not fix the system?”. Chantal’s method of doing this is through “micro-revolutions”. For example, when Purl sees a new female colleague, she takes the action of stepping forward, introducing herself, and inviting her to join the group. “Are you in? Do you want to join team Purl?” she asked in closing.

Pep Rosenfeld – The Future of Work Is Funny

Pep focused on the value of humor and laughter in the workplace. While many people believe that the future of work is scary, he argues that it should be funny. Laughter has many health benefits, he explained, that “leaders need to leverage”. Laughter promotes togetherness and wellbeing in teams, as well as good communication. Laughter can even help leaders “deliver unpopular messages and make them stick”.

However, there are some guidelines to keep in mind. When applied incorrectly, humor can come off as “mean”. Pep explained that there are three easy steps to follow:

  1. Make fun of yourself first: by doing so, you will let people know that whatever you joke about later on, you don’t take yourself too seriously.
  2. Use humor to name problems: Humor is a fantastic tool to open up difficult conversations and you can use it to let people know that the problem won’t beat you.
  3. Listen and respond: the best jokes are inside jokes, based on what we have in common. Listening to what people are talking about is how you learn what your team finds funny.

“Don’t punch down”, he warned as he came to a conclusion, and don’t make fun of weakness. He stressed that it’s important to “only make fun of things you want to celebrate”.

Mark Tigchelaar – How to Thrive in the Age of Distractions

Mark made the argument that in order to optimize performance, it is key to increase focus. When we “switch attention back and forth”, he said, we become less productive and it can even lead to burnout. He then illustrated his point by having the audience join him for a “brain game”. This showed that when we switch attention from one thing to another, it takes more time to complete a task, and we make more mistakes. This switching, according to Mark, happens over 200 times a day. In order to thrive, he said, we need to minimize switches.

Mark outlined 4 main reasons that this happens, or “concentration leaks”. They are:

  • Too many external stimuli.
  • Too many internal stimuli.
  • Not enough fuel or downtime for the brain.
  • Too little engagement.

In order to focus better, we need to combat these concentration leaks, he stated. “If we don’t end the stream of distractions, we will only become more fragmented.”

Mark Robinson – Eradicating Shitty Leadership

Mark challenged the audience by asking them: “Do you have the courage to look at what this concept of shitty leadership is?” But he also made a disclaimer: shitty leaders are not shitty people. He gave a list of some of the things that shitty leaders do: blame, shame, and ridicule; they give no constructive feedback, have an insatiable need to be right, and close career doors.

Mark also explained that most people perceive this behavior as something that happened to them, not as something they did.

To eradicate shitty leadership in the workplace or even in ourselves, he gave five suggestions:

  1. Self reflection: are you self aware enough to know yourself?
  2. Power of choice: are you taking responsibility for every thought, action and behavior?
  3. In your next staff meeting, ask your employees “how would you like to be led?” and “how do you like to receive feedback?”
  4. Find frequency: identify what triggers you off your path.
  5. Authentic self: admit when you don’t know something and focus on humility.

Raymond Hofmann – Why Character Is the Key to a Healthy Culture

“Everyone wants a healthy culture, so why don’t we have more of it?”. Raymond kicked off his presentation with this question and explained that most culture transformation programs fail for three reasons: they assume culture can be built, but it can’t; there is an overemphasis on systems over leadership; and leaders lack character.

According to Raymond, lack of character is at the root of the problem. It is in short supply in business because there is a lack of demand. To reverse the trend, he proposed that we “increase our demand for character in our leadership”, but before that, he advised that we should start with ourselves.

“I define a person of character as someone who wants to know and do what is right”, he said. The good news is that practice builds character. In closing, Raymond shared two ideas of how we can practice.

First, develop a love for truth. Ask questions, don’t blindly follow others. The second idea is to examine yourself. Make it a habit to reflect on your own thoughts, words and actions. Are they consistent with what you believe to be true? And are they consistent with what you believe to be good?

Dr. Emilia Bunea – Sustainable Passion: A Key to Future-proof Leadership

Emilia made a bold declaration at the onset of her presentation: “I’m here to bring you a secret weapon that can help future-proof your leadership.”

According to Emilia, leaders cannot get an accurate measure of their work, no matter how much formal or informal feedback they get. And, passion for leadership combined with ambiguity and uncertainty about it can lead to obsessive passion for work, which is in turn the perfect recipe for burnout.

Emilia’s solution is to find a “sustainable personal passion”, another life role that can make you feel competent and can offer you personal growth and self expression. This can also help you renew your energy.

“It is not something you do, it is something you are”, she explained. “You are a painter, a singer”. It can be something small and humble, but it makes you learn new things, express your true self and it makes you proud. It is also sustainable because you don’t have to force yourself to do it, you can’t wait to. Finally, a sustainable personal passion plays a key role in tough times, helping leaders to put things into perspective and to increase resilience.

Wondering Who Won?

At each semifinal, our jury and audience will vote for their favorite speaker. The person with the most votes will move on to the final held in Helsinki on the 31st of May. This time, Mark Tigchelaar was voted to move to the final – congratulations! A warm thank you also to each semifinalist for delivering excellent speeches! If you want to watch the recordings of the speeches, you can do so on the contest website.

About the Speaker Contest

The 2022 Speaker Contest is Business Forum Group’s initiative to find individuals with original ideas and give them a platform to speak. This year, the winner is offered a spot on stage at Nordic Business Forum 2022, Oslo Business Forum 2022, and Amsterdam Business Forum 2022 with a 70,000 € fee for the speaking engagements.

Interested to watch the rest of the semifinals? Join the audience on the contest website and help us choose our next speaker!


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