Back in 2000 I left Corporate Australia because I had a dream of becoming a motivational/keynote speaker and it has taken more twists and turns than I would ever have imagined – some epically good and some epic failures.

Story Powered Sales

This week, as I landed in the USA as a new resident, I was fortunate enough to speak at the Sales Innovation Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Centre.

I had a couple of audience members come up to me and ask how I do what I do, so I decided to share some key points here on the difference between a keynote speaker (that is, the speaker who shares the key note [message] for the event) and an industry speaker (who teaches around a product or topic).

But first – a back story!

In my early teenage years, I wanted to be a singer and like many young girls today – I would practice the latest hits with a hairbrush in front of the mirror and pretend I was on a stage.

And for years I sang at Midnight Mass and was part of the youth choir every Sunday. I even participated in talent quests at local community centres or stood on the back of tray trucks decked out with speakers and microphones parked at some of the best NZ beaches during school holidays to taken part in ‘talent competitions’.

And then in my 20’s I signed up for singing lessons and devastatingly after only the second lesson the singing teacher told me I would be better off saving my money!

I was devastated.

So I asked my Mum if I had always been so bad at singing and she just smiled and replied, ‘I couldn’t tell you otherwise, you were so passionate about your singing?’

And that is why today I stand on stage and hold a microphone 🎤 because I clearly cannot stand on a stage and hold a note 🎵🎵 😏 but I digress!

The lesson, however, remains the same.

Being passionate about something is not enough to be good at it.

So I’d like to share 3 quick distinctions around speaking especially when you are to sell or influence somebody from any platform or stage.

 ✅ A keynote speaker’s role is to help their audience think differently.

It is to help them feel different. It is to take them to an imagined place and time where they can see opportunities for themselves within your presentation. And that takes you being open and sometimes vulnerable depending on your audience. Share your fears. Share your failings. Share your faith in something you believe in. When you have your audience wanting more… Then you know you’ve got a message worth sharing and achieving your outcome – shifting their internal narrative but warning! It does have to have a business message!

Angela Sorell - Testimonial

✅ A keynote speaker is not a trainer.

You are a storyteller and those stories should tap into the emotions of your audience – helping them trust you in order to embed the learnings. The best stories, by the way, are your own stories. Not necessarily stories about you, per se, because that can be perceived as a bit egotistical (and boring!!), but stories about experiences or people in your life

that you can tie back to a relevant business point. When you leverage your own experiences, and because nobody has heard these stories before, they become memorable and unique, versus overused Uber disruption stories that everyone rolls out.

✅ A keynote speaker brings more energy than their audience

When you change your state to one of certainty and service, your audience will feed off your energy and you will literally hold their attention for longer. Speaking is about so much more than just PPT and words. It’s about preparation, arriving early, scoping the location, speaking to your audience prior

Tony Vu - Testimonial
and where possible listening to other speakers who are on before you so you can reference them on the fly if need be in order to be ultra relevant. It is not about learning a script verbatim – rather trusting what you know and having a framework you can dance within! 

With live in person events now beginning to open up, more and more companies, associations and franchises are beginning to look for keynote speakers to share their message through your message for their people.

And just like ANY buyer, they want you to bring that value – whether you are speaking in a demonstration, boardroom or convention hall and whether it is in front of 5 or 500 or 5,000 people.

So, here’s to your commercial conversations at the front of the room.

I trust these 3 distinctions helped and if so, please share which one resonated the most.


Fortem International is a global event organiser for the B2B market, incorporating both Marketing and Sales. One of our largest events for the European and USA market is the Sales Innovation Expo.

Bernadette McClelland was one of our speakers who flew from Australia to deliver a keynote to a crowd eager to hear fresh ideas and insights on Conscious Selling – a modern look at business growth. I’m pleased to say she not only wowed the audience but the queue to have a signed copy of her book was testimony to the value she provided. We look forward to continuing our association with Bernadette into the future.

Eddy Lawrence, CEO, Fortem International

Stay Bold, Brave and Brilliant! 

Keynote Speaker - Bernadette McClelland - Sales Leadership and StorySelling Speaker Selling in the Connection Economy. A 5-step sales philosophy for franchises, associations and corporates


EVENT ORGANISERS (Video below) – As a speaker, my programs help CEOs of future-focussed sales organisations, who are concerned as to how to help their sales teams stand out more in a heavily competitive environment, gain the lead by securing more profitable and purposeful sales.

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