Last Updated on July 10, 2022
I’m not all that surprised so many people try to avoid public speaking. It’s absolutely terrifying, and probably one of the most difficult things most people are ever going to do. Particularly if you’re speaking at a conference in front of hundreds of audience members, making a presentation of any sort can easily be both exhilarating and frightening beyond all belief.
Of course, as an event management professional, you should already have a pretty good grip on public speaking. You are, after all, a natural storyteller; your job is to keep the audience engaged with personality as much as words. In a sense, that’s not really so different from what a keynote speaker does – they’re just using slightly different tools, and potentially marketing their message in a slightly different environment.
Not surprisingly, this means the components of a good keynote presentation share a lot in common with those of a decent event marketing campaign. Bells and whistles like slides, videos, and demos are actually secondary.
Entertainment and Engagement
This is probably the most important, most inarguably vital element of any keynote presentation. A good speaker knows how to keep the audience engaged; they know how to engage the people they’re talking to. If a keynote isn’t inspiring the audience’s rapt attention, then something’s definitely gone wrong.
Often, what makes the difference between a great keynote and a painfully boring one is the speaker. Do they display human vulnerability while still remaining confident? Do they demonstrate charisma and knowledge? Do they talk to the audience instead of at them? Do they tell personal stories and anecdotes? Generally, you’ll be able to tell within the first few minutes of a presentation if a speaker knows what they’re doing.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever seen regarding presentations is that they are essentially spectator sports. Think about how sports fans engage with their games, and go from there.
It’s not enough for a keynote to simply be entertaining and engaging, of course. A keynote needs to offer something of value to the audience; it needs to teach them something they didn’t know before attending. A good presenter thus knows their audience, and knows what they expect of their presentation. They understand that, unless they offer a few takeaways (and a few things for the audience to talk about after the fact), they simply aren’t doing their job.
Now, even if a speaker is the most charismatic and engaging individual in the world, with a whole laundry list of awesome insights for their presentation, none of this will matter if the whole thing is just a jumbled mess. As a general rule, what a lot of speakers do is plot out the main points they want to make; then divide them into equal segments based on length. Next, they should divide those segments into segments and so on. By doing this, they can examine each individual take-away, and arrange them however they see fit.
That said; it’s also important to make sure to leave the best for last – leave the audience thinking.
A good presentation doesn’t repeat itself, nor does it hit the audience with fact after fact after fact. While a bit of repetition can be used to great effect as a narrative tool, a keynote which overdoes it is pretty much guaranteed to put an audience to sleep. As the old cliché goes, “variety is the spice of life”—it’s also an important component of a good keynote speech.
Last, but certainly not least, a good presentation needs to have a natural sort of ‘flow’ to it. Good presenters don’t waste time explaining themselves, and they always say just a little bit less than they think they need to. A properly-constructed presentation should feel like a story, with the beginning, middle, and end working together to drive home the main point.
Public speaking is intimidating. For many people, it’s actually their greatest fear. At the end of the day, though? It’s really not so difficult. If you know how to tell a story, you’re already halfway towards being a great speaker – and offering a great keynote.
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