The alternative to a disconnected, canned, paid Keynote speaker

I just returned from Dallas and an annual conference for the 250 HR professionals within the Alliance Data family  which includes Alliance Retail, Epsilon and Loyalty One Companies. I was invited to curate, coach and host a session called “Perspectives” involving 8 speakers (all associates within the enterprise) for the last day of the conference. Perspectives was inspired by TED platform of highly provocative, concise idea sharing and storytelling. The session was the highest rated by the participants last year that the organizers had no choice but to bring it back. Based on the feedback I got this from year’s session, the response seems to be the same – outstanding.

But why?

Simple. The real, resonating stories from associates who had passion, courage and the willingness to get a big message condensed into 10 minutes connected with every one of the 250 associates in one way or another. They were inspired, educated, energized and proud. Of the eight speakers, four of them addressed workplace issues  such as success in a new campus recruiting program, an explanation of talent management, a plea for more mentors and how you CAN change careers. The other four but brought their personal experiences to the talks while weaving in how they impacted workplace performance and connection. They included overcoming deep seeded fear, fighting cancer, overcoming a chronic health issue and being inspired by a child to never give up.  Everyone talked about how it offered a needed balance against the other content sessions on executive compensation, HR software updates, reorganization plans, recruitment trends.

The takeaway: A conference with pretty dry, strategic but important information to transmit desperately needs a human element. And while humans may present dry, strategic information in dynamic ways – those sessions don’t always bring a distinct point of view, passion or compelling, resonating stories. They could have spent these two hours on a closing motivational keynote speaker for-hire, but I don’t think any hired keynote would have gotten 10 standing ovations, which is what happened at this session.

I personally was honored to work so closely with the eight speakers and continued to apply and refine The Talk of Your Life methodology toward helping speakers craft, refine and deliver compelling talks without notes or a podium. The speakers themselves offered these comments to me after the conference, validating that this experience is as powerful for them as it is the audience:

Ruth, Thanks again for all your help in making the conference a huge success!  The buildup from our people around the talks is just something I have not experienced.  You’ve clearly help take our conference to a new level and I’m appreciative of your efforts to get us there. It was a great experience!  – CH

Ruth,  I can’t begin to THANK YOU for the opportunity to have worked with you!  I’m sure you get this all the time but you are truly… truly AMAZING.  The feedback I’m receiving really make me feel great and that I actually did this but only with your guidance!  You are the best at what you do and I’m so blessed to have worked with you over the last month. – MS

Ruth, Thank you for your guidance and support preparing for my Perspectives talk!  There was something incredibly therapeutic, empowering and freeing about sharing my story.  The blessings keep on coming. – NT

Ruth, Thanks so much for the experience. It was great to work with you – I really appreciated all of your guidance and support. – CB

Ruth, thanks so much for your guidance and support through our talks.  Personally, I couldn’t have done it without you! – DL

Contact Ruth at ruth (at) to brainstorm how you can improve the experience for your conference or meeting participants.