How to Hire a Dynamic Keynote Speaker That Doesn’t Bore Your Audience to Death

Some speakers never fail to captivate a room. 

It happens instantly, as soon as they take the stage or the mic or the podium. Everyone knows, this is someone with something important to say, and I can’t wait to hear what it is. It’s like they give off some kind of invisible captivation vibes. 

That’s the kind of person you want to find to inspire and educate your team. Conferences search far and wide for the best speakers, the captivating kind with a great message to share. 

But booking a dynamic keynote speaker isn’t just about finding a person, or even finding a cheap person. It’s something more. 

You all are probably familiar with self-help/motivational speaking guru Tony Robbins. Granted, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but one thing is clear—for better or for worse, the man will hold your attention. His presentations will make you feel something. Energized. Inspired. Or ready to challenge. Coiled for a critical dialogue. Even walk across a bed of hot coals.  

Excellent speakers make the audience think, feel, and engage in ways that last. 

A Dud Will Cost You

Alternately, when you book someone who, well, just bombs, it’s obvious. The crowd physically withdraws. Eyes turn away. Squirming in seats. Pens and notebooks down.

In a phrase—checked out.   

Everyone is thinking: Can I leave yet? Who let this guy in? If the speaker is already “off” the audience reaction will only send him/her farther from the mark. Or else—and maybe even worse—they will keep going, oblivious to the anguish of the audience. 

And once they bomb, there’s no way to take that back. A poor keynote speaker torpedos the energy of the whole conference. 

But there’s good news—you can discover the perfect keynote speaker for your event. You can avoid the disaster of a bad keynote speaker and instead create an event people will be talking about all year. 

The trick? Find a dynamic keynote speaker. It’s doable, as long as you know the secrets. 

When Your Keynote Speaker Wins, Everyone Wins 

I’ve spoken in front of thousands of people across several continents and can tell you—there’s no feeling like absolutely nailing a keynote speech. 

Not only does it feel great knowing you’ve successfully delivered amazing value to a large group of growing leaders/entrepreneurs/etc. but executing a presentation on so large a scale also benefits the hosting organization, sponsors/collaborators, even the event planners themselves. 

So how do you know if your speaker is going to bomb or bring their A-Game? 

Over the years I’ve paid attention to the exact skills that separate the average from the impactful… And you know what? 

What makes Tony—or any other keynote speaker—such a powerful asset to a conference isn’t just the X factor. 

It comes down to eight elements YOU can look for today. 

These are the key elements you need to see when booking your next keynote speaker.

1. Dynamic Keynote Speakers Hook the Audience and Keep Them on the Line

(No worms required.)

People know within the first two minutes whether they want to listen to the speaker for the next ninety minutes. But some speakers don’t maximize that initial first impression. Most speakers move through their intro too quickly. 

It’s good to be excited about their message, so they want to get to the meat of their presentation and really wow the audience with their know-how. But these speakers miss a key element of human connection—the power of first impressions.  

A hook is just like it sounds, it grabs the audience and doesn’t let them go. It makes them want to see what’s coming and it keeps them on the edge of their seats.

Without a hook, your speaker will lose the audience’s attention—and trust—before he/she can get anywhere meaningful. 

It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s just how the human brain works. 

You can fight against that knowledge, or use it to your advantage. 

Some of my favorite hooks:

  • An intriguing question
  • Something that makes you unique
  • Something that makes the audience laugh.
  • A story—with a relevant twist

Good hooks set up the entire presentation. Do some research and if your keynote speaker has a dynamic intro. 

2. Dynamic Keynote Speakers Authentically Connect 

After a well-done first impression comes the real connection. A dynamic speaker has the social awareness and personal understanding to honestly, authentically, and humbly connect with their audience. 

Who wants to listen to someone brag on and on about what they know? 

Not your team, for sure. 

Authentic speakers use real stories from their life to connect with their audience. They show that they have walked the walk, not just talked the talk. They have experienced the same struggles as many in the room. 

Honest connectors are open about where they have failed in the past, but have learned powerful lessons and are ready to share with others on the same path. 

They avoid using pretentious words and undefined vocabulary, but speak with approachable intelligence. 

Most importantly, they make their message about the audience, not themselves and this resonates. 

3. Dynamic Keynote Speakers Know the Crowd

Every keynote speaker finds a particularly difficult crowd once in a while. 

But the best of the best know how to adjust for the room. Without going off-presentation, they can scan the crowd, find those who are “leaning in” and those who aren’t. 

Contemplative listeners are one thing, they lean in and are engaged with the message. Bored is another, they zone out. 

But great speakers have a plan to re-engage those who are wandering. 

  • A plot twist mid-speech
  • Another probing question
  • A surprising statistic

Some of the bold even acknowledge, “Okay, if some of you are slipping, make sure you come back for this point. If you take nothing else from today—remember this.” 

And then they deliver a powerful point that brings the crowd back into focus. 

4. Dynamic Keynote Speakers Use Slides Carefully 

A common question I get is whether it’s okay to use slides for presentations. Is it distracting? Is it helpful? Will the audience think I need too much help? 

Here’s my rule of thumb: Use notes/slides if it delivers value to the audience. 

So look at each slide as if you were the audience member. Is this a key point you would want to remember? A helpful quote? An engaging image? 

Or is the content unnecessary to reiterate? Is it overly-detailed? Does the wording speak down to the reader or mainly boost your ego? 

Those slides will be a distraction more than a resource. Remember: the speaker should be commanding attention, not the screens. Too much slideshow and your audience will forget about the person talking on stage. You want a dynamic keynote speaker, not a slideshow. 

The speaker who can put together an engaging, informative, yet subtle set of slides, has the best chance of executing them successfully. 

5. Dynamic Keynote Speakers Own a Clear Message

I’ve left keynote speeches where everything seemed great. The speaker was bright, chatty, and, the audience seemed engaged, until afterwards someone asked, “Hey, so what was the main idea?” and I realized… there wasn’t one. 

Well that was a waste. 

Without a clear and concise message, your speaker has missed the mark. They might have left an impression, but offered nothing of real, lasting value. 

A dynamic keynote speaker cuts to the chase. 

  • They know less is more. 
  • They cover the first things first (front-loading the message). 
  • They present actionable takeaways instead of abstract values. 
  • They leave the audience with a memorable call to action. 

6. Dynamic Keynote Speakers Make the Audience Feel

Of course, charisma is still an important element. 

Maya Angelou once said, “They may forget your words but won’t forget how you made them feel.” Remember back to some of your favorite speakers. They certainly had a central message—but also left you with something more. 

Your keynote speaker should wield his or her clear, concise ideas to make the audience feel something powerful. It takes a willingness to put themselves into the audience perspective.

They will ask, “What does the room need to learn that I can share? How do they want to feel afterwards? How can I energize them towards their goals?”

Dynamic keynote speakers do the research so they know the crowd and what they (or their organization) thinks they need—and deliver that. 

7. Dynamic Keynote Speakers Master Voice Level, Inflection, Tone, and Body Language

For thousands of years stories were passed down through performance. Each community had a storyteller who had mastered the art of performance, tone, inflection, and body language. 

These men and women shared important lessons, histories, and morals—all through voice. 

Even today, voice and body language are an innate extension of your message: 

  • Raising the voice to make a point
  • Lower the voice to get people to lean in
  • Open arms represent openness and honesty
  • Eye contact instills trust and confidence
  • Movement across the stage creates dimension between topics 
  • Movement toward the audience creates rapport when asking questions, making a vital point, or proposing a new idea

Pick a speaker whose physical awareness adds to the rhetoric of their message. They understand how body language conveys meaning, so instead of standing still, reading monotonously off a script, they make the space come alive. 

8. Dynamic Keynote Speakers Leave You Wanting More

A good sign that your keynote speaker is great? When you feel surprised (and a little sad) as they come to a close.  

The best speakers close out their dynamic presentations just as strongly as they started. But for all the value they brought, their audience is left wanting more. 

They got a hint of the next level—and they can’t wait to get there. 

So when choosing a keynote speaker, assess whether they invite you to the next level. Do they: 

  • Give the audience something to do?
  • Offer to connect?
  • Share social, site, book, etc. so the audience can learn more?

By approaching each speech as part of a larger learning journey, dynamic keynote speakers create dynamic listeners.  

Still Searching for a Dynamic Keynote Speaker?

As a speaker, it’s my job to nurture these eight elements every single day. Whether I’m teaching excellent execution of the InSPIRED Leadership Framework to a few business teams or sharing my Iditarod leadership journey with an entire conference, I can see these elements make a powerful difference. 

If you like what you’re reading and want to hear more on leadership, communication, execution, intentionality, and more, contact me at (877) 843-7284.

6 Reasons Why Great Leaders Love Problems— and So Should You

Gestalt Theory hypothesizes that none of us sees reality as it is. Instead, we’re going to bend what we see to our own patterns and internal messages. 

So our inner thoughts and presets uniquely determine how we experience the world… but let me go out on a limb to make a claim. 

In all of our reality experiences, we share a common internal message—

AVOID PROBLEMS. 

It’s in our nature, in our nurture, to wake up each morning believing: 

Problem? Bad. Stress. No. 

No Problem? Rest. Relief. Utopia. 

But after years of learning what makes great leaders—and training men and women to become the great leaders they were meant to be—I’ve discovered that our problems are our secret sauce to success. 

In fact, a life without problems is a life without growth. 

Here are six ways that choosing a problem-solving mindset changes you for the better—into the leader you were meant to be.  

Problems Reveal Your Character. 

Everyone, at some point, experiences a degree of personal or organizational failure. 

Each problematic moment is an x-ray of character. Everyone involved will respond according to their emotional, mental, and occupational maturity.

 

  • Do you lean towards wallowing in failure? 
  • Are you more prone to shutdown or lack of listening? 
  • Are you an encourager or a critique-er? 
  • Are you quick to see multiple solutions? 
  • Do you take responsibility or pass the buck? 

 

Great leaders are not in denial, believing nothing bad will ever happen, but neither do they camp out in failure.

Imagine a sponge: You only find out what’s on the inside, when it gets squeezed. You only know someone’s internal makeup (or your own) when they confront adversity. 

Where you or I respond poorly, mark it, remember it—and focus on growing that area. 

Problems Lead to Your Answers

Influence Leadership exists as a service-based business, because people have problems—problems around conflict and problems in execution. 

Of course, from a business perspective, “problems aren’t problems; problems are money.” If you solve the problems, you get the money. 

The people who rise highest in organizations are more solution-focused than problem-focused. They’re worth higher salaries. Why? Because they’re effective at tackling bigger problems. 

They see adversity as a window to competitive advantage.

In business, we figure out future answers from our present problems. 

(Otherwise, the pain was experienced for nothing.)

To reach the top, we accept obstacles, learn whatever we can, adjust strategy, and press on. 

Problems Increase Your Capacity. 

The higher the barrier to entry and more difficult the business, the greater the opportunity is for us to succeed.

Why? Because our competition will likely fold. In any case, adversity builds a critical leadership component, which is capacity. 

For example, I’ve got a friend that’s a runner. Though I’m not a runner, I’m told if you run a 5k and can get through that, then you pursue a 10k and get through that. You continue to increase your capacity and go on to run half and full marathons. 

As you persevere and press through the pain towards a goal, it builds confidence and credibility. 

If you quit too soon, you experience the pain, but never reap the benefits of having weathered it.

Problems Hone Your Process: 

When I coach people through those tough learnings, I address two aspects of it. When you succeed, I want you to own that success. I want you to internalize it: 

You’re the woman! You’re the man! You’re the rock star!

Own every bit of that. But when you fail, I want you to filter it as a system or process.

Internalize success and externalize failure.

When we externalize failure instead of internalizing it, we recognize that success is a process that must be worked to yield the right results. Success is the culmination of proper steps done over time. 

The only way to reveal the right steps is to learn from a past of problems. 

When we fail, we need to go back and do the diagnostics and identify lessons learned. I call them the “after action autopsies.” 

It’s time to cut the body open and see what happened. It’ll be one of two things: either you didn’t have the right system or you failed to work it. Either way, it’s a systemic failure. 

Either way, let’s learn the lessons and work an improved process.

Problems Improve Your Trust 

There are a lot of leaders that just won’t admit their shortcomings or failures. Everybody on the team knows, but the leader won’t say, “That was my fault. I should have done something different.” 

Yet vulnerability-based trust is some of the most deeply connected organizational and personal trust. 

It builds amazing health into organizations.

The temptation when you really hit that wall is to recoil and wallow in the emotional pain.

Don’t. 

Chalk it up to a University of Life experience, share your findings with your team, and set the example for open, honest improvement. 

Problems Adjust Expectations 

Frustration happens when expectations meet experience. 

If you expected to run that first 5k, 10k, or marathon pain-free, you’re going to be frustrated.

I heard someone say, “The glass is not half empty or half full. The realist knows that, regardless of what’s in the glass, it’s going to have to be washed sooner or later.” 

Welcome to life! There is no such thing as a perfect boss or a perfect company. 

Everyone that walks in the front door after being hired has an expectation of what daily life is going to be like. When expectation meets experience, you’re either going to have fulfillment or frustration. 

Eventually you’ll either have an engaged or disengaged workforce. It’s one thing if people quit and leave; it’s another thing if they quit and stay. 

Mismatched expectations and resulting disengagement cost companies millions. 

If you or your team is experiencing heightened levels of frustration, let the “problem” become an arrow—leading you to re-evaluate mismanaged expectations and, in the end, repair engagement and repair team trust. 

Problems are not the problem. 

The real obstacles are when we can’t handle the problem, can’t talk about the problem, can’t work together to solve the problem. 

When honing your ability to overcome obstacles and deal with adversity head on—here is the key thought to remember:

Everyone faces adversity: It’s not what happens to you; it’s what happens in you.

Few of us have control over what happens to us, but we always have control over how we respond—whether we will run away or rise to the opportunity of a new problem. 

Be an owner of your circumstances by asking questions and seeking the answers. 

What can I learn in this moment of frustration? 

How can I use this particular obstacle to sharpen myself?

By embracing the opportunity of problems, you can grow character, improve trust, reveal answers, hone processes, adjust expectations, and reap higher rewards! 

3 Qualities that Separate Great Leaders from the Pack

One of the most common questions I’m asked by listeners, readers, including people from all walks of the leadership path is: So what do I do now?  

Whatever level you are on—whether you’re adding new teams, scaling for new growth, managing a new obstacle—this is your re-aligning step: Start with Self!

You can analyze roles within the team, and the most influential member is the leader. 

As the leader goes…so goes the team.

It is essential that Leadership direct all things (people, process, resources) toward an outcome and that cannot occur without an understanding of present reality. Which leads to the first role of a leader:

A Leader Assesses the Present

In order to lead, in order to attain any destination, we have to look at where we are presently. If we don’t assess the present (with an understanding of what got us here) then we might not make the right moves for the present scenario.

Please spend the time to gain full awareness in assessing the present. So what components of the present should we assess?

  • Assess the Situation
  • Assess the Team
  • Assess the Resources

Assessing the present opens up to knowing your product or service, knowing your process, market conditions, customer satisfaction and in the midst of all of that—the team you have inherited to get you there. (Their capabilities, their capacity, their commitment; the present culture)

A Leader Inspires Future Possibilities 

While an eye on the present is an obvious necessity, we can’t short-sight our vision—for the sake of sustaining business success and keeping an engaged team.   

People need to believe that tomorrow will be better; that the promise of the future is greater than the past.

A mark of a good leader is to be able to cast vision for what the future might look like, to inspire the workforce that they can achieve greatness, AND to create buy-in that you are the leader that will help them achieve it.  

See the envisioned future, raise the bar, and infuse the team with the right mindset.

  • Believe in your people
  • Develop your people
  • Map the methodology

Determine the Direction

Once you’ve set roles 1 and 2, the next role is to determine and communicate the next step. 

(Without the right expectations, clearly communicated, no teams can fulfill their roles with excellence and efficiency.)

When the true leader speaks with confidence and points the team in the right direction, dynamics start to change. 

Setting the direction doesn’t mean that you must know every single step in the process. 

But can you successfully find out THE next step, take that step, and look for the next? It is ok to walk out your envisioned future, expecting that after taking a step—the next one will reveal itself. 

You will be 1 step closer with a little more knowledge and trust that the next door will open.

But a word of warning: Avoid dragging whenever possible! Forcing people into the right direction is usually a copout for poor communication. 

Good leaders orient the team. Great leaders orient and engage. 

Expect your Roles.

In leadership, there are principles and practices; characteristics and competencies. A principle of mine that has proved true for decades is, “What you permit, you promote; what you allow, you endorse.”

Mediocre leaders pass the buck. They ditch their roles. Maybe it’s how their bosses before them acted. Maybe it’s just the norm. But teams have leaders for a reason—

If your team has fallen into disarray, miscommunication, inefficiency… the root of the problem may be a misunderstanding of leadership roles. 

So first, check yourself. Then, check your vision. Check your team communication—and make sure their direction is true.

The Team-Building Process in 6 Steps

Lead Where You’re Strong, Team Where You’re Weak

Maybe you think, or even know, that there is a certain way you are expected to act, so you put on a persona each day you walk into the office.

You want to be the real you, but you’re so busy figuring out the right thing to say that you forget the best thing to do—be real and authentic to who you are. 

Inauthenticity drains your energy and renders you ineffective. 

Even more importantly, if you’re not comfortable with and can’t get along with you, how in the world are you going to get along with anybody else? 

Everyone is wired for greatness, but everyone is not wired for greatness in the same areas. 

It’s a key life principle, not just a business one. That’s why I encourage leaders to have their people use self-assessment tools so everyone gains an awareness who he or she is and best to work together. 

For example, if you are a blunt, get-it-done person, you may be great in crisis management, but not so great where the situation calls for empathy and patience such as mobilizing the day-to-day habits that create a profitable workplace. 

That doesn’t mean you’re inferior or defective. That doesn’t mean you’re weak, but you’re weak in that role.

Team-Building Requires Interconnection—Instead of Shame

Weakness is more about role-fit than anything else. And finding yourself in a role that doesn’t leverage our natural strengths is stressful.  

We do need to learn to stretch, grow, and adapt. But if we are spending most of our time and energy out of our strength zones, we’ll run into trouble and wear out everyone around us. 

Genius and flaws exist in each of us, and neither one has to diminish the other. If you know where your genius lies, but struggle in one particular role, you can create a multifaceted team.

Lead where you’re strong, team where you’re weak. Don’t have someone to team with? Lead where you’re strong and put a system where you’re weak!

Thankfully the process to “teaming” up your weak areas is straightforward. 

In fact, the hardest part is mustering the honest, authentic courage to reach out for help and collaboration.

adult-brainstorming-group

Teaming Process: 

  • Recognize Areas of Weakness
  • Ask For Guidance  
  • Hire the Strengths You Lack 
  • Learn from Your New Team Member 
  • Grow Strength as a Team 
  • Move on to help others with similar problems 

It’s time to admit you can’t do it all. And you’re not expected to!

What is expected of you is to realize that truth. 

I help leaders all the time who say, I can’t admit weakness to my team or tell them what I’m not good at. 

In a sense, the joke is on them, because their team members already know their weaknesses.  

Think about it. How hard would it be for you to rattle off the top five things your leader doesn’t do well? Pretty easy, right? 

So why would you assume that your direct reports can’t do the same? You aren’t hiding your weaknesses from them when you won’t admit them. 

They know your weaknesses better than you do. That’s why you need to be authentic. 

You’re not fooling anyone.

Team Building Begins With Humility

It takes humility to admit, “I am not amazing at this, so I should partner with someone who is.”  Humility multiplies strength. 

Pride isolates people and breaks down teams. 

A humble leader, rather than trying to do it all, functions like an air traffic controller who scans the radar and calls certain team members to move depending on the strengths needed in any particular situation. 

If inauthenticity has created a rift between you and your team, you’re missing out on their support to cover your weaknesses and maximize your strengths. 

Remember: leaders are to achieve results with—and through— their teams.

Why You Need a Productivity Plan in a Changing World

Spoiler Alert: You Can Be Busy But Not Productive

It’s always interesting to try to imagine what the future will bring. 

The Jetsons cartoon show, based in the year 2062, envisioned a future where robots do all the housework, cars fold up to the size of a briefcase, and much of what we need is automated. 

We’ve got forty more years to see how that turns out. The movie Bladerunner, set in 2019, envisioned a future where rogue replicants were virtually indistinguishable from humans. 

Back to the Future II, set in 2015, predicted hover cars, self-lacing Nikes, and food rehydrators. The film 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted a colonized moon by 2001. 

While predictions of the future are often wrong, what we know is that the present will change dramatically in a short period of time.

The more technology advances, the more the business environment must advance with it. If you aren’t paying attention, you may just get left behind. 

You need a productivity plan. 

Consider this list of things that didn’t exist fifteen years ago: 

  • iPhone
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • iPad
  • Netflix streaming
  • Google Maps
  • Snapchat
  • Spotify
  • Android
  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Alexa
  • Airbnb
  • App Store
  • Google Chrome
  • WhatsApp
  • Fitbit
  • Waze
  • Slack
  • Square
  • Dropbox
  • Pinterest
  • Venmo
  • Bitcoin
  • Hulu
  • Kindle

The lesson for an InSPIRED leader is this: change is inevitable and you can either get left behind or develop a plan for growth that puts you in the best place for success.

Stand still and you’ll be outpaced rather quickly. But if you’re nimble enough to move wisely with the changing times, you are in a position to grow with them. 

But this lesson comes with a warning. 

Tyranny of the Urgent vs. a Productivity Plan

There’s a mistaken notion that being busy is the same thing as being productive. It’s the tyranny of the urgent in action. 

By responding to the urgent, we tend to neglect the really important things in life—production capacity, personal growth, striving to make a difference, living a life of adventure, building a family, or crafting a leadership legacy. 

In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, Red, “the guy who can get anything,” says, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” 

In a counterintuitive way, busyness may seem productive, but it can actually be a distraction that slows you down. When you don’t invest time to put first things first, you’ll fall behind faster and struggle to catch up.

The truth is many people don’t know how to adapt when things change, so they remain still, embracing the madness they know. However, nothing in life remains still. 

If you’re not intentionally growing, developing, and moving, you’re not standing still—you’re getting left behind. That’s why you need a productivity plan. 

No One Gets Productive by Accident

I’ve spent my fair share of time in airports around the world. Have you ever paid attention to what happens when you step on one of the “moving sidewalks” between concourses?

These giant conveyor belts run silently in the floor, moving people along at about 1.4 miles per hour. The average person walking briskly (as you might expect in an airport) moves at about 3 miles per hour. 

airport-walking-sidewalk

So, if a person walks onto a moving sidewalk and continues a normal stride, he or she can go farther, faster. 

But consider this. Suppose you and a friend are walking through the concourse together at a steady 3 miles an hour clip trying to make a connecting flight.

Your friend jumps on the moving sidewalk and keeps walking at his normal pace. You stop to find something in your carry-on, figuring you’ll just catch up in a minute. But when you look up, you can’t even see your friends in the crowd ahead. He’s gone, and you’ve been left behind. 

Unfortunately, many people make this same mistake in leadership. 

They set aside intentional development and think they can just catch up later. But when you stop, you stagnate. Stagnate long enough and you’ll die. There is no standing still in life. 

You’re either moving forward or falling behind.

Spend Your Time Where You Want to Reap Results

So if you shouldn’t stay still, but you shouldn’t hop on the hamster wheel just for the sake of moving, what’s the answer?

It comes down to your priorities. Your to-do list is broken. 

Spend time only on the urgent.

So where you spend your time? Are you taking advantage of the “moving sidewalks” or sitting against the wall waiting for the right moment to move. (HINT: you’ll be waiting forever.) 

Where are you growing and where are you letting yourself stagnate? Don’t neglect it. Otherwise, the world will pass you by, and you’ll wonder where everybody went. 

I’m not advocating hustle and grind 24/7 with no rest or relaxation. 

I’m advocating an intentional, holistic productivity plan for developing every day in the midst of executing with excellence. 

We can’t live in either ditch. We need results for today AND results for tomorrow.