What Makes a Great Keynote?

What should organizations look for in a Keynote Speaker? As a frequent conference presenter, I am always looking for ways to distinguish myself from my peers, especially as a concurrent presenter looking to continue to progress to keynote sessions. We have identified five qualities keynote speakers must have in order to be successful:

  • High-Energy – Keynotes usually kick off a conference or end a conference; in these time slots, you need a presenter that energizes the entire group and gets them excited about what’s to come or what has been heard. It has to have a fun, invigorating feel and make the audience leave excited and enlightened.
  • Entertaining – Keynotes must be extremely entertaining and fun and excite and energize the room and all attendees. They must connect the audience with the overall message.
  • Engaging – Keynotes have to engage the audience and converse with them, not to them. Get them involved in the conversation, make them emotionally connect to the message. The more engaging, the more the audience will feel the message and connect with each person on a personal level.
  • Message/Material must applies to EVERYONE in an Audience: Keynotes have to be able to connect with everyone in the audience and must a message that is universal.
  • Unique – Finally, a very important trait that is usually not pointed out is the uniqueness of the presenter. Keynotes need to differentiate themselves from the pack; it might be as simple as a different way to think or that they dress differently or do not use a microphone or podium…whatever the trait, it needs to stick out and be remembered.

A few months back, I had the great pleasure of attending a fundraiser that ex-Chief of Dallas Police David Brown spoke. I assumed he would connect the audience with the attacks on Dallas in July 2016 and how he graciously handled these events. I was completely surprised when this was never mentioned and he told a wonderful story from his youth and connected the whole room with his message. It was a truly excellent presentation and his speech exemplified all of the qualities outlined above. What else is necessary to make a great keynote presentation?

Do Speakers Need Introductory Slides?

I saw a comment on Linkedin that questioned a speaker’s need to have introductory slides when kicking off a presentation. A speaker that I know and respect greatly stated that introductory slides are pointless; people know who you are and why you are there and they are unnecessary and a waste of time. Do you agree?

My opinion differs greatly from my fellow speaker and friend, possibly because I am one who utilizes introductory slides. My initial thought is who actually reads through the speaker background prior to a training/speaker session? I know a have certain attendees that attend my courses because they enjoy my presentation style. On the other hand, I think many attendees sign up based on subject matter and if it is a speaker they know and like, even better.

Based on that assumption, I find that introductory slides are necessary but maybe not for the reason that you think. Yes they are to help establish creditability. On the other hand, creditability, in many respects, is inherent in being up on the stage. I believe the introductory slides are to set the mood or tone for the day. I tend to take a very light-hearted approach to most if not all subject matters. I use the intro slides to talk about myself but definitely outline my background with some self-deprecating humor. I also like to be flexible with the subject matter at hand and begin dialogue with attendees on what they are looking to learn from the class. It does serve that main purpose but also gets everyone in the class talking and more importantly, comfortable with a high level of interaction.

Now, here is where introductory slides tend to go awry: when speakers use them as a straight sales pitch. That is when a speaker can lose attendees in the first five minutes of the day.

In summary, speakers should use introductory slides for the following purposes:

  • Establish creditability (to a small extent)
  • Establish the mood for the class
  • Gain the attendees’ comfort and get them to relax
  • Force interaction by attendees

What are your thoughts? Yay or Nay on Speaker introductory slides?

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