Imagine, you have just been invited to present a keynote speech for a renowned organization. Soon, you will have the humbling and joyous opportunity to deliver your message on stage in front of a crowd of expectant ears.

Are you feeling nervous yet?

It is natural to feel trepidation when you are asked to deliver a keynote speech, and the best way to overcome your fears is not simply to conquer stage fright but to spend time preparing. In this blog, I want to share with you my recommendations for preparing a keynote speech.

Know your audience

Take a moment to consider your audience. Who are they? What kind of presentations will they respond best to?

I can categorize an audience into 4 different personalities.

  1. Respond well to story-telling and visuals. They want you to personalize your message and be creative in the approach of delivery.

  2. Focused on the human engagement. Individuals who emphasize positive changes a speech can bring to other people and communities.

  3. Concerned with numbers, statistics, and logic. These types crave  facts and statistics that support your points.

  4. Want to learn the process. Those who search for the logical steps did you took to arrive at your conclusion.

For example, a presentation directed toward HR professionals may involve more of a stories about employee engagement while a presentation for CPA’s would focus more on statistics. In most presentations, you will have an audience with varied personalities. Understanding the individuals you are speaking to will help you shape your keynote accordingly.

Engage your audience from the beginning of the presentation

You can open with a story, a quote, statistics, or even a joke. Starting with a story is most effective for me. People love to hear the twists and turns our journeys take us on, and they want to connect with our challenges and successes. Your speech may work best if you hook your audience with your sense of humor or with a serious commitment to delivering numerical facts. The wonderful thing about keynote speeches is that it is your voice and your personality will shine through.

Define your core message

Knowing the main message of your speech will allow you to give your audience a lesson that they can take home, and you can tie your message in with your opening. You will cover many different talking points in your speech and will present a lot of information. What is the key piece of information that you want to impart on your audience? Give them something to hold on to even if they remember nothing else.

Support your main message with three points

I always maintain that three is a magic number, and three key points is enough to give your message credibility. Any more than three becomes too much for your audience to remember. Each supporting point can comprise of a mini story with a take-away, and it is important that these points are pertinent and hearken back to the main message you wish to deliver.

Invite audience engagement

Whether you are presenting to a group of fifty to a crowd of five thousand, connect with your audience by inviting participation and engagement. If your audience is large, your questions can be as simple as yes or no questions where the audience raises their hand. In some cases, you can even incorporate door prizes. Your audience wants to share their experiences, ask and answer questions, and ultimately connect with you, the speaker!

Link your conclusion back to the beginning

It is so important to reach a destination, but a conclusion becomes even more powerful when you link it back to your initial story and “complete the circle.” This technique of “completing the circle” compels your audience to reflect on the entirety of the journey, and link it to their lives.

Go with the flow!

More specifically, don’t feel pressured to memorize your entire speech word-for-word. This is a huge part of knowing your audience. If you present a memorized speech, it becomes quite apparent. People want to connect with you, and that means seeing your genuine, real-time facial expressions and feeling the flow of your speaking as opposed to mechanical memorization. I recommend creating a short outline and bringing it to your speaking engagement so that you can have it on hand for quick reference.

Giving a keynote is an exciting but nerve-wracking affair. With the right preparation, you will find your rhythm and deliver speeches that your audience members will be sure to remember.


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