Choosing the right keynote speaker for your next corporate event can be a daunting task. You want someone who can instantly grab the audience’s attention and inspire them into action. However, with up to four generations now active in the workforce, connecting with such a diverse audience is easier said than done.
As a Gen X speaker, I’ve learned how to craft messages that resonate across generational divides. In this blog, I’ll share insider tips for meeting planners on how to select a speaker who can engage audiences of all ages.
Why Age Diversity Matters
Today’s workforce spans Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. Each generation brings different perspectives, work ethics, motivations, and communication styles.
While generational differences can lead to conflict, they also present tremendous opportunities. An age-diverse workforce is more innovative, productive, and equipped to serve a diverse customer base .
But to reap these benefits, you need to foster connections between generations. This starts with understanding what motivates each age group and tailoring your messaging accordingly.
Selecting a Keynote Speaker Who Connects Across Generations
When reviewing speaker candidates, look for these key traits:
Relevant Experience: Do they have a proven track record of appealing to multigenerational audiences? Review their client list, testimonials, and client retention rate.
Authentic Style: Do they speak from real-life experience versus relying solely on data and statistics? Stories and examples will resonate more across age groups.
Engaging Delivery: Are their talks interactive and energetic? Look for humor, engaging storytelling techniques, and even the ability to switch formats from keynote to workshop. PowerPoint can go well or poorly. My way of doing PowerPoint is to use a ton of slides to make it visually stimulating and fast-paced. It’s as engaging as a video, but it’s live! Some of my slides are sequences that go by quickly, and some I take more time on and just tell a personal story with an important point. What I think is NOT effective is when a speaker has 12 slides they take 5 minutes on each, and each slide has 10 or more bullet points. So boring!
Memorable Takeaways: Do they provide practical, actionable takeaways? Different generations have varying learning styles, so useful takeaways are key.
Customized Content: Are they willing to tailor their message to your audience? Generic, one-size-fits-all talks often fall flat. The audience wants to know that you understand their specific problems and have solutions that fit.
Why This Gen Xer Connects Across Generations
As a member of Generation X, I bridge the gap between young Millennials and experienced Boomers. Here’s what I bring to the table:
Independence: Gen Xers are known for their autonomy and entrepreneurial spirit . I work both with and independently from speakers bureaus.
Technological Savvy: We grew up during the digital revolution. I leverage modern multimedia to deliver memorable interactive sessions.
Informality: We prefer direct, straightforward communication rather than formalities and hierarchy. My accessible speaking style connects across age groups.
Big Picture Thinking: We’re able to see issues from multiple angles. My presentations offer broad perspectives that appeal to different generations.
Work-Life Balance: We strive for flexibility and work-life integration . I provide insights into motivating a cross-generational workforce.
Tips for Meeting Planners to Find the Right Speaker
Use these tips to ensure you select a speaker who will connect with your multigenerational audience:
Define Your Audience Demographics. Before reviewing speakers, get clear on the generational makeup of your audience. This allows you to look for someone who matches their perspectives. What you don’t want is a boomer speaking to Gen Z without understanding all the conflicts between those two generations- cuz that’ll only produce a bunch of young people staring at their phones and ignoring the speaker.
Provide Audience Insights to Prospects. Share generational demographics and psychographics with potential speakers to screen for customization ability.
Ask for Audience Engagement Strategies. Request each prospect’s specific ideas for appealing to Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z in your audience.
Plan Generationally Targeted Segments. Suggest incorporating portions of the keynote targeted to the unique needs and perspectives of different generations.
Real-World Examples of Cross-Generational Keynotes
Here are just a couple examples of how I’ve successfully connected with my clients’ multigenerational audiences in my keynote speeches:
For a global retail company with a predominantly Millennial workforce, I highlighted examples from iconic brands like Nike and Apple that have evolved yet maintained core values across generations. This resonated with junior staff by making them feel tied to their brand’s legacy.
At a tech conference with a Gen X-dominated audience, I focused my talk on work-life balance, citing examples of flexible work arrangements driving retention across age groups. The crowd appreciated insights into appealing to the emerging workforce while maintaining their own values.
For a multigenerational crowd of fire service professionals in California, I ran one of my intergenerational workshops, helping them talk about their conflicts, issues, and strengths. I helped them see he positives and what each generation could bring to the table to improve things.
In these cases, layered storytelling with a mix of data, examples, visuals, and humor catered to different learning styles. The result? Standing ovations from multigenerational crowds.
Key Takeaways for Engaging Age-Diverse Audiences
Choosing the right speaker for today’s cross-generational workforce requires moving beyond one-size-fits-all presentations. Consider speakers who:
- Tailor messages and formats to the values and styles of each generation
- Bridge generational gaps by bringing broad perspectives
- Utilize data, stories, and visuals to appeal to various learning preferences
- Craft practical, inspiring takeaways that prompt action across age groups
The ability to engage audiences across generations is a key ingredient for productive, future-facing companies. I welcome the opportunity to bring this much-needed perspective to your next event as a Gen X speaker.
* Rigoni, Brandon and Nelson, Adie. “Leading a Multigenerational Workforce.” Harvard Business Review, 29 Nov. 2016, https://hbr.org/2016/11/leading-a-multigenerational-workforce
* Gordon, Claire. “Here’s the Difference Between Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X at Work.” Forbes, 3 Oct. 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/clairegordon/2018/10/03/heres-the-difference-between-gen-z-millennials-and-gen-x-in-the-workplace/#48d23a201f4b
* Levit, Alexandra. “Make Way for Generation X.” The New York Times, 2 Mar 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/opinion/sunday/make-way-for-generation-x.html