It’s always interesting listening to keynote speakers deliver their wisdoms. The audience waiting with bated breath for the golden nuggets that will deliver them salvation. Ok that’s a bit romantic, but they’re certainly looking for deep insight from these peeps with big brains.
Until they realise that these big brains are no bigger than their own. What these keynote speakers have learned to do is focus incredibly well on a set of core messages that they become well known for, and whoosh they’re off.
Last week I heard two big brains talk at Learning Technologies Conference and was glad of the opportunity. The first was Brian Solis, who is well known for thoughts around digtal behaviour. The second was with Jim Kirkpatrick – oh yes, he of the famed four levels of evaluation of learning.
Some of the broad thoughts I was left with are around whether keynotes and big brain speakers have had their day at conferences? I was left feeling the same after the keynote from Goffee and Jones at last year’s CIPD Annual Conference. There were no insights I hadn’t come across via social media.
So what’s the worth of a keynote speaker?
I think we’re too used to the model of speak and behold. Conference organisers keep fast with the model because their delegates tell them this is what they want. No, they don’t.
People attending a conference want to be shaken up. They want their own big brains to be stirred and made to work. We are connected enough and smart enough to make our own judgements and derive our own insights. What we need is the right stimulus. At heart we’re still and will remain slaves to responding to the environment we’re in.
If we’re engaged actively by a speaker, not just by their words but their involvement, this is where things start to shift. Speakers need to realise they can and should be doing more than speak and deliver.
I know a good many folk who will do this. Who will step out of the confines of tradition and blaze a new trail.
What kind of thing am I talking about? Well let’s set aside for a moment that the speaker’s time is being paid for. What is it they’re there for? To deliver something of value. What is that value? It isn’t them.
The value is what they can provoke. The value is what they can invite. The value is what they can share. The value is the discussion that happens. The value is the clarity they can provide.
And you don’t get that by standing and delivering.
That’s where the value of a keynote lies.