Jade Simmons: How Purpose Can Have a Memorable Impact on Audiences

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Jade Simmons: How Purpose Can Have a Memorable Impact on Audiences

By Jason Hensel | Mar 18, 2019

Jade Simmons' concert adventures have revolutionized classical music presentation. In “Creating Transformational Experiences,” 9:30-10:30 a.m. on June 18 at the 2019 MPI World Education Congress (WEC) in Toronto, she will empower us to produce unforgettable, transformative experiences that only happen once we pivot from planning to impress audiences to intentionally impacting them instead. General session sponsored by Marriott International. Jade Simmons presented by Goodman Speakers.

Jade Simmons says you can’t trust audiences. Wait. Hear her out.

“What I mean is, sometimes you’ll look and see a blank stare, or crossed arms or a bored expression and if you’re not careful you’ll let it throw you or allow it to make you second guess everything you’re doing,” Simmons says. “Sometimes, I’ll meet those very people after a presentation only to find out they were completely enthralled, or they’d been having a rough time, but something being said was stirring something positive in them.”

So, don’t trust the audience, she says, but rather trust that your purpose is to impact the audience if you trust yourself and stay the course.

Simmons has as impacted and influenced audiences for most her life. She was first runner-up in the Miss America pageant in 2000, is a tireless mental health and youth suicide awareness advocate and currently a world-renowned pianist and speaker. World Education Congress (WEC) attendees can experience her inspiring message during the June 18 general session in Toronto.  

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“My original goal was to be a concert pianist,” says Simmons, who started playing piano at age 8 in Charleston, S.C. “All of my schooling was aimed toward that intent, and I spent my early career doing just that, performing on renowned stages and recording.”

Specifically, she loves to play pieces by Rachmaninoff because she’s drawn to darker, passionate, more dramatic classical music. And she has played his C-sharp minor prelude every time she’s on stage for years.

But one day, Simmons had an epiphany regarding her relationship with the audience and found herself on a new career path.

“Today, I get to impact on and away from the concert stage, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “What I do today has increased my opportunity to make an impact a hundredfold.”

Purpose and Passion

One thing that Simmons speaks to audiences about is compartmentalization—putting different parts of yourself in boxes to be released at “appropriate” times.

“We have different versions of ourselves, and we make choices about which version to put on display,” she says. “As a result, I think we cheat our audiences (meaning any group we are uniquely designed to impact, from our spouse and kids to the powerful teams we lead) of experiencing our fullest self and the fullest impact we are supposed to have on them.”

We also cheat ourselves, Simmons says, of the fullest possibility for passion, purpose and fulfillment.

“I teach that when we dare to believe we are supposed to bring all of ourselves to every single table every single time, incredible results break out in life and business,” she says.

One example of how Simmons brings all of herself to the table every time is through how she parents her kids, who inspire her the most out of anyone.

“I’m really aware that they see me on stages being larger than life, inspiring perfect strangers, being so patient with people I don’t know when they are sharing their hearts with me after an engagement,” she says.

Simmons went through a period when she wanted to be sure her stage persona was not night and day from the domestic version of herself.

“Mommy and wife and daughter and sister and boss should also be inspirational, patient, and she should love like she does from the stage, larger than life,” she says. “It’s much easier said than done, and it keeps me on my toes. Consistency is everything.”

Be Intentional

Simmons will speak at WEC about creating unforgettable, transformative experiences by being intentional in your purpose. It’s not just planning an event; it’s creating something memorable.

“Some of the questions I always ask the companies bringing me in are, ‘How do you want your people to feel when our time together is over? What do you want them to be able to do or feel like they can achieve by the time they leave the room?’ Those answers help me shape the type of experience I offer,” she says.

When it comes to building great experiences for attendees, Simmons says planners need to be consistent between messaging and actions.

For instance, some planners will say our theme is innovation, or we want our people to think outside of the box, but then they’ll book speakers who are run of the mill and completely expected,” she says. “Instantly, your audience knows you aren’t serious about your theme being more than a theme, and they respond accordingly.”

One of the biggest challenges in designing memorable experiences is getting over the risk factor. Simmons says she’ll often discover after a successful engagement that there were concerns about bringing her in to speak.

“They saw me as a risk because they hadn’t heard of me before, or they weren’t sure how the music thing worked, or they wondered if a musician could speak to their issues,” she says.

Simmons recommends getting excited about taking calculated risks and not getting caught up in looking for what you’re used to seeing.

“Instead, ask yourself, ‘What new thing would I like to see break out?’ and then align your event choices to add up to that outcome,” she says.

For Simmons, her team lets companies know they’re going to get a potent mix of inspiration, information and entertainment, and she’s going to “customize to death” to meet their audiences and their industries where they are.

By the end of her WEC session, Simmons would like to hear from attendees, “I feel like you came here just for me.” That means, she says, people are feeling important enough that a messenger would be sent to a room just to release bigger purpose and possibility into their lives.

“When people say they feel like they can do anything, and they feel more empowered to be all of themselves because they have seen what that looks like in real time, I get excited because I know not only were they inspired, but they were activated,” Simmons says. “They are actually going to go out and DO something with what they just heard. That’s better than a standing ovation any day!”

At WEC19

Jade Simmons will be a Keynote Speaker at WEC this year and will be speaking on the following days:

  • Tuesday, June 18th: Tuesday Morning General Session: Creating Transformational Experiences with Jade Simmons
  • Tuesday, June 18th: The Real WOW Factor Deep Dive: The Risky Business of Going for Broke

Click here to see more sessions.




World Education Congress keynote speakers include Michael Cerbelli (The Hot List - inspiring event and entertainment insights), Vinh Giang (“The Psychology of Illusion - Designing Shared Experiences,” courtesy of CMI Speaker Management), Jade Simmons (concert pianist and activational speaker, courtesy of Goodman Speakers Bureau), Dear World (offering transformational stories) and Storytellers (featuring MPI community members). Comedian Dena Blizzard returns as emcee.

Visit mpi.org/wec19 to learn more and register.



Jason Hensel
Jason Hensel

Jason Hensel is a freelance writer and former editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes improv comedy, bacon and books.