With inspiration from a speech By George Monbiot. A lecture to the International Conference of National Trusts, Cambridge, 11th September 2015

A staple of the conference for as long as we’ve had them is the Conference Keynote. The Keynote tends to be the big hitter and the star turn. Normally he (it invariably is a he unfortunately) has a senior position from within the organisation or the industry. Occasionally the Keynote is a famous person at home in front of any audience. Whoever they are their job is normally to inspire, engage and entertain. A role too rare is to take the stage to challenge the audience.

So I was delighted to read George Monibot’s speech at an international conference. George is one of the UK’s most challenging environmentalist and has a lot of very interesting stuff to say about the environment (do read his speech) but let’s hear what he had to say about you: the event organiser.

What the KEYNOTE said about the Organiser of the Conference and the audience:

“How many of you have eaten fish in the course of this conference? And how many of you have wondered where it came from? Hands on hearts, how many environmental conferences have you been to at which fish and meat was not served? Any at all? And how many of you have questioned or challenged it? I could go on all day, but I think the organisers would be grateful if I did not.”

What the KEYNOTE said about the Organisation running the conference:

“As farm subsidies are a source of such social and environmental injustice, the National Trusts, which currently take millions of pounds of this loot, stolen from the pockets of the poor, should renounce them, and tell their members why they are doing so.”

Are you ready to be challenged?

So how would you feel as the organiser who had selected this speaker? What about the organisation “which…..take millions of pounds of this loot, stolen from the pockets of the poor” or how about just the member of the audience listening to this speech? Challenged? Certainly.
And in challenging an audience we display the power of a conference. All to often we choose our speakers to massage our attendees. To tell them how well they are doing! Sometimes just sometimes a conference can do more. The environment message is of course an important one but the challenge to the organiser is a wider one around the content we deliver.
The next time you book a Conference Keynote just consider if she can play the role as the grand agitator. It will make your conference memorable and if you choose well if will affect everyone in your audience. And maybe just maybe positive change will follow.
Published On: September 12th, 2015 / Categories: Conference Architect, Conferences & Congresses, Meeting Design /