Large conference attendees listening to keynote speaker

What story will your attendees tell when they leave your event? Will it be the same old story about the same old conference? Will you overhear phrases like, “snooze-fest”, “yawn”, “can’t wait to get home”? 

Every conference event is an opportunity to build culture, to motivate and to inspire. A creative keynote speaker can set the tone for your event; sending the signals you want people to get. An inspiring session lets people know you care about them, you honor their time and you want to help them grow! 

Way back in the early stages of presenting my own creative keynotes I was following the opening act at a large corporate conference. The speaker on stage had written a best selling book but when he took the stage the air went out of the room. He said something about the weather, something about this being the best group of people he’d ever seen (insincere) and then proceeded to put most of the audience to sleep. 

Eyes were on the stage for five minutes, then everybody was on their smart phones checking emails; not a great way to kick-off an event. This guy made it easy for inexperienced me to wow the crowd, simply by being present in the moment, real, and well…full of creative energy. 

A Creative Keynote Sends The Right Signal

Every event should have a set of goals and a focus for the conference. It’s your job, as someone helping to plan your programming, to speak to your goals while making the event engaging, enlightening and hopefully a bit different. Everyone’s looking for the wow, the intangible buzz. When you include creative programming at your event it will help ensure you get the buzz going. 

But it can be a challenge to include agenda time for event keynote speakers while building your agenda around the goals for your event. 

First on your mind are probably things like: 

  • Learning – For company conferences, learning can be as broad as topics about innovative new products you’re working on, or as narrow as learning a new software program.
  • Self-Improvement – You send the right signals to your attendees when you offer opportunities for self-improvement. In a corporate setting this sends the signal that you care about your employee’s health and well being, not just the bottom line. 
  • Fulfilling Work Obligations – Maybe you have to offer educational credits for people to keep their licenses or certifications. Maybe you’re recognizing high achievers, retirees and new employees. Or maybe your company has a budget for training and conferences and you need to spend the budget!
  • Networking – There’s power in teamwork so networking has real value; in building trust, establishing shared mission and also simply putting names with faces. Building relationships creates mutual support and shared goals. This is pretty good for the bottom line too!

But what good will all your event goals be if you don’t engage people? Maybe not good at all. Enter the creative keynote speaker. She or he is someone who will bring engagement, innovation, learning and self-improvement to your program. 

In other words; an engaging, innovative keynote should not be seen as merely off-topic entertainment. You can and should find creative speakers who go to the heart of who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. 

The ROI Of An Event Keynote Speaker

Let’s say you’re convinced of the need for a creative keynote but your key stakeholders are still skeptical of giving over precious agenda time to presenters who may not be specific to your areas of focus. 

I deal with this all the time. The good news is great speakers will be great for your conference no matter what your specific goals are.

Creative people are disrupters. We begin with our dreams and then figure out how to bring them to life. We don’t think first if whether our dreams are feasible, we dream first and then make them happen. 

This may seem esoteric or out of reach for the average person but it’s not. And that’s the point of hiring a speaker who can demystify the creative process and make it accessible; a presenter who can show how dreams become reality, again and again and again. 

I think about ROI a bit differently but I still assign value to a proposition. I view this as ROInspiration®. Every new product, be it a cleaning product or a hit song, begins with an idea. When you take time to move from idea to ideating to problem solving and then to implementing you are pursuing ROInspiration

This creative process is simply pursuing a different kind of ROI. It can be broken down and presented to any audience. Songwriting, movie making, story telling and fine art all have specific methodologies. That methodology can be used by everyone, because we’re all inherently creative. 

So imagine if your attendees could be inspired by creative success stories, could learn how that success was achieved and could practice it themselves. Would it have relevance? Would it inspire and build confidence in everyone’s ability to be more innovative? Yes. Does this have real value at your event…yes!

3 Creative Keynotes You Should Consider

Here are some creativity keynote speaking topics I recommend: 

  • Music and Song – During my speaking sessions, every person in the room becomes a songwriter. Songwriting is a great mashup of left brain and right brain thinking, intellect and emotion. You’ll tap into your innate creativity, work closely with others and learn something new. This songwriting session ticks the boxes for learning, self-improvement, networking and bringing a bit of wow to your conference. Like all of my suggestions here for keynote topics, this program is interactive and hands-on. The reason to do this is the experience and the lessons about creativity. But a great bonus and take-away is the song that you create together. Whether your group is 100 or 1,000 people, the culmination will be everyone working together in unison.
  • Storytelling – Every organization has a story to tell. Every group is unique but sometimes it’s hard for us to identify how. Story tellers not only tell their own compelling stories from the stage, they inspire attendees to learn how to better understand and communicate their own stories. The cool thing here is this works on the individual story level and also the larger, organizational story level. This type of session will be hands-on with people learning how to map out their stories and swap them with others. You’ll come away with better understanding of how to communicate what’s important to you or your company. And you’ll have fun, share some laughs and network.
  • Painting – I am the worst painter. Or at least I used to think I was. Then I had the opportunity to be at a creative keynote session with an artist who led everyone through a drawing exercise. Following a step by step process I was able to put something together that didn’t suck! It was fun and engaging. By breaking down the drawing process into small steps, everyone in the room learned about creativity as problem solving. You don’t necessarily start with inspiration. You start with a problem which is a blank canvas. You take one step at a time and discover where you’re going along the way. You’ll gain inspiration as the blank canvas becomes a work of art.

I say you can’t afford not to include a creative keynote at your next event. Your entire conference will benefit from the energy and motivation created by a great speaker. 

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.