I just returned from the World Innovation Forum in NYC.
My big insight? Thought leaders will soon be a thing of the past.
In their place? Feeling leaders — business savants who have made the journey from head to heart and aren’t afraid to let the rest of us know what they’ve learned along the way.
I’m not talking warm and fuzzy. Nor am I diminishing the thoughtfulness of WIF presenters. They were. Thoughtful, that is. Very.
But it wasn’t so much their thinking that moved me — as it was the feeling behind their thinking.
No matter what business you’re in, the engine of innovation is really about being moved. That’s what movements are made of — the heartfelt, intrinsically motivated effort to get off of dead center and accomplish something meaningful.
This is the crossroads all of us are standing at these days — the intersection between this and that. What the newspaper industry is going through. And the music industry. And the television industry — just to name a few.
My heroes, these days, are the people who don’t just stand at the crossroads, but dance — inspired individuals who find great delight in the paradoxes, get juiced by the challenges, and realize that “innovation” is not a program, initiative, or model, but a way of life.
That’s the main reason why I enjoyed the World Innovation Forum so much.
Because that was precisely the mindset of the presenters — and the people who attended — no matter what industry, pedigree, or astrological sign.
As I watched the 13 WIF presenters do their conference thang, I got some unexpected insights into the art and science of delivering a memorable presentation to a global audience of innovation-hungry patrons.
So, for all of you conference keynote wannabees out there, take note. Here’s part 1 of your tutorial.
- Be in tune with your purpose: If you’re going to hold an audience’s attention for more than 10 minutes, you’ve got to begin by holding firm to your purpose… your calling… what gets you out of bed in the morning. If it’s missing, all you could ever hope to deliver is a speech — which is NOT what people want to hear.
If your purpose is clear, you’re home free and won’t need a single note card.
Mark Twain said it best: “If you speak the truth, you don’t need to remember a thing.”
- Be passionate: Realize you are on the stage to let it rip. Completely. People are sitting in the audience because they want an experience, not just information. They want to feel something, not just hear something.
So play full out. Pull the rip cord. Jump!
- Connect with the audience: You may know a lot of stuff. You may have a double Ph.D, but unless you know how to connect with the audience, your knowledge ain’t worth squat.
If you were a tree falling in a conference room, no one would hear it.
So tune in! Establish rapport! Connect! And that begins by respecting your audience and realizing you are there to serve, not preach.
- Tell stories: That’s how great teachers have communicated since the beginning of time. Storytelling is the most effective way to disarm the skeptic and deliver meaning in a memorable way.
“The world is not made of atoms,” explained poet, Muriel Rukyser. “It’s made of stories.”
No bull. Parable!
- Have a sense of humor: There’s a reason why HAHA and AHA are almost spelled the same. Both are about the experience of breakthrough. And both are sparked when the known is replaced by the unknown, when continuity is replaced by discontinuity.
Hey, admit it. At the end of the day, if you can’t find the humor in business, you’re screwed. So, why wait for the end of the day. Find the humor now.
- Get visual: It’s become a corporate sport to make fun of power point, but power point can be a thrill if done right. A picture really is worth a thousand words.
If you want to spark people’s imagination, use images more than words. The root of the word imagination is image.
- Have confidence: Do you know what the root of the word “confidence” is? It comes from the Latin “con-fide” — meaning “to have faith.” Have faith in what? Yourself.
That’s not ego. It’s the natural expression of a human being coming from the place of being called.
So, if you’re about to walk out on stage and are feeling the impostor syndrome coming on, stop and get in touch with what is calling you.
Let that guy/gal speak.
- Trim the Fat: When Michelangelo was asked how he made the David, he said it was simple — that he merely took away “everything that wasn’t.”
The same holds for you, oh aspiring-keynote-presenter-at-some-future high-profile-conference (or, at the very least, pep-talk-giver to your kid’s Junior High School soccer team).
Keep it simple. Or, as Patti LaBarre, the delightful MC at the World Innovation Forum put it, “Minimize your jargon footprint.”
- Celebrate what works: If you want to raise healthy kids, reinforce their positive behaviors — don’t obsess on the negative. The same holds true for conference keynotes.
If you want to raise a healthy audience, give them examples of what’s working out there in the marketplace. Feature the “bright spots,” as Chip Heath likes to say. Share victories, best practices, and lessons learned.
Save the bitching and moaning for your therapist.
- Walk the Talk: Good presenters are genuinely moved. Being genuinely moved, it’s natural for them come out from behind the podium and actually move around the stage — as in, walking the talk.
Big thanks to Michael Porter, Michael Howe, Jeff Kindler, Chip Heath, Andreas Weigend, Biz Stone, Seth Godin, Brian Shawn Cohen, Wendy Kopp, Ursula Burns, Joel Makower, Jeffrey Hollender and Robert Brunner for their presentations at the World Innovation Forum.
Special thanks to Seth Godin for his bold effort to remind people that “there is no map, not even a fictional map” — and that all he could do was point the way there. Lucid. (Start walking, people!)
And last, but not least, a big thank you to Patricia Meier, Santiago Muro, George Levy, Becky Gee, Sebastian Mackinlay, Kelsey Woods, and the entire HSM team for all their hard work, good cheer, and vision to make this year’s WIF such a delight.
Mitch Ditkoff is the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions and the author of “Awake at the Wheel”, as well as the very popular Heart of Innovation blog.