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Community Keynotes: Inspiration Awaits in the Audience

Written by melissam

At events, the case can be made that the most effective learning happens when peers share their experiences. The problem is, peers usually aren’t on the ‘big stage’; they’re sitting in the audience. So, this goldmine of wisdom is rarely shared beyond one-on-one conversations, given the ‘big stage’ is often reserved for hired speakers, VIPs, and entertainers.

Community Keynotes® is a type of event that flips the traditional keynote and features attendees as the keynote speakers. These Community Keynoters disrupt the status quo by replacing some of the professional speakers.

There is still a place for hired professional thought-leaders. No doubt. These experts serve a vital role in delivering inspiration, motivation, and knowledge. But shouldn’t we make room for the event community’s stories and wisdom too?

Amplifying those inspirational stories and multiplying the people who hear them was the purpose of Meeting Professionals International’s own Community Keynotes® event called “Storytellers” at WEC 2019.

To help bring this to life, MPI’s visionary Program Director, Miranda van Brück, turned to Melissa Majors. In addition to leading the strategic design of the MPI’s ‘Storytellers’ plenary session, Majors served as the coach to the four MPI members featured on main-stage delivering TED-style talks; Marie-France WatsonTim WhalenRyan Young, and Janet Traphagen.

MPI’s Community Keynotes® event was top-rated amongst the attendees. The audience was able to identify with the challenges and achievements shared by their peers. For a glimpse into the experience, check out this video of Melissa Majors introducing the Storytellers at WEC 2019.

Community Keynotes® can be designed as educational sessions or crafted as competitions. Similar to The Voice, but for events! With Melissa Majors’ guidance, HD Vest Financial Services offered Community Keynotes® at the CONNECT conference as a way to broadcast the stories of their advisors, but also infuse healthy competition and fun into the experience. Their event was called The Keynote Speakers Competition.

The finalists presented their stories during one of the general sessions, and a panel of judges rated their performance. Each participant received an award and major bragging rights; however, the winner received many other perks such as hotel upgrades, free registration, additional speaking opportunities, etc.

Community Keynoters bring a level of authenticity, credibility, and relevancy that can’t be replicated by outside professional speakers. Community Keynoters have walked a mile in the shoes of the audience and can speak precisely to their enablement needs.

Here are the five steps you should follow to offer a Community Keynotes® event.

1.     Launch a call for community speakers. Be very clear about your expectations. I suggest including:

  •  Alignment to conference theme
  •  Learning experience requirements
  •  Exclusion of professional speakers
  •  Presentation Experience (Even though they aren’t paid speakers, they still need to be great presenters!)
  •  Session Title, Description, and Learning Outcomes
  •  Short Video Demonstrating Presentation Style

2.     Select 3-4 finalists using an evaluation rubric with standard criteria

3.     Coach, coach, coach! Make sure they are well prepared for the big stage. You don’t have to do this yourself. The Community Keynotes® Coaching program will prepare your Community Keynoters for success on stage.

4.     Drive attendance with Community Keynotes®. Market your Community Keynoters and use them as influencers within their network. Wouldn’t you make an extra effort to register for an event if your friend was speaking from the ‘big stage’? Of course, you would, and so will the Community Keynoter’s friends.

5.     Conduct dress rehearsals and orient them to production elements – lighting, sound, confidence monitors, etc.

Want to host your own Community Keynotes® event or use the brand? No problem. Contact Melissa Majors Consulting at for more information.

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Melissa is a Strategic Planning Sherpa®. She guides the development of strategies that lead organizations to their desired outcomes. These journeys result in leadership lessons that Melissa uses to enable greatness in others through keynote speaking, workshop facilitation, online courses, and publications. The Melissa Majors Consulting team is unapologetic about putting the people it serves at the center of everything they do. They find joy in helping their customers serve their own constituents in a meaningful way. For more info visit