10 Things Great Keynote Speakers Do (and don't do)
What sets GREAT keynote speakers apart from all the rest? They know what to do, and what not to do.
And they consistently do it extremely well.
If you're looking to hire a speaker for your next event, focus on these telltale signs.
1. Always, always, always begin and end on time.
It can be tempting to wait for everyone to arrive, and there are always participants eager to wrap up early. However, delaying the start is unfair to those who arrived on time and ending early suggests there wasn’t enough content to fill the entire time slot – leaving some left wondering whether they received full value for their time and investment.
2. Never say “Before we get started.” Once a speaker says anything, they’ve begun.
First impressions are everlasting, so great speakers don’t squander their one and only opportunity to make a great one. Imagine going to a concert only to have your favorite artist step up to the mic and announce there is a car in the parking lot with its lights on. It would never happen! That first impression sets the stage for the entire performance.
3. Begin with an entertaining story or unexpected experience.
To gain the interest and attention of the audience, great speakers immediately say or do something interesting. They don’t tell them what they're going to tell them; they just tell them. They catch the audience off guard by jumping right into the good stuff.
4. Don’t just communicate with their audience; they connect with them.
Before a speaker can help an audience learn, their audience must choose to embark on a journey with them. Prior to attempting to fill people’s minds, great speakers seek to touch their hearts. Before asking anyone to focus on what they have to say, great speakers focus on their audience.
5. Talk about the audience, not themselves.
As interesting as a speaker's war stories may be, ultimately it’s not about them - it's about the audience. Great speakers realize that audiences want to know what’s in for them, so they explicitly connect any stories, principles, and lessons they share to situations that matter to their audiences.
6. Involve their audiences by asking questions and taking polls.
What happens when a speaker asks a question? How does it affect people who had tuned out for a moment? Why is that better than a long monologue? By a show of hands, how many of you hate boring keynotes? Me, too!
7. Engage both thinkers and feelers by including both logical and emotional appeals.
Another way great speakers engage each person in the audience is by stimulating both sides of their brains. Rather than focusing on the cognitive or affective domain exclusively, they integrate right-brain and left-brain based learning. They give audience members opportunities to experience, think, reflect, conceptualize, feel, create, and apply.
8. Integrate current events to illustrate the timeliness of their topic.
Relevance and applicability are essential. No one wants outdated solutions to yesterday’s problems. They want to know that concepts, principles, and solutions speakers share from the stage work today. Great speakers share timely examples from trade journals, white papers, news articles, and other current sources.
9. Speak with conviction, not caution. No one wants to listen to a speaker beat around the bush.
Let me be direct here. A speaker cannot influence people to think, feel, or act differently unless they sense the speaker believes what they are saying wholeheartedly. That’s why great speakers communicate with conviction.
10. Are authentic.
Great speakers are always truthful, transparent, and sincere. They walk the talk, and talk about their walk. They open up about challenges they’ve faced and overcome, and show genuine interest and concern for what others are going through.
Your keynote session sets the tone for your entire event. Kick off your conference with a bang by booking a certified, experienced, and energizing speaker. Your audience will thank you!