I’m that voice that’s been saying “Really? Movie stars as keynoters at HR conferences? Really? How’s this going to help me be a more strategic business leader?”
While I was at SHRM I was successful in influencing the team to select more keynoters who had real connections to business and HR success. Business thought leaders like Jack Welch, Anne Mulcahy, Ted Childs, John Kotter and Steve Forbes. I’ve never understood the fascination with movie and tv stars as keynoters at HR conferences – other than everyone loves movie and tv stars. I’ve held the position that HR conferences should bring relevant business content from real thought leaders to the attendees. So when I saw that HR Southwest’s opening keynote was a two person comedy/juggling act, I thought, “Oh brother. Here we go…”
But here’s the thing: they were fabulous! Let me paint the picture. We’re in Fort Worth. It was 8:15 on Monday morning. It was Columbus Day — a holiday in many workplaces. Both the Rangers and the Cowboys had played at home the day before – and lost. And it’s a commuter conference (a large majority of the 2,000+ attendees drive to the conference each day from home). So to describe the energy in the room as the session opened as lethargic would be understating the case.
And then The Passing Zone arrived. Amazing jugglers, smart comedians, these two guys kept the witty patter going through 75 minutes of their act while continuously linking their actions to the HR world. Trust, cooperation, communication, juggling priorities: these were cleverly woven into their act in a refreshing, funny and entertaining way. We were laughing, we were clapping, we were gasping, we were cheering. The energy was thumping, the good humor was flowing and the conference was off to the races. Brilliant!
So I stand corrected. When planning conference keynoters understand the likely mindset of the audience you are supporting. And if it’s first thing Monday morning, wake ‘em up! The planners at HR Southwest did just that and came up with a real winner. Well done!