Most Keynote Speakers Fail At Providing Audience Learning & Performance Improvement

Fail by Ryan Steele

Most keynotes fail at actually providing learning and retention. Sure, many keynotes are inspirational, motivational and provide an engaging story. And if that’s all we’re looking for from a high-paid professional speaker for a keynote, it works. However, when an organization pays $10,000-$75,000, or even a higher fee, for a 45- to 60-minute message, we expect more. Too many keynotes are filled with exhausted clichés, empty entertainment, and low-importance ideas. ~ Dr. Will … [Read more...]

Crank Up Your Conference Emotional Intensity With Bright Lights

2014.04.03_Ah Ha!

Forget about turning down the lights to set the mood for your opening general session. Why? It’s the perfect way to disengage and dial back your attendees’ emotions. If you want to emotionally connect and increase your audience’s emotional intensity, a University of Toronto study says you need to turn lights up bright! Bright Lights Arouse Intense Emotions Conventional wisdom says that sunny days can brighten our moods. While cloudy, rainy days can bring us down. However, this new … [Read more...]

Three Guaranteed Ways To Kill Your General Session Attendees

Is your general session like bug repellant only repelling attendees and attracting crickets? Is it a sure-fire way to keep attendees in their hotel beds? Here are three fail-safe strategies that are guaranteed to kill your general sessions and create the walking dead! 1. Be A Chest-Thumping Legacy Gorilla Male gorillas beat their chests to show their strength and dominance. They want others to know all about them in an attempt to challenge. Many organizations start their general sessions with … [Read more...]

Why Conference General Sessions Should Be More Like The Olympics

2012.08.15_Beach Volley by iwillbehomesoon, on Flickr

The 2012 London Olympics were an interesting diversion from U.S. politics, the scorching heat and a questionable economy. They captivated our attention as we rooted for our countries, the underdog and individuals that had overcome great odds. Even when an athlete from another part of the world broke some amazing record, we united with our support and awe. Their win was the water cooler discussion in the office and the buzz of Twitter. Being More Olympic-like So why aren't conference … [Read more...]

Why You Should Not Hire A Speaker That Will Alienate Part Of Your Audience

2012.04.04_Right Where it Belongs by pat_makhoul, on Flickr

Learning is a fragile thing. It is a biological process that happens in the brain. Provide the wrong stimulus and the brain responds by shutting down the learning process and instead protecting the human body. In order for people to learn something, their basic needs have to be met first. They must feel like the learning environment is safe and that they won't be threatened or embarrassed. If not, they cannot learn. When Learning Can't Occur In the 1990s I worked for Keep America … [Read more...]

Why Risky Conference Speakers Can Lead To Failed Learning

2012.04.03_Wrestlers by Aaron Landry, on Flickr

What do well-informed town halls and WWE's "Friday Night SmackDown" have in common? A lot more than you would think. In 2009, both Friday Night SmackDown and healthcare town halls were sold out. Both witnessed a staged, well-rehearsed, public feud that was more about sensationalism than fact. During those healthcare town halls, two opposing sides gathered to share their views. One side clearly had low trust in public, political officials. Their emotions were high as evidenced by some … [Read more...]

Why Do We Start Conferences With General Sessions?


Most conferences kickoff with an opening general session. Why? What's the point? What's the purpose of a general session? Back To Presentation Basics What' the purpose of a speaker for any presentation? Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate says it best, Presentations are most commonly delivered to persuade an audience to change their minds or behavior. At its basic level, presentations are to persuade. Some may say that presentations are to inform. I typically respond with, "Inform for … [Read more...]

Social Isolation In The Midst Of A Crowded General Session

Rows and rows of chairs in straight lines face the stage. Aisles separate sections of chairs so people can navigate the room. The large ballroom easily seats 5,000 people theater style. The air is cold and stale. The lights dim. A dancing image appears on the front screens and the delay screens hanging from the ceiling. Why this setup? Why this method? What's the goal of this ballroom-style general session? Efficiency Not Effectiveness As some iconic image from Apple's 1984 Mac commercial, … [Read more...]