I've been asked to be the keynote speaker at a business conference in Paris next March. I'm always flattered by such requests, but find I'm less and less interested in being a speaker in the traditional fashion (one person addressing an audience of listeners) and more and more interested in the opportunity to facilitate a conversation among the audience, so that they have a role in creating the shared experience.
It's a dramatically different approach to the usual speaking gig, and more than a little dangerous. If the audience is indifferent, or wishes to be entertained rather than engaged, you find yourself in the awkward position of talking to a sea of unresponsive faces. At least that's my nightmare fear. But so far that hasn't happened...perhaps I've just been lucky.
And every time, it's a rush when one person poses a comment or question, than another and pretty soon I'm an incidental player in a community of conversation. Always different, always fascinating, and always memorable.
I remember talking some time ago with Jane Friedman, CEO of the giant publishing company Harper Collins, who told me she, too, was tiring of traditional speeches and wants to get the courage to try engaging her audience in a shared conversation, instead. I'll bet she tries it soon.