A great keynote speaker will always aim to leave a lasting impression and their speech or address should be considered a standout fixture in any events programme. The role of the keynote speaker is to open minds and, to quote communications expert Dr. Nick Morgan, “to tell the audience something it doesn’t know or hasn’t thought about in precisely that way”. Booking a keynote speaker for an event can therefore be a time-consuming process as there are a variety of factors to consider when selecting someone who can set the tone for your event and provide real value. So, to make the decision process a little easier, we’ve decided to outline five attributes every valuable keynote speaker should possess.
More than just a speaker
If you conduct thorough research and clearly outline your needs and requirements before you book, sometimes you will find that the best keynote speakers can offer more than just delivering a speech. Although some speakers may be reluctant to work beyond their initial remit, it is always worth checking to see if you can further utilise the speaker’s skills and expertise and add more value to your event programme. So whether it’s holding a Q&A session on social media, hosting a workshop, attending a networking event or providing exclusive interviews or blog posts for the website, a great keynote speaker can really get involved with your event and give your attendees more than just an inspiring keynote address.
Keep it simple
Great keynote speakers should be versatile and should be able to adapt their speeches to any audience or setting regardless of the industry or occasion. A keynote speech should set the tone for the rest of the event, without getting into the finer details. Steering away from narrow specialist subjects and overly technical jargon, an effective and engaging keynote speech should focus on the overarching theme of an event and should avoid dumping too much information on the audience. In her recent interview with Speakers Corner, scientist and keynote speaker Melissa Sterry stated that “wherever and whenever possible I use layman’s terms. However, as and when the use of a scientific or technical term is apt I always give a brief explanation by means of ensuring everyone is able to keep abreast of the topic to hand”. The most important attributes of a keynote speech are therefore accessibility and simplicity.
Delivery is key
A keynote speaker’s delivery, in terms of style, tempo and energy, is an intrinsic element to the whole event and a skill in its own right that is bizarrely often overlooked. Finding a keynote speaker with honed public speaking skills and natural flair is therefore pivotal to the success of a busy events programme. The speaker should understand the flow, mood and purpose of the event and should be able to adapt their levels of energy and emotion accordingly. Audiences will also warm to keynote speakers who are personable and human, who admit their vulnerabilities and inject humour into their speeches.
The art of Storytelling
Being a compelling storyteller often comes with experience and is a valuable skill for any aspiring keynote speaker. An audience will often find it hard to retain facts and statistics and many will argue that our brains are far more adept at memorising narratives instead. A successful keynote speaker will therefore use anecdotes and stories to convey important messages in entertaining and memorable ways and will often lean on personal experiences to inspire listeners.
Most keynote speakers are likely to be well-known figures in their field and are usually elected to raise the profile of an event with their stature and expertise. However, there is a danger that the speaker could attempt to use the stage as a tool for self-promotion. Keep in mind that the keynote speech should promote only your agenda and stick to the key messages of the day. Audiences can usually tell when they are being given a sales pitch and sometimes this can greatly devalue their experience. Although you shouldn’t shy away from someone who promotes their own accomplishments, a good keynote speaker will always understand the event’s core messages and should always stick to the brief they are given.
By Nick Gold, MD of Speakers Corner