A Motivational Keynote Speaker for Leadership
Yes: motivation & leadership—two fields fraught with naffness.* And yet still: nothing—nothing—comes close to the catalysing effect of a well-designed event. To take the savviest people within an organisation or industry and immerse them within a compelling context to explore new ideas and better ways of working (together) is just—it’s magic.°
* That is, lacking in taste and style. Of course, I like to think my work does not fall into this category.
° And by ‘magic’ I’m referring to the emergent fractal phenomena that is collectively of an order of complexity (and magnificence) much too high to summarise succinctly.
My work often starts at such affairs. I speak (quite well*) within the domains of pioneering leadership, motivation design & the future of work. Not just to ‘motivate’ your people, but rather; to equip them with better ways to think and savvier ways to lead meaningful progress through uncertainty and change.
What is a ‘motivational speaker’ anyway?
Motivation is a most awkward concept. To evoke the ‘m-word’ word oft implies a lack, which is rarely the case. Most people actually want to do great work—but then friction, ambiguity, uncertainty, latency, complexity and/or distraction get in the way. To adapt, we find ourselves resorting to the default thinking, group-think and bandwagonism that brings us mediocre performance, incrementalism and a delusion of progress. What’s needed, ergo, is not ‘more motivation’ but rather—more cleverness, courage, wit, wisdom and savvy.
In fact, above a certain threshold, it is collar-adjustingly awkward to call oneself a motivational speaker. It really just isn’t a relevant topic for leaders and thinkers in a post-industrial world. Or rather: it is incredibly relevant—in the sense of influencing individual and collective behaviour—but not in the charmingly simplistic way many motivational speakers might purport.
Thus, I find I don’t quite fit the usual role of a ‘motivational speaker’.
Instead, I work particularly well with sceptical audiences and senior leaders who’ve ‘seen it all before’.
I serve to provide thoughtful provocations and a refreshing blend of philosophy, science and perspective to leadership teams. Use me if:
01 / You lead a successful and high performing team with a great track record*
02 / You lead smart people who are ‘too busy' for meaningful progress; and/or
03 / You lead sceptical people who are resistant to conventional approaches to leadership, motivation and change.
Events can be the catalysts of cleverness
An inflection point. The precursor to a veritable pivot in trajectory. The hinge of history for individuals and organisations. The galvanising of purpose, and so forth.
But of course, conferences and events can also be dry, stale, over-engineered hollow affairs drenched in safe predictability and devoid of magic. Just as they can be overblown cacophonies of buzzwords, mania and hype.
Getting the mix, magic, psychological flow and meaning en pointe is a delicate art. It is therefore essential to know the philosophy and perspective of any external speaker you bring into your mix, lest we derail things. I believe this website (along with the welcome letter to my services guidebook) illuminates my perspective on things. But to further elucidate:
I stand against:
- Stagnation and the blind perpetuation of the status-quo
- Ignorance and the mind closed to new knowledge
- Myopia and the narrow fixation on incrementalism
- Mediocrity and the banality of predictability
- Conviction and the collapse of possibility
I stand for:
- Progress and the infinite striving toward betterment
- Relevance and the lust for future coherence
- Curiosity and the antifragile pursuit of better questions
- Empathy and the emerging needs of people and ecologies
- Wonder and the awe inherent in the unprecedented
Essentially: I work in service to the pioneers*
Those who quest beyond convention. The seekers of new value and future relevance. The leaders who shine a light on the path for others to follow.
* Why? To create a world that’s more curious and kind.
Here’s a brief tour through the keynote provocations I currently offer. All of these deliver upon my foundation of motivation design—but the focus shifts from strategy to leadership to enterprise culture. Consider these as but a window into what’s possible, as my expertise and experience is in constant evolution, and my contribution is always tailored to the context of your audience and event.
01/ Beyond the Default
#strategy #innovation #curiosity #differentiation
A Quest Beckons...
We’re up again a certain kind of Pavlovian conditioning that happens at events. You know this. All of the familiar patterns—the lanyards, the tables, the notebooks and mints, the programme, the music, the lighting and the clunky conference app—all contribute to the inevitable ‘seen this before’ torpor that afflicts experienced leaders. If we don’t counter this, chunks of the audience will be stealth-checking emails, or simply staring into space whilst contemplating muffins.
And so, this keynote is designed to disrupt default thinking and behaviour, by getting folk into a ace of enhanced self-awareness (and contemplation of their own patterns).
Then, having established this awareness at the individual level, we can our focus on the collective. From here we deftly navigate through the otherwise invisible psychological hurdles of group think and bandwagonism, so that we might contemplate new possibilities—beyond the default. Hence this makes for the perfect opening for your event. It’s a veritable awakening—a psychological toolkit for pioneering leaders—and a precursor to pioneering endeavours.
DISCOVER: How default thinking may be creating a ‘delusion of progress’ (and what to do about it); How to cultivate the curiosity, empathy and quality thinking needed to stay relevant; and How to use Quest-Augmented Strategy to ensure meaningful progress.
TIMING: Ideal as an opening keynote, or early in your programme.
NOTE: This can be paired with my ‘Making Clever Happen’ closing keynote, to exquisite effect.
PERFECT FOR: Leaders who want to evoke fresher, bolder, braver and wiser thinking, so as to pioneer new progress (beyond incrementalism).
02/ Into the Storm
#leadership #philosophy #responsive #vuca
Pioneering through Uncertainty & Doubt...
One of the biggest opportunities an event provides is the (head)space to have the conversations we don’t otherwise get to have. To ponder what lies on the horizon—the opportunities, and the hidden threats that may disrupt our endeavours.
Because leadership isn’t getting any easier. Conventional leadership-folklore serves a complicated yet predictable world. But now the world is complex and hard to predict, and instantly accessible and shareable information is rewriting the future as quickly as it can be understood. We’re in the storm now.
The Industrial Age is long dead, and The Information Age is at dusk. As we stand at the cusp of the Conceptual Age, there are confronting new tensions leaders must contemplate: from centralised control to distributed authority, from robust planning to antifragile experimentation, from bureaucracy to responsiveness, and from profit-obsessed to purpose-driven (and so forth).
Such change behooves a refreshed leadership philosophy, enterprise strategy and culture. One that’s fit for the storm, and a world less predictable. Thus, let’s bring this conversation to the table, to see what we might evoke.
DISCOVER: What modern enterprises are doing to stay relevant today; How you can transition to a more agile and networked organisation; and How to enable more considered, responsive and timely decisions across your enterprise.
TIMING: Ideal somewhere in the middle of your event (this keynote evokes better questions and richer conversations, so timing this before a break, drinks or dinner is ace).
PERFECT FOR: Senior executives seeking to further gird themselves for the future of leadership. Also great for emerging leaders (in a ‘preparing for the new world’ sense).
03/ Change the Game
#culture #motivation #purpose #influence
Rethink motivation & work...
Fluff and fist-pumping rah-rah can be quite stirring. Rousing, even. But the longevity and actual impact of motivational presentations—once we return to work—is oft questionable.
Smart people require more than just a motivational pep talk. If you want your people to be the champions of your enterprise culture—and demon rating the behaviours mo aligned to your strategy—then they ought under and the science behind what drives collective motivation.
And so, in this keynote, we unpack the elements of Motivation Design—highlighting the most effective levers your leaders can use to influence collective behaviour and culture. Motivating and insightful, naturally. But also: utterly practical for the modern leader.
DISCOVER: How to ignite (and sustain) your team’s motivation to do difficult and challenging work; How to maintain motivation and performance amidst uncertainty and change; and How to establish work rituals that mitigate friction and ensure meaningful progress.
TIMING: This keynote works well at any point during the event (though possibly not as the opening—its focus is a bit more pragmatic than it is contextual).
PERFECT FOR: Leaders, people managers and anyone seeking to shape and in uence motivation and behaviour.
NOTE: I’m sometimes booked to speak on the topic of gamification. While this concept has matured (somewhat) in recent years—beyond the hype and peak of inflated expectations—I contend that this is a mere subset of motivation design. A toolkit that works in certain contexts, and only part of the puzzle. Still—if you’d like me to hone the focus of this keynote on gamification specifically—it can be done (and happily so).
04/ Making Clever Happen
#Progress #Meaning #Momentum #Action
Unlock meaningful progress...
Just as an event begins, so it must end. In many ways, the final session is just as important as the opening session. Actually: more so, thanks to peak-end rule.* The final, closing keynote is what marks the beginning of the transition—from what is essentially an artificial yet wondrously curated experience (the event)—back to the complex and oft-frustrating world of work and life (their reality). This final keynote—if done well—can create resonance for your whole event. Much like how a large gong, when ruck, can create a deep and lingering effect.
* Research by the arch-wizard Daniel Kahneman (the Nobel-prize laureate author of Thinking, Fast and Slow) found that we essentially remember an experience as an average of the (peak) highlight moment and the final (end) moment. Hence, the ‘peak-end’ rule.
Therefore, of course it must be inspiring. But it must also be useful in assisting folks with this transition.
Too often I experience an event’s end with an inspirational speaker delivering a powerful story of success. And while this can be extremely inspiring in the moment, it runs the risk of creating too big a discrepancy and contrast between the event and the real world everyone needs to return to. The result? Success appears beyond reach—and so nothing happens.
We can do better. For a closing keynote, my philosophy is: get people talking (with each other, during the keynote). In service to the whole event, the Making Clever Happen keynote has all individuals intuitively scanning through the event to identify the various moments, ideas and interactions that resonated most with them. Then, through the lens of meaningful progress I have folks identify that which they want to progress. From there, we future pace the sequence of a ions, mindful of the challenges (and opportunities for self-sabotage) along the way.
Of all my keynotes this is the most interactive. Therefore it is perhaps the lightest in terms of content—but the most significant in terms of effect. If you want your people to think, feel and do things differently as a result of your event, this keynote will serve you thunderously well.
DISCOVER: What—out of all the ideas, inklings and insights generated at this event—is the most important and apt for you to action; How to translate this intent into specific behaviours and visible momentum (while avoiding the perils of self-sabotage); and How to navigate through the inevitable friction, resistance and the status quo, so as to ensure meaningful progress.
TIMING: Naturally, this is an ideal closing keynote for your event. The ‘locknote’, as some call it. Note: this can be paired with my Beyond the Default opening keynote, to provide a comprehensive effect.
PERFECT FOR: All audiences—this keynote is much more focused on individuals looking to translate event inspiration into meaningful progress.
05/ The Custom Job
The keynotes I deliver are constantly evolving, and always finessed to be the most relevant for your audience. But (sometimes) I can go beyond my own defaults...
I’m continuously abreast of research in motivation design and the future of work. I also work with a diverse range of senior leadership clients, across multiple industries and countries. As such—and with respect to non-disclosure agreements—I have a broad field of relevant savvy to call upon.
But knowing stuff is one thing. Making sense of it, and packaging the intelligence in a way that’s elegant and succinct, and of practical relevance for your audience—ah... that’s the fine art and science of keynote speaking. I relish the opportunity to do incredibly customised work. Sure, it takes more time (and it costs more), but if there’s a particular area you’d like my informed perspective on—and it’s within my domain of expertise—let’s see what’s possible.
I’ve worked with jazz musicians to create interwoven atmospheric experiences,* conducted live podcast interviews (with audience interaction), created tailored & limited edition versions of my books (with book signing), hosted humorous yet insightful hypotheticals with diverse panels,° facilitated frank ‘ask anything’ sessions with senior leadership teams (to tackle the elephants in the room), integrated whisky tasting & mindfulness into our events,◊ served on several occasions as a theme-weaving emcee, hosted intercultural world cafés to globally-diverse audiences, coached senior leaders on their keynotes, crafted animated videos to boost conference registrations and support messaging, and have created illustrated booklets for audiences as delightful conference keepsakes.‡
We’ve also directed, produced and hosted dozens of leadership events. I’ve paid for premium speakers out of my own pocket, and flown international talent in from the other side of the planet. We (my team and I) understand your world, and all of the idiosyncrasies speakers can bring.*
Essentially, what I’m suggesting (beyond hinting that we might be nice to work with) is: keynotes are wondrous—quintessential, even—and... we can do more. If there’s time (and budget) to work on the overall experience: let’s explore what’s possible. At the very least, we may be able to connect you with some ace folk.
How to Book Dr Jason Fox as a Keynote Speaker for your next event
Firstly: chuffed you’re considering me. As to next steps, it’s quite simple really.
* Do note: I am sometimes booked over a year in advance—but still: get in touch anyway, as luck might have it that I am available. The sooner we know when your event may be, the sooner we can place a tentative ‘hold’ in our calendar for you.
If the stars align, we’ll then send through a confirmation invoice to lock it in, and to allow preparations to commence. At this point, we'll schedule a briefing call and send you a link to a comprehensive pre-briefing call survey.
This survey asks all the pertinent questions, so that I can get the best sense of your audience, the elephants in the room, sensitivities to navigate, the strategic context, the programme and cognitive flow, what you want people to think/feel/do differently as a result of your event, and how I can best serve to contribute meaningful value to this. Then, come our call, we’ll get into the nuances of it all.
We’ll also send through my relatively simply AV requirements, photos, bio, session description and any other material you may need to help market and support your event.
And then, we’re set to make clever happen.