Opening Keynote Speaker
Future-of-work strategist Heather E. McGowan helps leaders prepare their people and organizations for today’s world of work. The last few years have forever changed where we work, who works, how we work and measure work, what we do for work, and, most importantly, why we work. McGowan is a sense maker, a dot connector, a deep thinker, and a pattern matcher who sees things that others miss. Heather gives people the courage and insight that illuminates their path forward. She’s transforming mindsets and entire organizations around the globe with her message about how the next phase of work will focus on continuous learning, rather than simply learning once in order to work.
Pulitzer Prize–winning NYT columnist Thomas Friedman frequently quotes McGowan in his books and columns and describes her as “the oasis” when it comes to insights into the future of work. In 2020 Heather was recognized as one of the top 50 female futurists in the world by Forbes. Heather helps employees and leaders alike prepare for and adapt to jobs that do not yet exist.
McGowan’s academic work has included roles at Rhode Island School of Design, and Jefferson University, where she was the strategic architect of the first undergraduate college focused exclusively on innovation. In 2019 Heather was appointed as a faculty member of the Swinburne University Centre for the New Workforce in Melbourne, Australia. In 2022, McGowan was awarded an honorary doctorate from Pennsylvania College of Art and Design in addition to earning her MBA from Babson College and her BFA in Industrial Design from Rhode Island School of Design.
McGowan is the coeditor and author of the book Disrupt Together: How Teams Consistently Innovate and a Forbes contributor. McGowan’s first book on the future of work, published in 2020: The Adaptation Advantage: Let Go, Learn Fast, and Thrive in the Future of Work, reached number three in business management books on Amazon and was named one of the best business books of 2021 by Soundview. McGowan’s most recent book The Empathy Advantage: Leading the Empowered Workforce, published in March 2023 and is a finalist for the Next Big Idea Book Club and identified as a top ten business books to read in 2023 by Business Chief.
Closing Keynote Speaker
A member of the Speaker Hall of Fame, Steve Gilliland is one of the most in-demand and top-rated speakers in the world. Recognized as a master storyteller and brilliant comedian, he can be heard daily on SiriusXM Radio’s Laugh USA and Jeff & Larry’s Comedy Roundup. With an appeal that transcends barriers of age, culture and occupation—plus an interactive and entertaining style—Steve shows audiences how to open doors to success in their careers, their relationships and their lives. Presenting to over 250,000 people a year, more than two million have now heard him speak, with audiences encompassing 51 industries. Steve has the distinction of speaking in all 50 states and in 15 countries. As one newspaper stated, “Steve is what happens when the humor of a stand-up comic collides with the inspiration of a motivational speaker.”
In addition to his brilliant speaking career, Steve is a prolific, accomplished author, evidenced by six of his books — Detour, Enjoy The Ride, Hide Your Goat, Making a Difference, The Cherry on Top and Turn the Page
— perennially making the publisher’s bestseller list and his being named Author of the Year. His thought-provoking writing style makes his articles a favorite with prominent national magazines. He influences the lives of millions through his presentations, books, audio products and videos. An extensive array of these products has been utilized by small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, U.S. and Canadian government agencies, churches, school districts and nonprofit organizations. Speaking the language of active business leaders, his books and other resources identify practical lessons that grow people and their businesses.
Steve built a multimillion-dollar company from the ground up on the same philosophy he expounds to his audiences. If you continually learn more about your company, your industry, your customer and yourself, you will always be a leader. You will be purpose-driven rather than process-driven, and you will make a difference. His motto is straightforward: “If you take care of people, the business will follow.” He has been recognized by Who’s Who for Speakers and Business Professionals, and The Pittsburgh Business Times named his company one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the region. Steve also serves on the board of directors for a financial institution, and he and his wife Diane launched the Gilliland Foundation in 2017 to provide funding that creates lasting solutions for causes they are passionate about.
Steve was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, resides in North Carolina and travels throughout the world. He received his bachelor’s degree from Grove City College. He is a proud grandpa, devoted father of four boys and a loving husband to Diane. He learned great compassion for people and a commitment to a hard work and balanced life ethic at the knee of his highly principled Christian mother. Whether Steve is speaking at an event, writing about current issues that impact others or leading his own employees, he is not just a person who challenges people to change, he motivates them to do so. Steve’s personal vision is to wake up every morning and, through humor and inspiration, help others to discover and develop their potential and live life to fullness.