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Making Your Keynote Count: Tips for Boosting Attention and Retention

May 17, 2018 | Uncategorized

"It's the season of giving everything" presentation at Budweiser Bud World 2016.

The keynote speech has been around for decades, and although it has evolved over the years, it’s not going anywhere any time soon. That’s good news for event marketers with something to say. But delivering a keynote is no easy task. It’s an honor to be chosen, so you need to be at your absolute best. To get started, take a look at the following strategies for making your keynote count.

First and foremost, make it visual. You can’t expect to keep attendees engaged if all you offer is plain text to accompany your speech. Some experts say up to three-quarters of your time should be spent offering graphics, sound bites and shareable quotes. Leveraging dynamic presentation elements is half the battle when it comes to retaining the audience’s attention, so providing a visually appealing keynote is essential.

Of course, the audience you’ll be speaking to has a huge impact on how successful your keynote speech will be. To that end, consider warming up attendees before you hit the stage—there’s nothing worse than looking down to see a room full of blank stares. Humor is one way to do it. If you can get the audience laughing, you’ve already begun to build a connection. Sharing quick anecdotes or lightly poking fun at yourself are great options for loosening up attendees before getting down to business.

As every modern public speaker knows, storytelling is also an important part of delivering a speech. In fact, telling a story is recommended within the first two to five minutes of a keynote. Stories not only help attendees draw parallels to their own lives, but often serve as sources of inspiration, helping to foster that ever-important emotional connection between the audience and the speaker. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be personal. Storytelling can be as simple as drawing a comparison between something familiar and unfamiliar to help frame the rest of the discussion. It’s a strategy Ford president and ceo Mark Fields’ relied upon while delivering his first CES keynote as the new head of the company.

In the age of the TED talk, keeping keynotes short and sweet is another way to ensure an impactful speech. The 10/20/30 rule is one way to keep things concise. This method, popularized by marketing specialist Guy Kawasaki, argues that PowerPoint presentations should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes and contain no font smaller than 30 points. Providing shareable posts will also help you cut down on time. Modern attendees are already Tweeting and Instagramming live events anyway, so why not offer shareable sound bites to help extend the reach of your message to their followers?

And finally, don’t forget to get a little personal. Your audience will have an easier time understanding your message if they know where you’re coming from. That means it’s OK to share a personal story with the audience, but more importantly, it means it’s OK to be yourself. Attendees love getting to know their presenters on a more intimate level, and being “real” with people lends authenticity to your presentation as a whole. Just make sure your personal stories have a relevant connection to the overall theme.

The length of the keynote speech is shrinking, but its impact doesn’t have to. If you know your audience and have confidence in your expertise, the sky’s the limit. And if all else fails, just picture attendees in their underwear.


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Posted by Kristy Elisano | Request as a Speaker

Caffeine dependent Jersey girl. Northeast powder hound. Inspired by creative risk takers and underdogs. VP Marketing, Doodle owner and cocreator of my daughter.

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