I came out of the shower this morning to find this slightly confusing text from my friend.
“I hope you’ve got your Spandex on. That’s a race I’d pay to watch!”
Then I remembered that I’d mentioned I was following Kriss Acabusi as the closing keynote at an event today!
As a keynote speaker I am, often on the bill with incredible people. Rather than see them as my competition, I choose to embrace them as colleagues. I collect phenomenal humans, so it makes sense to connect with impressive ones!
When my diary allows, I like to turn up to events I’m booked to speak at early and stay a little after the keynote. It allows me to be human-first and meet people where they are. Mingling before my keynote is a great way to get a feel for the current challenges faced by those in the room. Staying behind afterwards means I can answer questions and add value to an event. Today I’m attending for the whole day to support my fellow speakers.
Even though we’ve been on the same bill a handful of times, today was my first time hearing Kriss speak. My husband was in the audience several years ago when Kriss wowed the room during a medical technology conference. Ed attributes that keynote as the reason he pivoted into marketing and went on to head up a global territory.
It was the first time I’d seen a brown speaker on a corporate stage and he was more than inspirational. He made me feel the impossible was possible.
Kriss leaves joy wherever he goes. When I’m speaking to clients on their discovery calls I ask who they have had as a keynote in the past. Whenever Kriss is mentioned they always smile and share what a pleasure he is to work with. Kriss and I chatted in messages before and his integrity and authenticity shine through even in print.
Kriss shared an insight into his journey as a child, athlete and human-first man. His keynote draws people in with stories from his life that are both poignant and engaging. He has a unique way of holding space before making the audience explode into laughter! I remember watching Kriss cross the finish line in the 1991 Olympics and he shared the elation of this moment before drawing the connections between that spectacular 400m relay and our own journeys in leadership and life. It is a rare delight to witness a speaker so adept at galvanising people past inspiration and into action.
I knew of Richard’s speaking career long before we become friends. We have similar backgrounds and are the same age so have a lot in common. I finally met him when I speak after him at an event in Birmingham. During the photos at the end, I tried and failed not to fan-girl! Richard was (and always is) gracious and courteous and has a way of making you feel it’s OK to be you whilst simultaneously wanting to be a better human.
Richard began delivering keynotes in the corporate sector while I started in education, health and social care. We’ve now crossed over and are collaborating (along with the actress Gemma Oaten – another speaker I’m particularly fond of!) on an event later this year. His story of his mother becoming Peter Sutcliffe’s first victim, his childhood in the foster care system and his time in prison is harrowing yet he delivers it with humility and humour. I’m in awe of his ability to create space for people to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. In doing so he creates a pathway past guilt and into change.
I’m grateful to have experienced the impact of these two fellas today. My diary tends to be full 18 months ahead (though there are still spaces so do enquire 😉 and another way I can serve my clients is by recommending speakers I have personal experience of.
Whose work do you celebrate?