Speak the Future: Gerrit Heijkoop, Speaker and Online Host

Conferize’s “Speak the Future” series features speakers who are currently changing the conference world. For more info check out our “Speak the Future” Manifesto

Follow Gerrit’s profile page on Conferize here.

Why have you chosen to become a speaker?

Because I love to do it! And judging by the response of the audience, they love it too. And as long as that is the case, I would love to keep going.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am an entrepreneur with a passion for technology and events. Educated with a master’s degree in systems engineering and policy analysis at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Shaped and formed as a management consultant and project manager at Boer & Croon Consultancy firm. And then followed my passion for the events industry. This unique background allows me to quickly distinguish between the sense and nonsense of new technology for conferences and events.

I am involved in the international FRESH community, board member of the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) in the Netherlands and active blogger. Building up experience with connecting online and on-site audiences since 2009. Now a familiar face in the international meetings industry as speaker, moderator and interviewer; both on- and offline. Known for my enthusiasm and always striving to keep matters simple and meaningful.

Since January 2012, I have been Executive Partner of How Can I Be Social (HCIBS), a digital communication agency, all about sharing inspiration. We have the knowledge, solutions and tools to help organisations improve their use of social networks and online technology. Either by developing and implementing an online strategy, or by acting as hybrid event host, Social Media moderator or speaker.

What is your favorite area of expertise to present at conferences?

I believe that your network is your most powerful resource-as an individual professional, as a specific meeting or event or as an organization. Social Media like Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook are strong tools to help you grow, monitor and harvest this resource. If you only know how.

Second to that, I believe technology can only be meaningful if it makes your offline life better, more efficient or more fun. So instead of getting all excited about what is technologically possible, I rather focus on how it can be applied in daily life. And that makes some of the most complex technologies a lot more simple.

How did you begin your career in public speaking? What were some of the key conferences for you?

Everybody has his or her own passion and talent. Apparently for me those two intersect when I am talking about technology, communication and how to make those both meaningful. So in 2010 I was having an informal coffee with a lady who was event manager of an inspiration day for entrepreneurs. Obviously the topic soon came to social media. And after talking for a while, she asked me: “Wow, you are really into this. Can you come tell this story at our event?”. And basically after that, in every audience I have been in front of, there is someone who asks me for the next job.

Why are conferences important today?

It is amazing what happens when you bring different minds together and let them work together. So by saying that, I am a strong believer that we should innovate the way conferences are designed. Yes of course there is a place for speakers; to inspire, to provoke, to feed or to add to a process of collaborative thinking. However, the real value of a speaker only comes out when attendees get a chance to reflect and work with the new insights they obtained from a speaker. And that doesn’t happen when they are back in the office! There should be room in the program to let that happen in the meeting or conference itself.

Have you noticed any significant trends in the meetings industry in the wake of digital/mobile developments? 

In the old days, coming together around a fire and listening to someone who travelled the world was the only way to exchange knowledge. No books yet. No video. No phones. No internet. Nowadays, almost every piece of knowledge is up for grabs on the Internet. For free. In realtime! People can watch or read what a speaker has to say from their own office, or even their lazy chair.

However, often they don’t. So again, there is room for speakers, because on an ordinary office day, people might not get to the point where they actively consume content. But the fact that they could should make conference organizers aware about the fact that they need to change their meeting design from “Listening & Lurking” to “Discussing & Doing”. And a good discussion can very well be sparked or fed by an inspiring speaker on a certain topic.

As a speaker, what do you feel you need right now to strengthen your profile in the conference world? Tools, technology, network etc.?

Live streams of my performances, video captures, pre- and post event messaging with attendees, extra exposure for my blogs.

Best & worst conference experience?

Worst: every conference where bright people are put in a room, lights are switched off and they have to sit and listen all day.

Best: events that give serious time for audience participation and interaction like the FRESH Conference, the Dutch GMIC Conference etc

Any advice to aspiring speakers?

Practice as much as you can. Get on stage for free and listen to the responses of the audience. And don’t get hung up on slides. What would happen if you would go without slides? Nice thought experiment (and then you may add them back later… )

Visit Gerrit’s How To Be Social site here!

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