The Charm of David Chilton
Author of the all-time Canadian bestseller, The Wealthy Barber, and one of CBC’s “Dragons” on their #1 hit show Dragons’ Den (the new season begins October 15!), David Chilton has been speaking to audiences across Canada and around the world for over 20 years. Never one to rest on his laurels, he’s known for keeping his topics fresh and interesting, whether he’s sharing his up-to-the-minute financial insight or providing a sneak peek about what goes on behind-the-scenes at “The Den”. Speakers’ Spotlight’s own Partner and Senior Vice President, Kelly MacDonald, shares a recent chat she had with Dave about the latest incarnation of his talk:
David Chilton—in print only—he’s Dave to all he meets—is an engaging, fast paced, intelligent, informed, quick witted, and concise conversationalist, a style that’s consistent, whether he’s speaking with you one-on-one, delivering a keynote speech, or simply leaving a voicemail. He’s a delight to listen to. I’ll confess, I’m a giant fan and I’m not alone as my colleagues and clients all have their own accounts of the charm of Dave Chilton.
I heard that Dave had a new topic in mind, so left him a message to find out more, and got this one in return: “I do have new messages that I’m really excited about,” he said. “I’m finding they really resonate with audiences, but I’m wary of having them described in print. I don’t like being held accountable to a topic. I don’t have ‘topics’, I have modules that change for every talk—and sometimes on the spot.” So, I set up a time to talk with the wary Dave Chilton and when we connected he taught me how to record a conversation on my cell phone. I pressed start and he was off:
“I started about a year and a half ago to talk more about Dragons’ Den and the behind-the-scenes of the show. That goes over exceptionally well. It’s an unusual Canadian program in that pretty much everyone has seen it and can relate to what it looks like on air. Learning about what goes into the making of it and the personalities involved is intriguing, but what really captures people’s imagination is the stories of how people got there, and what happened after the fact; why I was drawn to certain deals, why the deal went through. They are business stories in essence, but wrapped in a lot of life lessons.”
“Many of the people that have come to the show have made tremendous mistakes and have somehow overcome them, and we are, in effect, investors of last resort. So when it works out, it’s quite dramatic. Fortunately, I have been very lucky. In the past three years, suddenly we have seen quite a number of significant successes on the show. Audiences like the story of triumph over challenge; they like hearing the stories behind the successes and they like stories about the making of the show, the cast, and our stories of success and failures. We do about 20 to 30 deals a year, so we’re learning a lot and it’s great to be able to share this unique experience with different business audiences.”
“But lately, what I’ve been adding to my talk is a lot different than that. I’ve watched the response to my Tweets—I use a lot of humour, I don’t use links or retweets—they’re my own words. I don’t Tweet a lot, but I’ve found that when I Tweet about my parents—the things I’ve learned from them, and their thinking on different subject matters—those are by far my most popular Tweets. So, I started thinking more and more about how much my life has been impacted by my parents’ thinking, and by their approach to life, and how really I’ve been shaped by that, and how my kids, as importantly, have also been shaped by that. I started talking with people, more casually than anything, about my parent’s philosophy toward life, and it was really well received. So, I slowly started weaving this into my speeches and it’s resonating in the same way with audiences. People like human stories and family dynamics, and of course it’s naturally wrapped in humour.”
“You know, everyone thinks their parents are great, but what sets my parents apart is that at 80 and 81, they still have the same energy and outlook that they have always had. They are incredibly positive people; they are always in a good mood. And fortunately for me, I have been lucky enough to have inherited that disposition. For a long time I thought it was genetic, but now I realize it’s the habits they put in place and the attitude they brought to things that has led to their happiness. This isn’t a huge part of my speech, it’s maybe ten minutes that I enjoy sharing and audiences really enjoy it, too.”
“As I said, I have always used the module approach to speaking. It’s great to give people variety: 10 to 15 minutes on finance; the makings of Dragons’ Den along with a business story or two from the show; the importance of perspective. These are segued together and chosen to appeal to each audience. There are commonalities, but I’m really having a new conversation every time, and it’s a win-win for me and my audiences.”
I think Dave Chilton’s approach to speechwriting is spot on and clients agree. A large financial services firm just hired him for a repeat performance and during the conference call, beyond sharing some insight on the audience and their objectives for the event, they didn’t talk content at all. They trusted Dave would be his charismatic, fun, deeply informed self, and connect the dots expertly between his unique life experience and that of their audience. It works like a charm.