International Student Leadership Conference 2018 Recap

by | Jul 20, 2018 | Speaking Recap, Students And Educators Speaking

I had an incredible opportunity to travel to the beautiful city of Seattle, WA where 500 of the most amazing kids from 35 countries assembled for the 27th Annual International Student Leadership Conference for Operation Smile. This tremendous organization asked me to come and deliver a high energy keynote that would tie into their theme for the year…’Create Change – Go Against The Current’. This theme aligns well with me, my keynote and truly captures my entire life in a nutshell.

I believe when we impact and inspire the kids of today, we positively change the world of tomorrow. Whenever I speak to kids, I always make sure to connect with a message that is relatable to their lives, deliver content in ways they are used to, and keep them laughing from start to finish. Creating this connection allows me to solidify my themes of Create More, Share More, and Live More in their minds and hearts. My goals is for them to take this message and make it their own. I see it in their eyes when they light up, I hear it in their words when they share during the presentation, and I feel it in their hearts when go on to create positive change.

In the end, it’s up to each individual to understand their ‘Will Power’ is indeed stronger than their ‘Environment’; and with that power, they can and will achieve their dreams, goals, and desires. Most importantly, when we help others first, everything will come back to us tenfold. Operation Smile values the power of giving first and allowing the positive energy to have a round-the-world ripple effect. It was a true honor to speak to these kids who live that message.

This was an inspired room filled with smiles and happy tears. I was also deeply touched by the mission of Operation Smile and thankful for the countless friendships and deep bonds that were created. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to speak to such a wonderful group of kids and adults. Even though my keynote came to an end, I’m confident I will continue to partner with this organization for many years to come.


We had the privilege of having Kenyon Salo come on in and I had a chance to just sit back and watch his amazing energy and ability to motivate 500 young kids, which isn’t easy. It’s not an easy group to speak to, and yet, he has that unique skill set and talent that embraces them, makes them feel comfortable with themselves, and then extracts from them deeper feelings and energy that you just know will benefit them for the rest of their lives. He’s unique and there are very few speakers that I’ve heard that have that capacity to do what he did for our organization.

I think Kenyon’s presentation, just from a theatrical point of view, was spectacular. The body language that he has, the energy that he has, everything about it is great, but through that body energy and through the language, you come away with a sense that we all have a responsibility to do something. – the first thing we have to do is genuinely give to somebody without asking for anything in return and just hope that we have the confidence to know that that won’t be wasted time.

I would love to have had Kenyon at every event that I’ve ever had. I would love to have his energy always there and I’d love to continue to find those handful of people that have the capacity to generate energy the way that he does. I would absolutely recommend him!

Dr. Bill Magee, Jr.

Co-Founder & CEO, Operation Smile

If I had to rate Kenyon on a scale of one to ten on his stage presence, I would put him at probably a 20.

I brought in Kenyon Salo to speak because I needed a pump up speaker for the middle of our weeklong conference. I was looking for someone that’s energetic, has a good vibe, connects with teenagers, and he didn’t disappoint. He brought in a ton of energy. The students responded to him very well.

The most powerful takeaway for me, from his presentation, was the whole concept of not waiting. He talked a lot about resources and things that hold you back and, even for me as an adult, I think that should never really come in to play and, even for the students, for that thought not to really enter their mind.

Kenyon’s been different than other speakers we’ve had in the past, simply because he uses props and that’s something…I think a lot of other speakers utilize PowerPoint the most, kind of draw from their experience, but he’s very interactive and the prop really changed the dynamic of the room. To keep kids engaged, he also used a variety of multimedia things and there were some surprises…but I won’t ruin it for everyone!

I would absolutely recommend Kenyon to other events. From the start of just talking to him on the phone, just kind of feeling out what kind of speaker he was, all the way until he came and spoke to the students, it’s been an absolute wonderful journey with him and I hope we continue it.

Christabelle Fernandez

U.S. Student Program Manager, Operation Smile

Operation Smile is an outlet for me and for many others to focus on something bigger than themselves and to help transform their own lives while changing the lives of so many globally. I got to see Kenyon speak and it was amazing to hear his message to our students and he applied it so much to Operation Smile and talked about how we need to be present, which is actually one of the fish philosophies that we’re following here in Seattle.

I think the most relevant takeaway from Kenyon’s presentation was about how we need to share our story and about how we need to tell it and just inspire others to do the same because Operation Smile really begins with awareness and allowing others to know about these kids with clefts that are far away and they aren’t as heard about as much in the news. You hear about cancer. You hear about AIDS, but you don’t really hear about clefts and talking about sharing your story is the first way to hear about Operation Smile, then everything follows behind it and Kenyon really emphasized that today.

I thought Kenyon’s presentation was amazing. I thought his passion was contagious. I thought he invigorated the whole audience. That’s the quietest they’ve been all week and I just thought there was nothing like it. Out of past speakers I’ve seen, Kenyon was by far the most naturally good with the kids and ready to answer any questions the participants had and ready to involve them in any way and he was definitely the most passionate.

I think any group that is looking to be empowered and inspired could definitely benefit from Kenyon’s presentation because he empowers the students so much and he makes them feel passion about whatever cause they’re working for and he has so much of a vest for life and he just really wants to inspire students in any way he can.

Brianna Lonergan

Team Leader, Operation Smile

Kenyon Salo spoke for us and absolutely brought the house down. Engaging does not do him justice. He had everyone captivated, motivated. I was blown away. I asked him after if I could steal some of his stuff to help inspire some of my students when I get home. I lost track of how many times we said “yes” during that presentation of just going for things, talking about the bucket list, and don’t just say “yes” to it…but say “yes” and really mean it – commit to it.

I can see him being relevant in just about any industry and I think he’s very relatable. His experiences and his stories, it doesn’t matter if it’s high school kids, they were enthralled. We’ve got chaperones of a wide age of ranges. Everyone of us was absolutely pulled in and felt the connection on it.

I would definitely recommend Kenyon.

Brian Ciuffreda

Technology Coordinator and Educator, Princeton Charter School

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