HIGH ACHIEVER - Ngahi Bidois, winner of the NSANZ Speaker of the Year 2011

LEADERSHIP speaker Ngahi Bidois is as much at home in front of pupils at a Rotorua primary school as he is addressing top international companies around the world.

The Daily Post caught up with Ngahi at Sunset Primary School, talking to pupils about the importance of reading in developing the knowledge and skills that earned him the National Speakers Association of New Zealand Speaker of the Year 2011 title.

"It is a very significant business award, highly regarded in the international speaking profession."


But, as he told the Sunset pupils, everything he knows has been learned from others and he attributes his success to all the people who have supported him.

"One of my favourite Maori proverbs is: Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini - My achievements are not mine alone, but those of many.

"I am privileged to have family, friends, mentors and business advisers who have been with me throughout my speaking business."

While international business such as Google and PricewaterhouseCoopers employ him to motivate and inspire their teams, speaking to audiences of 30 to 3500 around the world, Ngahi enjoys talking to local children pro-bono for Duffy Books in Homes, which has distributed more than 7 million free books to New Zealand children in the last 16 years.

"The happiness, gratitude and smiles on the pupil's faces when they receive their free books is priceless.

"Doing this work is good for my soul."

Ngahi is writing his second book. He is also a professional MC, chairman of the Tauhara North No 2 Trust and runs a VIP hosting business - not bad for the man who lists his proudest qualification as an MBA - Maori Boy from Awahou.

His real qualifications include a teaching diploma, a business degree and a masters degree in education.

Before starting his own businesses, he headed Waiariki Institute of Technology's Te Pakaro a Ihenga School of Maori Studies, Journalism, Fashion, Arts and Design.

His academic career also included lecturing at teachers' college and teaching accounting, economics and business studies.

Ngahi believes there is much to be learned from the past.

"One of the reasons I work harder is that I am a product of the God I serve and past generations. I am here for a short time to, hopefully, help and inspire current and future generations."

He quotes the popular Maori proverb: He aha te mea nui i tenei ao? - What is the most important thing in this world? He Tangata, he tangata, he tangata - It is people, it is people it is people.

"A key to business success is having the right people, in the right place, doing the right things, at the right time."

Running a business in which he is the product has its pros and cons - particularly when it comes to balancing the self promotion needed to be successful and the more humble perspective of his culture.

"In my Maori world role I do not speak. In fact, I am more likely to be found peeling the spuds or doing the dishes at our marae. These are very different roles, but they each add value to each world."

But selling a product he knows so well makes his business role easier.

"No one sells me like me."

What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

My first job was at secondary school as a part-time cleaner at Lockwood. The late Mr Jo La Grouw (Snr) was my first employer - E te Rangatira Le Grouw haere, haere, haere atu ra.

I learnt, if you do something well, you are entrusted with more responsibilities and helped develop my confidence and assertiveness.

You have just celebrated your 50th birthday - what do you know now, that you wish you had known at 21?

I wish I had known the importance of mentors and the significance of the Maori language and culture.

Through mentors I would have developed faster and made fewer mistakes. If I had known the significance of the Maori language and culture, I would have known the significance of who I am and my role in this world.

As "The Face of New Zealand", what does your ta moko mean to you?

"The Face of New Zealand" is my international brand, developed by an American friend. My ta moko is who I am, not what I do.

There was a time when I was not proud of being Maori. My ta moko is on my face - not on my arms, legs, chest or back - so I can never again turn my back on being Maori. I am pleased and privileged to have received it from my Maori ancestors.

How does your culture's traditional wisdom translate to people in the various countries you speak in?

When I was completing my Masters in Education degree about ten years ago, lecturer Professor Mason Durie outlined the three kinds of knowledge.

The first was faith - you either believe or you do not believe. The second was scientific or western knowledge, where you have a theory and prove it or disprove it. The third and fastest growing knowledge was indigenous knowledge - traditional wisdom found within the cultures of the world.

I see my professional speaker role as being an ambassador for the traditional wisdom of the Maori culture to the various countries I speak in. It translates excellently into the contexts of people in all countries.

What are your top three tips for effective public speaking?

If the top three tips for real estate are location, location, location, my top three tips for effective public speaking are preparation, preparation, preparation.

Amateur speakers prepare until they get their presentations right. Professional speakers prepare until they can't get their presentations wrong.

This removes anxiety, minimises mistakes and identifies outcomes and the best way to achieve them. Know your audience, your material, your resources and your worth.