Guide on the Side - Keys to a KeynoteBy Marie Wallace, Published on July 1, 2001
Many professionals such as yourself enjoy sharing their expertise with audiences. Speaking can be a gratifying adjunct to your vocation and organizations provide ample opportunities to do it. As your reputation grows, you may be asked to deliver a keynote address.
Unless you have been actively seeking a keynote opportunity, the first keynote invitation may come as an overwhelming surprise. Professional speakers addressing large assemblies, such as Comdex, flash through your mind. You ask yourself "Am I in that league? "No" you are not a professional speaker but "yes" at the local level with smaller organizations you have appropriate experience and skills. You are perceived ready for a keynote speech otherwise you would not have been invited. When a keynote invitation comes, accept the ordainment gracefully and begin mastering two keys:
Key 1 - Understand how a keynote address differs from other types of speeches
Key 2 - Learn to profile the audience, occasion and sponsoring organization.
What makes a keynote speech different than other types of presentations?
It is an inspirational speech designed to unify the audience
It sets the mood and tone for an entire event, program or conference
It is an affirmation of the organization and its purposes
It highlights a group's primary interests
It links your passions to those of the assembly
Keynote addresses are a major program responsibility but you have the basic skills and experience from other speaking experiences. You know how to:
Deal with the performance "adrenaline rush"
Organize your content
Connect with an audience
Use vocal and body language to convey meaning along with words
Deal with the unexpected
Asses whether or not to use presentation technology
How do you profile the audience, occasion and sponsoring organization?
All speeches require that you know something about your audience but the keynoter requires in-depth knowledge. It is not enough to know they are all "techies." You need to find out about the program to follow and why these topics are of interest to the audience and organization. If you are a member of the sponsoring organization, this information may be already known to you but make sure what you know is current and complete. More often keynote speakers are invited because they do not belong to the sponsoring organization and have expertise in a related or new field. Some of the things to find out:
Purpose of the organization sponsoring the event
Nature of this particular gathering (inaugural, annual, joint meeting)
Theme of the event
Challenges facing the organization
Knowledge level of the audience on your topic
General point of view on your topic (novice, sophisticated, doubtful, cynical)
Primary issues and concerns
How members plan to use your information
Members' attitudes and values about the program's themes
Speakers who follow you and their topics
Other keynote speakers (following or before you)
How many people are expected to attend
Demographics of the audience (age, gender, geography, occupation, education)
Diversity level of the audience (experience, career level, outlook, cultural origins)
Glean this background information in several ways:
Ask the person who invites you
Arrange to receive pre-event publicity and the registration packet
Study the program brochure
Talk to several people who are representative of the planned audience
Find out the previous keynote speakers for this audience
Read the organization's current publications or web site
Search the net or a newspaper database on the organization and its recent activities
As the final touch, meet and greet people as they arrive
Use this background information in the selection of your main points, stories, humor, questions, examples, illustrations, and vocabulary to connecting with the audience. To set the appropriate mood in your role as keynote speaker, you will want to let the audience know that you share their concerns, values and beliefs. Bond with them emotionally by letting them know you are sympathetic with their problems and the challenges they face.
Tips to keep the keys polished
- Select a topic and use metaphors that carry out the program's theme.
- Keynote speeches are usually 25 or 30 minutes. Know, rehearse and stick to your time limits. Arrange for an inconspicuous method of tracking time during your presentation.
- Write out your introduction and give it to the person introducing you. This insures that the introduction relates to your subject and gives you an opportunity to say things about yourself that are easier said by another person. Rapport can begin with your introduction.
- Your speech must move quickly and be enthusiastic. Begin and end with a zing. Tie in your ending with your opening.
- Use collective terms such as "we" "our" or "us" in phrases like "as we all know..." "our experience has been..." of "this happens to all of us..."
- When you talk about an abstract idea, illustrate it with specific, concrete examples. This can take many forms: personal experience, facts, statistics, anecdotes, or testimonials. Although a keynoter is primarily an inspirational speech you can weave in some practical tips.
- There are a number
of ways to organize your thoughts on and select a cutting edge subject.
Many keynote speakers focus on the future and the topic is cutting edge.
Describe a common problem and offer a solution
Contrast a before and after model
Highlight the difference in outlooks between various professions on the topic
Compare the past and present, and speculate about the future
- Throughout your speech, talk in terms of your audiences interests and values. Define any terms the audience is not likely to know. Although most keynoters do not use overheads or presentation technology, they almost all create vivid word pictures and build lively mental scenarios. If you feel the need to use slides to make a point or illustrate something unique, keep the slides to a minimum and keep them visual in content. Words from your mouth will be far more powerful than any you project on a screen.
- An example of effective use slides would be to show a cartoon illustrating where we all want to be (a resort beach) followed by another illustrating where we are (at sea in the perfect storm). Visual humor or dramatic charts and graphs convey a lot of meaning. If the future is with wearable computing powered by solar energy, you might want to show what the garments look like because chances are no matter how well and long you describe them, no one will get the picture without seeing examples. A final word of caution, when you elect to use electronic visuals, be prepared to carry on if there is equipment failure. If you don't see yourself as being able to switch gears midstream, avoid technology.
- Take notes with you to the podium if you feel you need a security blanket but keep them to a simple one page outline. Know your opening and closing cold so you can deliver them without reference to notes. When your notes are in the form of text, if you need to refer to them, you will have difficulty finding your place and worse yet switch from spoken to the written language. (Guide#47)
- A strategy to obtain an invitation for a keynoter is to start designing speeches that are researched, constructed and delivered like keynoters. Make the primary objective inspirational rather than informational. Program planners will note that you sound like a keynote speaker and think accordingly.