You’re having a conference. You want to keep the troops happy, inspired, creative. You’re thinking of bringing in a keynote speaker. But is that the best choice? Obviously there is the cost, the time to vet the proper one – do you use a speaker’s bureau or use referrals? – the resources needed to set it all up. But a larger question looms: is there an easier way to motivate the attendees? Here are a few other choices.
1. The Best for the Best: have the most successful person in the group – the top sales rep, the scientist with the most interesting experiments or papers – speak about excellence, or their journey from being an inexperienced newbie to being successful. Have this person speak authentically about their pitfalls and personal trials, and make him/her a role model. It will give everyone the opportunity to know that it’s possible to succeed – a great way to motivate everyone else.
2. Model Behavior: set up an on-stage interview with one of the attendees who is doing work that is interesting, or someone who has publically gone through some sort of problem and came out the other side. Allow the audience to ask questions. How did this person go through change? What sorts of trials did they face? How did they know they were failing? Succeeding? Audience members can modify their own behaviors from this learning experience.
3. Outside the Box: bring in someone from another department who is noted to be very good at their job, and have them tell war stories about how they’ve worked with folks in your department/group over time, or how they helped their department succeed by taking risks or bringing in new thinking and fighting the status quo. Don’t choose folks who are afraid of audiences, obviously. There are usually funny folks around who love telling stories. Your folks will take away a lot of ideas.
Conclusion: before you decide whether to go the route of the keynote speaker, see if you have other creative options that will meet your goals of inspiring and motivating. It will pay off in many unforeseen ways.