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About the Speaker

Stephen McGown is from Johannesburg, South Africa. He obtained his degree in Finance and worked in some of the large South African banks. In order to expand his career, Stephen went across to the UK and worked in London for 7 years.

While in London, Stephen met his wife, Catherine, who shared the same desire to return to South Africa; start a family and manage his family’s farming business.

It was this farming business that inspired a passion for the outdoors and planted the seed in Stephen for adventure from a young age. At the age of 11 he learnt to ride a small motorcycle on the farm. The freedom he felt from riding in the eastern Free State, near Lesotho, ignited his desire to ride a motorcycle through Africa, with home being the final destination.

An unexpected turn of events crushed his life long dream. En route home, Stephen was abducted by Al Qaeda and held hostage in Mali for almost 6 years.

Stephen McGown was kidnapped from Timbuktu, along with a Dutch and Swedish national on 25 November 2011.

He was 36 at the time of the kidnapping.

Who inspired you to pursue professional speaking? | My friends and family who said I had a story that needed to be told.


What do you like most about professional speaking? | I enjoy interacting with people, I like the honesty of it and seeing emotion on people’s faces, from tears to their eyes being shiny with life. I like the “realness” of the interaction.


What do you dislike most about professional speaking? |  Pre-speaking jitters


Why have you succeeded in a field where many have failed? (public speaking) | I find it fascinating that through my experience I have become one of the most sought after public speakers in South Africa in my genre.


Where did you grow up? | I grew up in Johannesburg in South Africa although I did spend much of my childhood on our farm knee deep in mud.


Where did you study? | I studied my degree and post grad through UNISA


What did you study? | Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Commerce Honours in Marketing, Finance and Risk


Who is your celebrity crush? | It was Meg Ryan


What do you watch on TV? |  I enjoy series’s, comedies, and movies based on actual events


How did you get started? | I began working in investment banking before deciding to move into farming.


What are your career goals? | I would like to impact as many people as possible with my story, I enjoy the feeling of touching peoples lives. I have done over 200 talks in South Africa and abroad in the past three years. I would like to get a greater hold on the international audience.


What are your personal goals? | I want to keep a balanced life and spend time doing what I enjoy.


What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work? | Go for a walk with my wife and our dogs.


Any hobbies? | birdwatching, fishing, mountain biking, running, motorcycling.


Do you have hidden talents? | Speaking rubbish


Your biggest pet peeve and why? | When people say “I can’t help it”. If we aren’t in control of our own lives, who is? “I can’t help it” is taking the easy way out.


If you could invite any three people in the world (alive or dead) for dinner, who would they be and why? | Dr David Livingstone (what an incredible life he must have had exploring Africa, he must have some amazing stories), Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu (he was an amazing man and involved in trying to get me out the desert. I wanted to reach out to him and regret that I did not before he passed away). My mom (She passed away while I was in the desert. I would just love to have a chat with her).


Tell us three things about you that nobody would guess. | I stutter, I was kidnapped, I like milkshakes


If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? | Blue


Chocolate or vanilla? | Vanilla


 See the movie or Read the book? | Band of Brothers


If you could tell your younger self anything, what would that be? | Saturate yourself in what you enjoy.


If there is one message that the world NEEDS to hear from you, what is it? | You have everything you need to overcome every challenge, right inside you.

Keynote Topics

Stephen McGown shares a message of making the most of all situations whether they are good or bad. Even though Stephen’s story is far removed from the reality of most people’s lives, the essence of his struggles are not far off from those of his audience. His talk promises to inspire and leave his audience questioning their own attitude and dilemmas. He is the perfect choice for a keynote speaker and will set the perfect tone for your event.


Stephen’s talk is a story about resilience and overcoming adversity amidst harsh weather conditions, a different culture, language and religion. He talks about making important decisions, about the importance of acceptance and communication.  He shares a concept that Freedom is an attitude.

Program Host

Bronwyn Hesketh always said that she has THE coolest job on the planet. She gets to work with extraordinary human beings on a daily basis, connecting them with audiences who need to hear what they have to say. In fact - it's not even a job: it's an adventure and way of life for her. Her purpose, really.


Over the last 25 years, she have been immensely proud and privileged to work with truly amazing South African speakers (and more than a smattering of Internationals, too), and now, as she is busy setting up our San Diego office, Bronwyn is thrilled to exclusively represent them across North America, bringing them to a whole new market of audiences who need to hear their messages.


This is the platinum lining of the pandemic for me: "Virtual" has opened up whole new worlds for us, and she can't wait to get them in front of as many people as humanly possible in the near future.

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