Chris Heeter

Leadership Speaker | Wilderness Guide | Poet

Who is Chris?

Always engaging. Never boring.
Refreshingly different.

Here is what I would share with you if we went for a walk together in the woods behind my house.
For a more formal version for your marketing materials, please see the Meeting Planner Resources Page.

I am a speaker and a wilderness guide and a poet and a dog musher. I get to do what I love, which is a fortunate and joyful thing. My life’s work could be summed up as being a bridge, helping people connect to their full Wild selves, daring them to live from that place of wholeheartedness, and then challenging them to do the brave work of welcoming the Wildness of others. I love crafting experiences based on who will be there, designing them in a way that is approachable and relatable and on point with what they need.

With a family that went on canoe or hiking trips for vacations, I found early on that being connected to the natural world is as necessary for me as food or water. That wilderness is a benevolent and thorough teacher. That rivers and dogs and tracks in the mud and canyon walls are responsible for much of what I know. I am someone for whom relationships matter, even in an audience of 500 people. Deep, rich conversations are the sweetness, the stuff that makes life rich.

Though I live in a culture that asks us to conform and follow the rules, I was fortunate to be raised by parents that celebrated our uniqueness. They didn’t mind that I was less interested in dolls and more into sports; less conventional, more original; less soft, more powerful. The plaque my mom made that hung in my room as a child has followed me through all of my moves. It now hangs in my bedroom in my cabin in the city. It says, ‘Do therefore what is good in thine eyes.’ I took that to mean ‘Be yourself, wholeheartedly. Keep learning who you are, what you’re made of, and live it.’

While keynote speakers with big personalities and flashy gimmicks have their place, they aren’t always what’s needed.

My job is to be fully present to the group and make an impact so people leave with ideas and inspiration. They will laugh, many will cry,
all will wind up with important things to consider.

If you are looking for a speaker that is refreshingly different, who crafts their keynote specifically for your group, your search may be over. I am your Wild card, the one that will take your group by surprise and leave them energized, thoughtful, and ready to make positive changes, because they saw themselves in the stories, and some part of their Wild hearts and minds were awakened in new and powerful ways.

Speaker Highlights

  • Profiled on The Discovery Channel’s “National Geographic Today”

  • Recipient of the National Speaker’s Association Minnesota Chapter’s “Next Level Award”

  • Selected as a Top 10 Speaker of the Year by MeetingsNet

  • Main Stage Flash-point Speaker at Meeting Professional International’s World Education Congress
  • Highest rated speaker at Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress 2014, returned as a speaker at the leadership pre-conference in 2015 and as a  Featured Speaker at the 2022 World Education Congress
  • A finalist for Minnesota Meetings and Event’s best team building facilitator for 2 years in a row

  • Recipient of National Association of Women Business Owners Luminary Award.
  • Wilderness guide since 1984
  • Her poetry has been read at weddings and funerals, and corporate events and printed on kiosks in Australian National Parks

  • Dog Musher since 1990 (it began with just one husky several decades ago and grew rather exponentially)

  • Shares a dogsledding kennel of 26 Alaskan Huskies with her mushing partner, Kathleen Anderson

  • Certified Wilderness First Responder
  • National Association of Women Business Owners Luminary award.

  • Board member of The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota 2006 – 2015

  • Current board member of MCEA (Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy)

  • Graduate of Master Composter/Recycler program for Hennepin County

  • Graduate of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School)

  • George Williams College Distinguished Alumnae award recipient
How it started

People always want to know how I got into guiding

Well, it started young, with my mom getting our family outdoors on vacations, going to the Boundary Waters, hiking in Colorado, and many other adventures. I didn’t develop a lot of skills, but I learned to my core that wilderness feels like Home. Skills are easy to pick up after that!

I got my first huskies in the brief time I lived in North Carolina!!! It grew to a team of 16. All these decades later, I still guide dogsledding trips with my dear friend who lives off the grid up north with 35 Alaskan Huskies.

As a rather obsessed hunter of Wild mushrooms, I have been know to carry over 13 pounds of chicken of the woods mushrooms — stuffed in my shirt with the sleeves tied together — for over 2 miles.

I grow a ridiculous amount of food in my back yard that I eat, share, and preserve. Truth be told, my quarter acre garden is a big sanity saver for me — insuring I get enough time with my hands (and feet) in dirt!

There is a hushed beauty that accompanies snow that soothes my soul. And the excitement in the sled dog yard when the snow comes is awfully contagious. Our favorite saying? There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

Living sustainably matters a lot to me. I converted a 1950’s rambler into a cabin in the city (Bloomington MN) with sustainable building practices, tearing out walls, using reclaimed barn timber flooring, installing a masonry wood stove that heats my home, all electricity is from a community solar garden, with on-going tree planting, and large organic gardens.

I’ve had the amazing privilege of guiding women’s wilderness trips since 1984.  I guided for other companies until 2001 when I founded The Wild Institute.

National Geographic Feature

The right tools

Being wild means having the courage to bring the gift of all of who you are to all of what you do

Chris’ Wild life serves as the canvas for her speaking and team building programs. She freely admits that much of what she’s learned about humanity comes from dogs and rivers—from her team of 16 sled dogs, who she helped breed, raise, and train, to her decades of guiding whitewater canoe trips. Combined, they create the perfect back-drop for memorable, easy to apply, lasting, and life-changing tools for individuals, teams, leaders, and organizations.

Wild is about being ready to say Yes

For your team, your organization, or yourself!