Meet James Raffan. Speaker. Creator. Explorer.

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“a genuine tour-de-force”

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James Raffan’s talk on “The North in Seven Years” at the Winnipeg Art Gallery was a genuine tour-de-force, bringing individual and human stories alongside a thoughtful and nuanced socio-political context. Much is said about the Arctic but Raffan’s connection to the land, and the people that live there, results in a powerful presentation.”

“a national treasure”

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Over the winter of 2010/2011 James Raffan delivered five spell-binding presentations in our small community as part of a new fundraising series.

We worried about getting a big enough crowd – the normal winter hunkering down, the nervousness about attending a ‘lecture’, all the competing things to do, et cetera.  But from the first session, people were lapping it up and the crowd kept growing, and growing.  James took us on amazing journeys that most people will never have, with spectacular visuals, delightful wit, and a lovely dose of ‘subliminal’ education on climate change and human relations.

We felt like we ‘laughed and learned’ all winter long with James.  As an organizer of the series, I can say it was always a pleasure to work with James, he was always calm, always prepared, always flexible, and always entertaining.  He paces his presentations perfectly, not too long, not too short, using accessible and articulate language. He was probably the most low-maintenance ‘talent’ I have ever encountered…just a down-to-earth, wise and warm person, and at the end of every session I wished there was a lovely pub nearby where we could go share a wee dram, and maybe even sing songs. James’ audiences leave his presentations feeling that they have been invited to dream and to ‘do the right thing’.  At the end of the final StoryFest evening, a couple of newcomers came up to me and said ‘Hey, he is better than Stuart McLean!”; I smiled and said “Stuart McLean is fabulous, AND James Raffan is a national treasure.

“excellent messages”

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I thank you most warmly for your wonderful presentation.  I am sure you sensed the excitement and enthusiasm radiating from the audience for the excellent messages you communicated.  You will be delighted to know that our Bulletin Editor, a sage born-and-bred Englishman, told me that it will be extremely difficult for any guest speaker to equal your ‘standard’ throughout the remainder of our 51 weekly programs.

“accessible and refreshing”

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James Raffan is a skilled storyteller, whose passion for the northern landscape and its people, wilderness travel and Canadian culture is clearly evident when he speaks.  Both informative and inspiring, James is able to convey his knowledge to others in a manner that is accessible and refreshing.  When presenting the closing keynote at our recent conference, his careful preparation was apparent, as he seamlessly interwove current and past issues within our field with broader national topics and his own experiences, whilst also artfully paying special homage to our conference dedicatee.


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What a show by Dr. James Raffan!  It is clear why they call this guy a master storyteller.  His show was amazing.  If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, don’t hesitate.

“punctuated with humorous anecdotes”

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James Raffan has been a presenter at our guest speaker series on many occasions.  His presentation topics are always intriguing and consistently engage the audience.  The subject matter is punctuated with humorous anecdotes that keep the atmosphere light and the crowd entertained.  Our customers are always impressed by his shows and review them very positively.  He takes the time at the end of a talk to meet with audience members to chat, or sign a book, which makes a nice personal connection to people in the local paddling community.  I highly recommend Dr. Raffan as a professional speaker and master storyteller.

“thoroughly engaged delegates”

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Dr James Raffan thoroughly engaged delegates at the Biennial conference of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia in October 2011. His topical keynote address entitled “Education as Story: The Power of Narrative”, developed the central theme of the conference, Culture 2 Culture, through providing insightful examples of how the characters of young people are developed by placing them in situations that challenge their comfortable world view. In many cases this does not occur within a traditional, formal educational setting but instead it is most successful in those environments that involve some risk and where the young people have to delve deeply into their inner resources. Dr Raffan’s extensive experiences in leading wilderness canoeing expeditions in the interior of Canada, combined with his academic intellect provided a perfect platform for Heads to contemplate the importance of using these experiences to develop the personal narrative of students’ lives whilst simultaneously contributing to the culture of a school.

“raised the profile of our organization”

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We were so delighted to have James come and speak. We had more people at that meeting than ever before and it really helped to raise the profile of our organization, bringing out new people who hadn’t heard of us. The comments I heard afterwards were all great and his enthusiasm was inspiring. I hope to have James come again.

“He wowed them!”

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We first met James in person when he was here in Calgary to talk to a large group about the Canadian Canoe Museum. He is such a great ambassador that we became enthusiastic to have the Traveling Exhibit from the CCM here, so when it opened at Fort Calgary in June this year, he was the obvious guest speaker. He wowed them! Naturally the “canoe heads” in the audience were enthralled, but so were the “normal” (an admittedly judgemental term)  people.  James’ presentation was fun, fast paced and canoe-centered. But it managed to make everyone aware of what a significant role the canoe has played in the history of Canada and in our national psyche. Even the least adventurous, non-paddler could not help but be moved by his presentation. He did an outstanding job!