Top Tips When Making Your First Keynote Speech
The keynote speech is one of the most pivotal addresses an event venue will hear during a conference, major meeting, release event or convention.
The reason for this is that the keynote will establish the central theme or themes that will be expanded upon in other speeches and presentations throughout the day.
They are often the most cited, quoted and referred to speech of an entire event, and so an excellent keynote speech can help to boost enthusiasm, engagement and excitement about a particular brand or company.
Being asked to deliver a keynote speech is therefore not only a considerable achievement and reflection of the belief in your ability, but it also comes with a major responsibility to take a receptive audience and make them excited about everything you talk about.
Here are some top tips when writing your first speech and some examples of how great keynote speeches in the past have got this right and also got it wrong.
Start With The End
All great speeches have a purpose and an ultimate goal, and the best way to write a brilliant keynote is to start with your call to action, your central conclusion or thesis statement and work your way backwards to build up your audience’s excitement and engagement.
That excitement will not necessarily build up linearly, so make sure to provide context, humour and variety to the speech.
Exactly what this end will be will depend on the type of speech you are giving, but can be a revelation of a new product, service, business strategy or major change to the business.
Arguably the master of this was the late Steve Jobs, a man so well known for his “stevenotes” whilst he was the head of Apple Computers that he could affect share prices with a single speech.
One of his best tricks was to feign leaving the stage and then turn and say “but there’s just one more thing” and end the speech with a surprise announcement or another new product reveal.
Know Your Audience
Keynotes need to be shaped around the audience, their expectations and desires, as their excitement and ovation is critical to making a speech great.
Understand their relative knowledge of your products and industry, what topics are of major importance to them and which talking points and snippets of information will get them highly excited.
One of the biggest examples of this going wrong for a company was the reveal of the mobile phone game Diablo Immortal at the end of the keynote speech that opened Blizzcon 2018.
Blizzcon, a convention for fans of the company best known for World of Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft, was primarily populated by an audience not traditionally receptive to mobile phone games.
What made it worse was the response to a closing question, which seemed to misunderstand why the audience was unhappy with the announcement.
Had the game not been the centrepiece of the speech, it would have generated far less criticism.
Mix It Up
The best speeches take their audience on a journey through different ideas, stories, historical analogues, meaningful statistics and visual aids, and the way to capture and keep your audience is to take full advantage of the variety a keynote allows.
A great way to start is with a bold, big question to highlight and signpost a central theme or idea.
Video game designer and visionary Peter Molyneux perhaps had some of the best examples of this, asking whether they could create a virtual character people would think was truly alive, or whether people have truly made interactive games.
These provocative questions stick in an audience’s mind as the speech continues, slowly building towards the conclusion, which not only reveals a new product but also a glimpse at the future of an industry.
Regardless of whether the reality ultimately matched that fleeting glimpse, the speeches were powerful, filled with different analogies, metaphors, personal and historical context and video and audio content.