Surprise Keynote in South Africa

For the ACRE Education conference I was asked to deliver the surprise closing keynote address! They have

Tony delivers the closing keynote at the 18th annual ACRE conference in South Africa

Tony delivers the closing keynote at the 18th annual ACRE conference in South Africa

used a surprise keynote speaker at each conference for several years. This tradition started when one keynote speaker did not show up, and the conference organisers were forced to throw some presenters up there with very little notice. It was a hit, and this year it was my turn! This was a great honour for me and I created a speech based on some of my experiences while there. It took place on Tuesday, October 9th during the closing ceremony of the Education conference at the Klein Kariba Resort.

I spoke about how people should try to take one thing and not everything; assume that everyone is brilliant; and about the benefits of reflecting on new knowledge.

Often the quantity of new information – especially at the world’s largest creativity conference – we are exposed to, can be overwhelming. How many times have you been to a conference or event that you were initially excited about only to find that your notes and new resources were still sitting in a pile next to the computer several weeks later, untouched?

I facilitated an activity that engaged the audience to identify their most valuable experience or new knowledge gained at the conference. They were then challenged to hold each other accountable to take action on this thing through an email exchange.

Secondly, I spoke about how we should consider that everyone is brilliant! In this section, I described in detail how I arrived in South Africa by listening to the message of a new friend. I was speaking about my new South African colleague, Francois Coetzee, who pushed me to reach higher than I thought I could and to be more resourceful. His challenge allowed me to come to South Africa, to work with the South African 7s rugby team, to present at these conferences, make new friends and professional connections and also to deliver this keynote.

Finally, I spoke about reflecting. Because you can learn anything that you want to in this world, but if you don’t make the time to reflect on it, you risk losing it.

Throughout the speech I juggled to illustrate the points physically as well as verbally. It was well received by the audience and I was pleased with how it went. The feedback from my friends and colleagues after the talk was very re-assuring and positive.

I felt a little nervous before going on stage. After all, I was about to present in front of some of the best presenters in the world, and it was my first international keynote. But once I was given the stage I felt right at home. During the introduction I joked around with my audience a little by occasionally putting on one of my silly accents. This kept the mood light and most importantly, kept me relaxed enough to do my thing. Once I got into my presentation I felt right at home and there was no turning back. I was in complete control and I loved it!

My advice to anone who gets to this type of stage (which for me was a new challenge), is to visualize the experience as often as you can before getting up there. I made sure to spend as much time in that large hall on the stage before the keynote. Fortunately for me, I did one of my juggling workshops on that stage earlier in the conference, so I did have a feel for it in advance.

Activity during the keynote presentation

I also sketched out an image in as much detail as I could of me on that stage with the audience before me, looking at me. I lived it in my mind often before doing it, so that by the time I got up there, it was like deja vu. (that’s a Craig Valentine line, and it’s really how I felt)

More fun to come…