Inside the Mind of An Innovation Speaker

The life of an innovation speaker is what anyone would expect… explaining what innovation is (and isn’t) to people all around the world.

On top of that, it’s helping them build the organizational capabilities necessary to create continuous innovation.

When my daughter was seven years old, she once said:

“Mommy, how come Daddy is not out in the garage inventing things if he is so innovative?”

I chuckled at that time, but there’s a real lesson behind this question.

Without an ounce of doubt, it’s clear that everyone has their own definition of innovation. And with how overused the word is, there’s a lot of confusion about the difference between creativity, invention, and innovation.

That’s why a big part of what I do is educating people on how these three differentiate, and how to inspire all of them.

Individuals can be creative, but it usually takes teams to invent (see the rise in Nobel prizes awarded to groups), and entire organizations to innovate.

I’ve been fortunate to travel all around the world (Belgium, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, Dubai, Bahrain, etc.) and help people define what innovation means for their organization and how to make it happen more consistently and frequently.

Here’s how I define it:

“Innovation transforms the useful seeds of invention into widely adopted solutions valued above every existing alternative.”

Some of the most popular themes for innovation keynotes, workshops, and masterclasses that I’ve delivered for corporate clients like Microsoft, AB Inbev, the US Navy, and BASF include:

  1. Innovation is a Team Sport
  2. Innovation is for Everyone
  3. Innovation Excellence
  4. Human-Centered Innovation
  5. Creating Continuous Innovation
  6. The Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation

Companies hire an innovation speaker for a number of different reasons including:

  1. Starting a dialog about the role of innovation in the organization’s future success
  2. Bringing in fresh ideas and insights
  3. Reducing the fear of innovation in their organization
  4. Increasing the energy for innovation

But those are just a few of the Top 10 Reasons to Hire An Innovation Keynote Speaker.

The biggest and most obvious reason and the one that runs through many of the other reasons is that they know they need more innovation and want to increase their chances of getting it.

Because innovation is such a broad and deep topic, you need a speaker that knows it well, one that is able (and willing) to customize the keynote, workshop or masterclass to the needs of your company or event, and to put together a compelling and actionable story tailored to your intended outcomes.

An off-the-shelf speech is likely to fall flat, and offer no help to enhance your organization’s competitive differentiation.

So, bring in an innovation speaker from time to time to help shape or shift mindsets in the organization, because stoking your innovation bonfire is important and required for success.

Innovation Excellence and operational excellence are equally important and to ignore either is dangerous. Keep innovating!

Before you speak on stage.

Make sure to inspect the venue the night before.

Look at where the confidence monitor is, so you can see the countdown timer and your slides.

Know where the steps are, so you can walk up without confusion.

Check your AV, since screen resolutions might not be what you expect.

Walk the boundaries of the room, so you can psychologically OWN the space, like a predator marking territory.

Pace the stage, so you know how far you can walk when it’s well lit— hard to do when the room is lit super dark for a keynote

Spend time with the conference organizer, who is the most connected person at the show.

Bring your video guy, so he can stake out the best angles.

If you have a handout, determine where and when you’ll distribute.

Network with the other speakers, so you can support them and they can support you— this is how you get more speaking gigs.

And have a good time, since your work is done and you’ve earned it!

People ask me how they can get to speak at T&C, SMMW, and other conferences.

Let me tell you the secret, which is so painfully obvious, but almost nobody ever does.

Make friends with other speakers by meeting them in person. Honor them by studying their content, practicing what they preach— before you ever ask for a favor.

And asking for their time is a favor, even if it’s “5 minutes to pick your brain”.

GaryVee doesn’t accept “free ride” offers from and to the airport because he values that time that could be spent working on his phone and making calls, instead of an hour of captive attention.

Be a student of the game, before being too quick to make it all about you, the exotic sports cars you take pictures in front of, or the other things you do to puff up your appearance.

Make it about the folks you respect and you’ll find that they will invite you to events, make introductions you never could have imagined, and do things beyond what you ever could have asked for.

The most successful people are dying to give back, but find so few people who actually are servant leaders, who have interest truly beyond themselves.

And then you’ll find that the best public speakers do it because they care for others, not because they seek glory for themselves.