by Gregg LaBar

November 15, 2013

In business conferences and meetings, there is always a lot of attention on the keynote speaker and “whose meeting it is.” In business communications, we’re all about the brand, the reputation, the message, the messenger. The audience is important too, of course, but it’s often so large, complex, diverse and random that you can’t be sure who you’re reaching, who’s ignoring you, what they think of you, or what any of them are likely to do about it. You just try to communicate with the core of the audience, which could be anybody and everybody, and hope you reach and influence the edges.

Until someone introduces you, or me, to the idea of “keynote listeners.” A couple of people mentioned the idea in passing at last month’s fifth annual summit for Sustainable Cleveland 2019, and it caught my attention.

So I Googled it.  Not much there.  Then I asked around.  People were intrigued but not sure what it meant.

Here is how I would define it: “Keynote listeners” are the key supporters, influencers, decision-makers, skeptics and partners who should be the focus of your communications – and engaged in, not just present for, the conversation. As the Trusted Advisor methodology will tell you, ask them good questions and you will reach them.

Keynote listeners can be found within most any audience group – customers, colleagues, employees, communities, public officials, regulators and so on. Determine who they are and what they need from your communication, and then exceed their expectations.

For me, the ultimate test of the “keynote listener” concept is this: I have no idea who the people were who mentioned this idea at the sustainability summit. Certainly, they were not keynote speakers or program organizers.  I wish I knew so I could give them credit for bringing this to my attention. But they probably wouldn’t want it. After all, in true keynote listener fashion, it was probably more important to them who was listening rather than who was speaking.