Keynote presentations are typically some of the biggest highlights of professional events. A solid keynote speaker can unify an audience and deliver valuable, actionable, and relevant information in an engaging way. A keynote speech delivered expertly can completely transform the atmosphere of an event and open up engaging conversations and learning opportunities among attendees.
Becoming a great keynote speaker means presenting that knowledge and expertise in a relatable, understandable, and engaging way. Watching some of the best keynote speeches can offer preliminary guidance and learning a few valuable strategies can propel your keynote speeches to greater heights.
What Is a Keynote Speaker?
A keynote speaker delivers a speech about a very specific topic. This topic could be an industry problem, and emerging trend or technology, or insights into a market from a specific angle. The keynote speaker delivers this speech with authority. The goal of the speech should be to increase the audience’s understanding of the given topic, encourage them to research and engage with the subject matter through their own professional capacities, and position the speaker as an industry leader.
The keynote speech should quite literally deliver the “key note” for the event as a whole, so the keynote speaker has the unique responsibility of setting the tone for what could be an immensely impactful industry event with far-reaching influence. The best keynote speakers are able to accomplish this in a way that appears as if they were born to do it.
The Difference Between a Decent and an Excellent Keynote Speaker
There’s actually a fairly wide gulf separating decent and excellent keynote speakers. While a decent keynote speaker can deliver the meat of a speech in a somewhat engaging and relatable way, decent keynote speakers typically fail to leave memorable impressions on their audiences. They may hold their interest for the duration of their speech, but the audience will quickly move on from the experience, absorbing little of what the speaker delivered.
Excellent keynote speakers, on the other hand, deliver memorable and impactful speeches that can completely shift the tone of an event. An excellent keynote can be the catalyst that kicks off a tremendously successful event or the sendoff that wraps up a professional conference with style and value. While a decent keynote speaker may seem like they know what they’re talking about, an excellent keynote speaker naturally positions themselves as an expert on the subject matter at hand. They deliver their speech with confidence and fluidity without stumbling for their words or feebly attempting humorous anecdotes that fall flat. Everything they say has value with little to no filler in the midst of it.
One of the most crucial aspects of being an engaging speaker is being able to keep your audience’s attention. Cognitive scientists say you’ve got about ten minutes before you start to lose the attention of a live audience. If you haven’t grabbed them within those ten minutes, it’s going to be much harder to do as you move forward.
What Strategies Should Be Used When Planning a Keynote Speech?
Perhaps you are preparing to deliver your very first keynote or you have acted as a keynote speaker in the past and want to refine your technique. Whatever your case may be, a few actionable strategies can help you evolve from an acceptable keynote speaker to a distinguished one:
1. Be personable, not prideful. Yes, you secured your place as a keynote speaker at an industry event, and your audience is going to gather to hear what you have to say because of who you are, what you have accomplished, and the brand you represent. These facts should not invite you to stroke your ego more than you provide value to your audience. Keynote speakers that do this are unlikely to headline more events in the future, so check your pride and instead approach your audience in an effort to be relatable.
2. Maintain authenticity. The authentic speaker is a memorable speaker. While you are trying to represent your brand, it’s vital to stay true to your brand’s core values and your personal values as you deliver your keynote. When you are authentic in the delivery of your ideas, your audience will perceive this genuineness and sincerity. This makes it easier to generate shared identification with your audience and encourage them to think about how the information you have to offer aligns with their personal and professional goals.
3. Leverage the power of humor but do so cautiously. Humor used correctly can be a fantastic social lubricant, easing your audience into the meat of your speech and also acting as engaging segues between your main ideas. While you may want to work a joke or funny anecdote or two into your keynote speech, be sure to think about these touches carefully. Misplaced humor can easily sink your entire presentation. If you know your audience and their expectations, you can devise humorous additions to your speech to match their expectations.
4. Set a pace and stick to it. You don’t want your keynote speech to be jam-packed with juicy information in the beginning, fall flat toward the middle, and then hit your audience with more useful tidbits at the end. Your keynote speech should flow like a good story. It should have a clearly defined introduction, supporting ideas with examples, a climax or full analysis of the problem you’re trying to solve or the issue you want to address, and then more supporting information that leads to a satisfying conclusion. Organize the ideas you want to explore in your keynote speech and set a steady pace for delivering them.
5. Don’t forget that you’re marketing your brand. When you take the stage as a keynote speaker, you are automatically representing your brand. Regardless of whether you’re delivering your speech as a speaker for your brand or on your own merits as an individual professional, your keynote speech will undoubtedly impact your sales. It’s your job to make sure it does so positively.
6. Convey energy and enthusiasm about the topic throughout your speech. If you don’t sound excited about what you have to say, it’s unlikely that your audience will feel very excited either. Stay true to your brand image and your values, but don’t fall flat when it comes to your delivery. Strive to be engaging and energetic as you deliver your keynote speech without seeming erratic or too informal.
Delivering a keynote speech can be a great honor for any professional. It’s a prime opportunity to not only position yourself as an authority on the given topic, but also position your brand as a leader in your market.