Experts share their best tips for writing a great keynote speech.
Question: What is your best tip for writing a great, memorable keynote-type speech (think TED) that really moves the audience?
“The best way to really motivate an audience is to connect with them, and the best way to connect with an audience is by not reading a printed piece of paper verbatim. It’s the extemporaneousness that will really get them. Through my company, I get to speak to a lot of larger groups of high school students and their parents, and I always go in with a very detailed outline, but no sentences!”
— Jessica Brondo | Founder & CEO, Admitted.ly
“I’m not all that funny, nor am I really a storyteller, so I focus on providing insightful information — which makes you think people may not come away ‘moved,’ but at least it’s memorable. I use the Fact-Example-Fact method. Get an interesting fact, illustrate that fact with an actionable example, and restate the fact another way. Put three of these chains together, and you’re set.”
— Liam Martin | Co-founder, Staff.com
“I think sharing vulnerability is one of the most important and powerful parts of leadership. It has to be genuine — and that’s what makes it such an emotional, personal, effective speaking tool. Everyone has vulnerabilities, and everyone has weaknesses — what are yours?”
— Derek Flanzraich | CEO and founder, Greatist
“I wouldn’t hire a copywriter to write a full speech at this point because it’s a process I enjoy but I think hiring a copywriter to polish your key points is money well spent. I think the most value a copywriter can bring is to make sure you have sound bites and tweetables that people will want to share with their audiences.”
— Natalie MacNeil| Emmy award winning media entrepreneur, She Takes on the World
“Owning a speakers bureau, I listen to and give a lot of presentations a year. The most important book that I have read on the subject is ‘Made to Stick’ by Chip & Dan Heath. Basically, you consolidate all of your points into a core message of one to two sentences. Then you use the SUCCES (Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories) to build out your message in an engaging way.”
— Lawrence Watkins | Founder & CEO, Great Black Speakers
“Combine climaxes with humor. I talk about starting my first company at 14. I needed a loan to buy a computer; after discussing the challenges I say, ‘I went home and, finally, founded my first business.’ After the applause I follow with, ‘I called it Apache Ax Cybernetic Enterprises Limited.’ Because the audience was emotionally attached, they laugh out loud when they hear the company’s name.”
— Alexander Torrenegra | Co-founder, VoiceBunny
“I’ve given a TEDx talk and delivered 100-plus keynote speeches. The most important thing for writing a great, memorable speech that moves the audience is to make sure that your message is understood by the audience. An audience can’t move if it doesn’t understand where to move to. In my experience, there’s no better tip than, ‘Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, and tell ‘em what you said.’”
— Brett Farmiloe | Employee 01: digital marketing auditor, Internet Marketing Company
“Any conversation with an audience has to keep their attention. I start by having new music playing when they come into the room — it sets the vibe. Then, I continue using different mediums throughout the conversation: video, voice, podcast clips, art, imagery/photography, etc. Making a point multiple times, in multiple ways, keeps the audience engaged and drives home the lesson. ”
— Susan Strayer LaMotte | Founder & principal consultant, exaqueo
“These days, almost every talk will be accompanied by some sort of visual slide deck. To instantly differentiate yourself from the herd, banish all words from your presentation (seriously). People think in pictures; use that to your advantage. Fill the screen with a compelling and beautiful image that deepens the point you’re making, and people will focus on what you’re saying, instead of reading.”
— Josh Allan Dykstra | Principal, Strengths Doctors
“The best speeches capture soundbites that your audience can write down, recall and share quickly — and today most audiences are sharing those soundbites in real time as you speak. So make it easy on them and write their tweets for them, and even consider putting this on your slides. Think in soundbites and make it easy for your audience to consume your speech. ”
— Eric Koester | Co-founder/COO, DCI
“Look at a couple of speeches by people that you know are great speakers, like Arel Moodie or Rishi Shah. These examples can provide you with the inspiration to write something epic. Also, remember to tell a story. Even if you’re presenting on something educational, you can transform it into a story to engage the audience. ”
— John Hall | CEO, Influence & Co.
“Think, ‘What does the audience want to hear from me? What can I provide that is of value to them?’ When you learn to speak in terms of the wants and needs of your audience, you will become an effective, persuasive speaker.”
— Richard Lorenzen | CEO, Fifth Avenue Brands
“You have to realize that within 30 seconds, 35 percent of the people have decided they don’t like you. You need a really good 30-second opener to grab their attention. Don’t overburden it with too many slides or words. Weave in personal stories and a sense of humor (if you have one), and be engaging. My primary purpose in public speaking is to motivate, so I come out strong and have a lot of fun!”
— Adam DeGraide | CEO and founder, Astonish
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