S.3 Episode 19: Mantra’s of a Keynote Speaker

Keith Mercurio is one of these guests we wish we would have had more time with! Coming from a background of plumbing, leading him to working in events, to now being a key note speaker, Keith comes with so much knowledge. Listen as he shares some amazing principles you will want to adopt!

Tell us about your background and what brought you to where you are.

Well, my journey’s a pretty unorthodox one for sure. I’m a plumber. That was my background. I was a plumber by trade. I dropped out of college and went into the trades working for my next door neighbor and we joined this organization years ago, this group called Nexstar and they were a business development organization for the plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical world. I’m sitting there, I’m a plumber, I’m a dropout, I don’t know where my life is necessarily headed. And I’m sitting in this event and this trainer comes on and he just, within five minutes of seeing it, I said I’m going to do that someday. That started my journey towards creating my own story, my own success within that industry, but ultimately with the goal that I wanted to be a trainer. I started going down that road and a few years after that I got hired by this group, became their first trainer and then eventually became their director of training. That’s how this whole thing, this whole journey you got underway.

You’re always pushing yourself to boundaries I’ve never even thought of. What is your method to all of that? 

This is one of my goals. My wife even included an in her vows for me. She said, I love that at the age of 36 I’m 37 now that one of your most serious goals is to land a back flip on skis. People don’t decide they’re going to do that usually in their late thirties but for me it’s something I’ve just always wanted to do and I have these things that I like just always want it to be great at. I like being good at stuff. I like being great itself. That’ll come out in the course of us talking about event planning and keynoting because I’m obsessive. So part of that though is to go on these little quests. So I took the month of August off. I haven’t done anything other than pursue three goals. One was to catch as many fish as I could. Went bass fishing for a week. Then I went and took horsemanship lessons for a week. So learning to to groundwork horses, get more comfortable with horses. Again, something I just want to be great at. And then the third was I went to Olympic park, Utah to learn how to do a back flip on skis at their park, which involved trampoline training and then launching off their jumps into the end of the pool.The humbling part was I’d posted a video of how many unsuccessful front and back flips occurred on that trampoline before.

You’re like, “I’m a human too, now I grow.”

That’s pure content by the way, because both of those have actual stories that are parts of previous keynotes that were involved with one, horseback riding incident when I fell off the horse, broke my arm. And then this whole thing with another injury that occurred from back flipping on my honeymoon off of a rope swing in Maui. So these are like, these that we’re building content here. And the thing I always like, nobody, nobody wants is going to relate to somebody who looks good all the time. As a keynote speaker, if your stories are always about your successes, it’s exhausting. Like the audiences doesn’t get an opportunity to get on board with you. Like that’s not real life. That’s not how humanity works. But we have such a desire to be this, you know, perfect, polished version on stage. My keynote speaking went to another level when I got, this was the phrase from a coach of mine said, you need to get authentic with how inauthentic you are. And, and I used to pretend my little bits of humility were little gestures to try to make it look like I was actually humble, but they weren’t really humble. So once I got clear with, Oh yeah, I am totally, you know, full of it. This is a very human characteristic. We know we’re not supposed to be arrogant. So then we try to be humble, but it’s not really humble. Now I have to force myself. I hate looking bad. I hate it. 

So in speaking, when, when we’re telling a story that involves ourselves, especially the one that has an ultimate success or some form of a triumph, even if it’s just a moral victory, there’s something called the dip. And the dip is the moment in the story that the audience all gets to relate to you. So the dip is the down cycle in the story’s trajectory where you’re at a bottom, you’re at a place where you know you’re struggling, you’re frustrated, you want to give up, whatever that is. And that’s where everybody gets to become part of that ride in the story. So therefore, whenever you do share that ultimate triumph, you haven’t left people behind.The point of it isn’t to walk out of there looking good, it’s for them to walk out of there seeing a future that that’s inspiring to them.

How do you make an incredible event experience?

Part of making sure that I am growing and this is to constantly attend events. So I put myself through a lot of training. I put myself through events and I go and watch. The thing that I see over and over again in events is that they are typically they’re incongruent. So you’ll have a bunch of speakers, you’ll have a theme, you’ll have whatever but they don’t hold together. So one speakers content doesn’t compliment another speakers content doesn’t get tied back by the MC doesn’t fit the slide show at the break. There’s a lack of congruency because oftentimes I think event teams are over here and then the talent is over here, and you know that whoever’s trying to be in charge of the event isn’t necessarily working on the ins and outs. For a great event to us in, in my career, what that meant was that it was thematic and it was congruent from start to finish, from the invitation to the way it looked online, the way we spoke about it to the theme and to each speaker having complimentary content to the event and an emcee who understood how to tie that content together and bridge from one speaker to the next. Those were all the keys that really make an event different. Now you can get into all the little details that I think are wonderful and I’m obsessive. I get super excited about that stuff. But that overall is what I see most events missing, that at least we tried to make a constant goal of ours, that the audience, whether they knew it or not, was going through an experience that was congruent from start to finish.

How do you approach creating an event and timeline?

A couple of different techniques, and I’m trying to think of your audience because in a lot of our events we had a captive group, we are a business development organization. We had 600 companies that were members of ours, so we were able to sort of farm information of what was needed. I think the key was we didn’t limit our event planning to our event team. We would reach out to our coaches, we’d reach out what do we need, what do we want to see, what’s been lacking, what’s been missing, what’s exciting? What are you struggling with? And ask important questions rather than just assuming that we knew what people would want in an event now.

We were lucky that we’d built enough credibility at that point that people just trusted yeah, we’ve got to go. Even if we didn’t have a big name, they knew it was going to be incredible because they don’t need to have heard of the people to know that if we picked them, there was a reason. So you do have to balance that to a degree. But if you’re going for the big name, how can you then compliment that big name? Like what specific content of theirs can you ask them to deliver? And then how can you tie that into the event?

So what we want is in an event, it’s going to be congruent, it’s going to be thematic, the speakers will compliment each other, but we also want things to become actionable for our audience members so that they don’t just leave their goal and that was a great event. They also leave there with actual steps to implement and create the changes that they presumably attended the event with the the ideal of achieving. 

If I want to talk to these speakers that I’m going to be booking, how do I make sure they are going to stay on our theme?

That was probably my favorite part. Over the years we have had the opportunity to speak to, you know, John Maxwell and Les Brown and Emmett Smith some huge names, icons in the industry, but we insisted on it. We always get one hour phone call set up as part of our contract with the speaker. The speaker themselves. We absolutely believe that was a non negotiable for us because, we found that they were so impressed with the level of excellence with which we were approaching the event that typically these people who had achieved what they’ve achieved, they respect that. We had to study their content, we had to know whether it’s their books, their previous talks, you know, we would study them so that we could bring a couple specific areas that we would ask them to maybe focus on. We would want to share a little background because what you’ll find, and again this is the keynote side of things. When I’m going to an audience, Not only am I going to interview the people that are hiring me, but I’m going to ask if I can get five to 10 potential audience member contacts and actually interview them before I go into the event. All it takes is a half a dozen, not even three to six subtle references that are unique and specific to the audience that’s there for them to feel like this guy, this event was made for me. We are members, we’re called members, and when John Maxwell remembered to call them members and not clients, it makes sense. He says clients and they go, this guy doesn’t know who we are. 

Do you have a mantra you live by?

Of course I have to develop mantras to as a speaker, right? One that really applies to what we’re up to here in this world is just say yes. Just say yes and then the caveat to that is and then do it with alacrity. Alacrity is a great word, I’m going to insist on using it because the definition is a joyful enthusiasm. 

So this came about in my personal life, my wife then my fiance, the Royal wedding was happening and she asked me, do you want to wake up tomorrow and watched the Royal wedding? Everything inside of me said, absolutely not. I mean, there was at no level, at no point in my life, no way can I comprehend why I would no. I mean, the answer like is a strong no. By living by this theme, as it was imparted upon me, I said yes. Absolutely. So the next day, I think it was like a four o’clock wake up. There’s no intrigue for me over there, but it was important to her. So I said yes. But then you don’t say yes and then do it and be like, Oh, do you really want to do this thing right? That’s gonna take all the joy out of the experience. So I woke up, I was painfully hung over, by the way, I was probably out with you Charlie. And we wake up and she’s not even up yet. I go outside, I put on a suit, I cook eggs, tea, pour champagne, and then go wake her up.

The point is this was taught to me, okay this, I didn’t come up with this, I didn’t invent this. It was taught to me and I had to channel it to do something I didn’t want to do and do it well.If that is an event planning, I don’t know what is.In in the world of moving the tables, it’s having just gotten there, you look and you, you realize that the format that you had set up wasn’t gonna work and now you’ve got to change stuff and it’s like, just say yes with alacrity, with alacrity. You need to bring that joy because if you think your audience doesn’t feel the energy of the people producing the show, you’re out of your mind. I love people that are like, Oh, I’m good at hiding it. No, you’re not. Nobody’s ever been. So pretending like we can hide it is crazy. Actually taking actionable steps to shift your state into a positive state that’s a different story.

As far as mantras are concerned, our entire event team, our speakers, everybody on our staff every one of them was tasked with developing a pre event mantra. Mine, I’ve said it hundreds and hundreds of time, but it’s something in the realm of like, I am a vehicle for learning but not the source. I am kind patient and completely committed to seeing and holding these men and women to their absolute best. These men and women are brilliant, courageous, and in the perfect place in their lives for our paths to intersect. They’re awesome. I’m awesome. Today’s the day. Now’s the time. And this was my pre event mantra before every audience I met. If I see people that way and choose to see people that way, no matter how they walk in the room, I’ve already decided who they are. I’m not going to let their energy dictate my energy.

What about pet peeves? 

Well I would say, the number one pet peeve I have when working with people is the desire to be right rather than get it right. This is people’s desire to look good. Natural reaction is I’m going to defend myself to make sure that I look good here and that I wasn’t wrong, rather than just being like, okay, cool. What do we have to do to make this right? Our whole culture has been built around being right as much as we can be right. That’s a horrible trait to take into professional development cause professional development is about finding all the ways in which you’re wrong and growing from them. In event planning, when I’m met with that defense, that’s my number one pet peeve that I experience. 

What is your superpower?

My capacity to understand people like to really get people to really hear them. A cause I care to and B, because I’ve practiced a long time, I’ve studied the hell out of it. 

You do keynote speaking tell me about your approach and the type of stuff that you’re really gifted at. 

The keynote work that I do it’s all gonna be about if beliefs don’t shift, nothing changes. People are always sayingHey, come in, we want to know what to do. We want to know what to do. People go to training that they want actionable items. They want to know what to do.

I always ask people, if I were to ask you how you would go about getting healthy, you would tell me what? Your answers would be, Go to the gym and change your diet. Then I asked the audience to say, now how many of you knew that? And they all raised their hand. And I say, and how many of you knew that and still wish you were in better health? An entire audience raises their hand. Clearly people’s desire to find out what it is they need to do to make changes, that’s kind of a misguided effort in both speaking and in training. If we can actually explore underneath the surface at the belief shift that’s necessary to sustain a change and give you the technique of how we shift beliefs, not just actions, then we create new actions, then we create new results in our life.

So what I do in a keynote is I go beneath the surface in a way that I believe I have the capacity to relate to every single person in that audience. If one person does leave, not feeling like I related to them, then that sticks with, that’s a pet peeve. That’s my number one pet peeve is not connecting with anybody in an audience, let alone an audience. So in a keynote, whether it’s one hour or three days of training, whatever people desire and what they want, we’re going to capture every member of that audience and leave them in a wow experience for their future, whatever that looks like. It’s going to be realistic. It’s not going to be corny. 

keithmercurio.com.

kmerc24@gmail.com.

Insta: Charlesevaneide

EideComCreative

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Twitter:The Meeting Minds

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