The Benefits of an Inspirational Keynote Speaker
By: Anne McCrory | 05/22/2019
“You are defined not by your setback, but by your comeback.” So said adventure racing world champion and bestselling author Robyn Benincasa, our keynote speaker at AGENDA19. She was describing setbacks during races, and from injuries, competing in wilderness races all over the world.
But the lesson was universal.
So much so, in fact, that when I was talking to a conference attendee a month after the event, Robyn’s quote was one of the first things that came up. She and her team were still talking about it. Indeed, think about how many setbacks you might have during a transformation. It’s about how you recover from those, what you do next, that matters.
As event producers, we seek out keynotes to provide inspiration, or expertise and knowledge, or points of view our audiences may not have considered before. The meat of our programs here at IDG are peer-based insights – digital and IT case studies of transformation, innovation and leadership – and we earn high scores for providing practical knowledge and helping people build their networks with new contacts. But an optimal attendee experience involves both short- and long-tail insights. Some will get you through your next project; others can be defining moments that change the way you think.
We have had CIO speakers who can do both. There was the CIO who had a near death experience ice climbing; it was his storytelling with the details of that harrowing experience and his revelations about how it changed the way he leads that left the 2012 CIO Leadership conference audience breathless, and that still comes to mind to this day. (You’re amazing, Bill McCorey.) Other keynoters have business stories that resonate long after the curtain call – the rousing look at health care by Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health’s CEO (AGENDA17), the well-told story of Dominos’ transformation (AGENDA16), and Cake Insure’s journey as a startup within a larger company (AGENDA18).
Yet often, the stories that get attendees to think beyond their realities, to feel something that drives them to try something new, come from hard to find speakers. They’ve experienced extraordinary, often life-changing things, and as we travel with them to that place, we, too, are changed when we get back. We absorb their lessons and they’re part of us as we move on through the conference and back to our lives. They’re also a great conversation starter to meet others at the conference and connect in a more personal way.
It’s always gratifying when you land the right speaker (and the attendees validate that choice with feedback), or a client entrusts us to find that speaker who will create that memorable moment the attendee remembers – and associates with their brand. Plenty of events don’t have them and work just fine, of course. But to get your event to stand out from the rest at the end of the year, they’re a great way to create a lasting impression.