Great leaders don’t give speeches

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster, No More Boring Meetings

A speaker bureau veteran saying that great leaders don’t give speeches….?!


Oh, yes. And here’s why.

In his new book, The Leadership Mindset, top-tier presenter Joe Calloway shares how he’s come to realize that the most effective  meetings feature conversations—not speeches.

Leaders of the most successful gatherings, says Calloway, “Talk with their audiences in a way that conveys ‘Here’s what I want to share with you…let me tell you about it…” It brings with it an attitude of “Let’s go on this journey together.” It’s not a preachy monologue. And it’s certainly not a “lecture.”

Joe adds: “Every meeting is an opportunity to inform in a meaningful way and to create alignment, engagement and commitment….Leaders today must consider that the days are coming to an end of meetings and conventions where people spend six or more hours a day sitting in straight rows in total silence listening to lectures.

“…People want to engage and interact, whether it’s online or in a meeting. We are shifting from having ‘attendees’ to having ‘participants.’…Think of it this way: Can you imagine anyone planning a meeting today and saying, ‘We don’t want our people actively engaged or participating. We want them to just sit there, be quiet, and listen to speeches all day.’  Really?”

Now, Calloway has done away with giving “speeches,” and instead has interactive conversations with audiences. He sometimes brings executives and employees on stage for authentic dialog. It’s not scripted—it’s real. Believable. Engaging. HUMAN.

It’s Joe’s commitment to such participatory interaction that has earned him a spot on our curated list of interactive speakers who do exactly that.

A real-life example from Joe’s case study portfolio:

The key goal was to create a renewed sense of commitment to customers. So, in place of executives talking about what this would look like, and an external speaker discussing service generally, Joe saw that this brand was created one customer at a time. So, Joe recommended they bring to stage five customer service representatives from the organization’s call centers. You could hear a pin drop as these folks shared, from the daily trenches, exactly what it’s like to work for a company that takes such good care of customers.

The end result? “Executive leaders gave a loud, heartfelt, and tearful standing ovation. The CEO took the stage, personally thanked each employee and then told the group it was the most meaningful and powerful thing he’d ever experienced in a business meeting.”

When was the last time this happened at your meeting??

You see, when we are intentional about designing meetings to ensure the most important topics are showcased—and engage everyone in those ideas—we move the dial on what really matters.

Both Calloway and I work closely with clients and meeting planners to dig deep into what meetings are to accomplish, both in the room and in the future.

For a custom event road map to intentionally designing this level of actionable offerings at your next meeting, read—and then apply—the Content Map section from chapter 5 in my book, “How to Curate a Kick-Ass Speaker Lineup.”

Let’s close with one more example from Joe’s long list of success stories. Joe shared:

“I recently led a leadership workshop in Chicago with a $100M sales company. I was in the slot right after the CEO’s opening remarks. In his very conversational, very effective presentation, the CEO said, ‘We’ve designed this critically important meeting to encourage maximum engagement and interaction during all presentations. This meeting has to create real value.’ He’s a leader after my own heart. It’s hard to go wrong when your goal is to create value.”


So, how will you lead to create more value at your meetings and events, by integrating more compelling, authentic conversations in place of stale, boring speeches?

Contact us to explore inviting Joe Calloway and/or other highly interactive speakers to your next event.