Interview with Douglas Kruger: South-African professional speaker and author

Please introduce yourself to us.

I am a professional speaker and author based in Johannesburg, and the only 5x winner of the Southern African Championships for Public Speaking, hosted annually by Toastmasters International.

I am the author of 50 Ways to Become a Better Speaker, published in South Africa and Nigeria, 50 Ways to Position Yourself as an Expert, and co-author of So You’re in Charge. Now What? 50 Ways to Become a Better Leader.  In Africa, I have spoken and trained for organizations like BMW, Vodacom, ABSA, Old Mutual, Caltex, Nedcor, FNB, Revlon, Alexander Forbes, Standard Bank, Clarins, and many more.

I write regular thought-leadership articles, which have been featured in Entrepreneur, Sales Guru and Forbes magazines. In 2010, I was made the Face of Ford, starring in a series of TV ads.

In what countries do you operate?

I am based in South Africa, but speak and present internationally. My last presentation outside of South Africa was for the annual HP conference, held in Zanzibar.

Who do you service as a company – the public, private or government sector?

I service primarily corporate companies, but I am also largely involved in the events sector.

What are the major challenges to operating in the African market today?

Speaking and presenting are uniquely agile in the sense that very little operational equipment is required. The value is to be found in the intellectual capital, and the speaker’s primary task is to make useful, relevant ideas come alive for different markets and organisations. The major challenges for speakers in Africa are simply around the logistics of travel and timing, as a speaker literally is his or her product.

As a player in this market, can you proffer a possible solution to these challenges?

Speakers, including myself, often turn their ideas into books and CD’s, in order to replicate their effect and reach people in their own absence. The advance of online technology has also made it possible to offer e-books and audio downloads anywhere in the world.

What remarkable advancement has your industry made in recent years that you find most outstanding?

Following the economic recession of 2009, buyers in the speaking and training market began demanding ever greater value for money. This has had a very positive effect on the speaking industry, as it forces higher standards and greater customization. Less hype and more solid and useful content.

What change(s) would you like to see in your industry that would make your job easier?

I would like to see more coordinated involvement from the CEO’s and top-level leadership of organisations that book speakers like myself. Companies could increase the value they receive from a presentation exponentially, simply by having the leadership introduce the speaker in a favourable way, and then back up the message in subsequent addresses. Typically, this does not happen. A secretary is asked to book a speaker, and the leadership finds out on the day what the address will be about, which minimizes the organisation’s take-home value from the event.  

Overall, how would you say the African market has performed in 2012?

The speaking circuit in Africa is flourishing. It took a serious hit in 2009, but has rebounded generously and organisations continue to see the value in inspiring and equipping their staff.

Any predictions for the market, and particularly in your industry, for the year 2013?

Technologically continues to dramatically influence the speaking circuit. Companies like Apple and Samsung now enable speakers to store presentation visuals on a phone and use the same phone as a remote clicker while presenting. I see this trend continuing to simplify the logistics involved in speaking all over the continent. It will also make it increasingly easy to give handouts and supplementary materials, which will move toward the digital platform.

What is the latest from your company? Anything we should look forward to?

Penguin publishers have just accepted my book 50 Ways to Position Yourself as an Expert for publication in South Africa, and as an e-book. As a result, I will be speaking on this topic, and helping businesses and brands all over Africa to stand out from the crowd and position themselves as thought-leaders. Also, my new website,, will go live before the end of January, including free articles, video blogs, and clips from my presentations. 

Douglas Kruger is a regular columnist on Africa Business Communities.
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