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Interview with Annette Simmons

Learn more about this popular and talented storytelling speaker. Here she discusses how she became a keynote speaker and how she works with clients.

What types of talks are you typically asked to give?

Often I deliver the keynote for a conference or for larger conferences a general session keynote. When an event has breakout sessions, I offer to do a short workshop after the keynote for those people who want more information or talk in person.

I also offer a half or one day workshop for groups from 15 to 250. Several times I’ve taught storytelling to 250 +/- people facilitate for practice sessions so each individual gets personal attention


How did you become a public speaker?

Early in my career, I found if I could just give a presentation I had an excellent chance of closing a deal or beginning a project.  I had a knack for it.  In 1998, American Management Association selected my first book, “Territorial Games,” as the free gift for membership renewal. Suddenly 40,000 of my books were in circulation. I spoke at several conferences and found I loved the simultaneous goals of teaching and entertaining.


What type of audience benefits most from your keynotes?

The beauty of teaching storytelling is that it will improve all communication.  I’ve worked with patient safety officers, global marketing teams, and software designers. I like to work with people who think storytelling is too hard to do, or too soft to be measured. I also enjoy turning apathy into action.

There is a lot of leverage when people learn how to intervene at the level of our common humanity. Humans all need a story to make meaning and we all need to know where to draw territorial lines. Because I’ve worked internationally for two decades, culturally diverse cultures recognize my experience in the examples I give and the stories I tell.


How do you work with clients when preparing for a keynote?

In addition to a client’s audience’s demographics and job descriptions I like to invest in a few personal phone calls to collect stories unique to my audience.  I usually discover hidden questions, good stories, and a little jargon to make my speech more relevant.


Which issues do you cover in your talk about Territorial Games?

The beginning validates that humans have a primal desire to control their environment.  A sense of control over our lives is a major ingredient to happiness. We discuss how unexamined control needs can get out of hand and find some comic relief talking about the ten games “other people” play escalating into ego battles, information hoarding, even misdirection in an effort to control “territory.”

Humor about those “other people” who play these games begins to create audience awareness that everyone – including themselves – play games. When we unconsciously hoard information, protect relationships, or control access to decision processes other’s return in kind. Building a “no fault” theory makes it save to re-examine past behaviors and build awareness that changes future behaviors. We then review ways to bring down the walls, cross territorial boundaries, and build better connections. This speech sequentially reduces defenses, provides insight, and embeds new more collaborative behaviors for future interactions.


What is your most popular keynote?

The Story Factor is the most popular. Interest in storytelling has exploded since I published the first edition of “The Story Factor” in 2001. Because I was one of the first people to call attention to the value of storytelling, people realize I have a lot of experience to share about how stories can transform communication.


Learn more about Annette Simmons here!

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