microphone in front of a motivational speaker crowd

Work events happen. Maybe your company has its annual team building retreat, or a favorite organization is hosting a benefit for a charitable cause. Whatever the situation, you have been designated to find that special keynote speaker to spark interest or motivation to the audience. Here are some guidelines to help you in your search for a definitive keynote speaker; one you hope will truly inform, entertain and inspire your audience to action.

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What is the Purpose of a Keynote Speaker?

Usually, when a manager books a keynote speaker for an event, there is an underlying motivation, beyond filling a spot for a speaking engagement or providing basic entertainment. A good keynote speaker serves to bring professionals together under a common company theme, motivating them, while presenting a sense of a networking community.

A thoughtful and experienced keynote speaker can be quite beneficial to a company event. When you provide the speaker with the topic and desired outcome, the result can provide the audience with a sense of ownership and community. Keynote speakers can:

  • Improve employee morale
  • Be a neutral voice on a company topic
  • Reintroduce and reinforce company policies and values

Related: What are the Benefits of a Keynote Speaker?

What are the Traits of a Good Keynote Speaker?

While the reasons you may want to book a keynote speaker are endless, you want the end result to be positive, successful and satisfying for both you and the audience. What exactly are the traits of a good keynote speaker? Here are seven traits that can help you identify a good keynote speaker.

1. Use appropriate, humorous anecdotes

It can be difficult to keep the attention of an audience at the best of times. A good keynote speaker can spice up a speech with real life anecdotes that are relevant and connect to the speech’s message. Well-placed humor, sprinkled lightly throughout the content, is well-received if presented tastefully.

2. Stay true to the nature of the speech

A good keynote speaker will not deviate from the message. Sometimes speakers will slip in shameless self-promotion of their products or availability. A professional, reliable speaker would not feel the need to give in to that temptation. Their delivery is testament enough of his or her vocation.

3. Keep the audience in mind

When delivering the speech, does the speaker convey the message in such a way as to elicit a response from the audience? Does the keynote speaker end the speech leaving the audience with thoughts to ponder? Does it motivate them in such a way as to answer the call to action appropriately?

4. Limit the use of props

The most effective key-note speakers follow the KISS principle. That is, they keep the content and supporting visuals as simple as possible. Nothing kills a presentation more than having a power point presentation of 30 slides accompany a 30-minute speech. Maybe 10 slides would have been better, with the speaking part only 20 minutes.

5. Make valid, real life connections

No one wants to hear boring, statistical redundancies in a presentation. The key-note speaker should research the intended audience and have the appropriate experience or credentials to weave in real life stories within the speech’s main body. If possible, these should come from within the company’s own staff or networking community. This would provide familiarity and promote ownership.

6. Keep moving along with appropriate pacing

A good keynote speaker should present a copy of the speech for you to review. Note the pacing of the story. When delivering the speech, the speaker will know when to pause appropriately and when to ‘speed it up’ based on audience reaction.

7. Deliver the goods with a call to action

The main reason a key-note speaker delivers a speech is to prompt the audience into responding to the message’s call to action. What that call to action looks like should be determined by you and the keynote speaker before the speech has been finalized. 

It could be something as simple as participating in a Q and A segment of the presentation, whether during or post. Or, it might include participating in a company survey. It all depends on when and how the key-note speaker elicits an emotive response.

What Makes a Good Keynote Presentation?

A good keynote speaker is only as good as their speech. With so many types of speeches, what separates the good content from the ineffective? Here are some ideas to consider.

The audience is taken along on a journey

Nothing bores an audience more than a bunch of statistics. To be taken on a journey means one must have an identifiable beginning, middle and end, much like a story. Words should flow, not only with the pertinent message, but should also strike a chord within the audience.

Begin with the ending in mind

It has been said that a good story is one that if you start reading the first sentence of the first page and next read the last sentence of the final paragraph, and it makes sense, it is a well drafted tale. Much can be said the same of a speech.

 A well drafted speech should begin and end with a call to action. If presented with humor and feeling, the audience will make a connection and become motivated enough to follow through.

Make the speech available on multiple platforms

 Just as there are diverse learners with multiple learning styles, the presentation should be available on multiple platforms. Some of the various venues include webinar video and audio recordings, .pdf files, flip look-book with powerpoint slides, and downloadable formats to smartphones and android devices.

How Long Should a Keynote Speech Be?

Keynote speakers will be allotted a specific amount of time in which to give their presentation. Too long, and the presenter runs the risk of losing the audience. Too short, and the audience may not find value or relevance in the content. So where is the happy medium?

Thirty minutes from first word to last action. Let the first 5 minutes be a warm up and an ice breaker. The total time for the speaking part of the speech should be no more than 20 minutes. The last 5 minutes should anchor the message and deliver a satisfying conclusion.

Keynote speakers are as numerous as sand on a beach. Good keynote speakers understand the message you want to impart, stay on topic and do their best to deliver relevant, thoughtful and emotive content. In short, a good, effective keynote speaker delivers the goods.

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