Workplace safety is an important topic and something that does not get as much attention as it should. It’s one of those things that we pay lip service to, but it is hard to engage people. Even at conferences that cover safety as a part of their core subject, it is hard to engage people, and if you’re invited to give a keynote on the topic, then it could be tricky to hold people’s attention.
A good funny and motivational speaker excites people and prepares them for the rest of the sessions ahead. Making workplace safety exciting requires understanding what motivates people, and let’s face it, what motivates bosses is rather different to what motivates employees.
Speaking from the heart is an important skill. Speaking honestly and openly about the issue of safety works best if you’re able to use real-world examples, ideally ones that are personal to you. Telling stories of workplace accidents can pique someone’s interest – but tread carefully so as not to rely on FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) to engage. People will listen to scare stories, but they’re more likely to care in the long term if there’s a benefit beyond that initial “this bad thing might happen” factor.
Statistics and topical stories are a good starting point. Consider the issue of workplace insurance – selling insurance on “something bad might happen, and then you might need to claim” or “it is legally required” may get grudging compliance. Selling it on the fact that engaged and high-quality workers prefer knowing that they are covered by good insurance, and consumers that are well-informed like to see coverage too is something that offers a net benefit to the business.
Keynote speakers have a responsibility to their conferences; they are expected to start a discussion and to prepare people for what is ahead. So, look at the attendees and the panels, and lead with what they are talking about. Are there new safety innovations in the sector that you are speaking about? Is there new legislation to consider? What have you accomplished in the industry in recent months?
One speaker cannot change the world. What one speaker can do, though, is influence the thought leaders that are at the talk, and give those people the power to control others. Get the managers to understand both why they should care about workplace safety themselves, and how to get the workers on side. Sell to workers that a company that cares about safety is a company that cares about them.
As a keynote speaker, you have a platform that few others have. You have the opportunity to speak to almost everyone from the conference, at the start of the day or week, when they are engaged and interested. Use that to put forward the case for safety – and yes, perhaps the case for reducing red tape and making safety easier to implement. Speak from the position of expertise in your sector, and as someone with real-world experience.