Seeing The Conference Keynote As A Voyage To Human Transformation

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As a conference organizer, what’s your goal when you secure a speaker for a keynote presentation?

Motivation? Humor? Inspiration? Education? To provoke? Entertainment? Complete a schedule? Kickoff an event?

Benefiting The Attendees

If you are really dedicated to helping your conference attendees benefit from a keynote presentation, doesn’t it make sense to know as much as possible about what serves them the best?

Most of the writings about education and training focus on the speaker and instruction design. Rarely do they discuss how the learner internalizes and deals with sensory stimuli.

Without a clear understanding of how humans approach, regard, receive and retrieve the information presented to them, we decrease the probability of successful transformation.

Defining Learning

Basically, learning is change or adaptation.

All organisms are genetically coded to reproduce characteristics of their species. They contain the seeds to reproducing their kind. Apples create apples. Dogs create other dogs. Fish create fish. Humans are not much different.

However, individual members of a species are different from other members in subtle ways. Those variations are critical to survival. As their environment changes, some members of species adapt better to those new conditions than others. This allows species to evolve and survive.

Humans have an enormous genetically coded capacity for adaptation and learning. This allows us to change as we receive information from our environment.

Your job as a conference organizer or keynote presenter is to help people learn. To help them change. Your job is to nurture and facilitate that human transformation. It is not merely to transmit information.

Which Keynote Presentation Was The Most Successful?

Take a look at these results from these three keynote presentations. In your view, which one was the most successful?

Keynote 1

The attendees left the presentation laughing and talking about what the speaker told them about success in their profession. They thought the speaker was humorous, entertaining and fun. The time went by fast.

Keynote 2

The attendees left the presentation with a link to research, the PowerPoint and a list of helpful information about the steps needed to succeed in their industry. They had a strong impression that they would be dealing with a lot of change in the near future.

Keynote 3

The attendees left the presentation with relevant steps to strategically position their jobs in today’s rapidly changing world. They were ready to apply them immediately back in the office and help their employer succeed.

The Results

Keynote 1 was inspirational and fun. The only change or learning noted was a new memory of an entertaining presenter.

Keynote 2 implies that the attendees’ learning was shaped by a lot of resources and research. Their impression was that a lot of change is coming their way.

Keynote 3 created useful transformation in its attendees. They left with two things they didn’t have before the presentation:

  1. They have relevant steps to be more strategic in their jobs.
  2. They can now help their employees succeed as they apply this learning.

What will it take to transition more keynote presentations from transmitting information to facilitating human transformation? How can we partner with our organization leadership and speakers to ease the way for more attendee learning and adaptation?

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  1. thom singer says:

    Jeff- This topic needs more attention than a blog post. The power of the speaker to transform the behaviors of an audience is more important than most people realize. The speakers also set the tone for the whole event and are not a commodity (“lets get a speaker”). It is not just finding someone smart to share their wisdom if you want to really have impact.

    Just because someone is smart or has done something cool – it does not mean they belong on the stage. The ability to connect with an audience and get them to take action does not come by accident!

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for adding to the discussion. Yes, we need to take the general sessions more seriously. There can be great human transformation that occurs when the right mix of ingredients including the best speaker for that audience at that time at that place!

  2. Great job done by author. Information helps me a lot to improve my skills. Thanks for the author for sharing. Please keep posting.

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