How to craft a keynote speech for the digital age

Close-up of five microphones on stands with an abstract back

© Tweeter Linder 2016 – All rights reserved. Photo by iStock

Writing and delivering a key note speech is an exciting and well known art. This art is developing. A key note speech today both need to reach the audience in the ballroom and a digital audience. Often relayed by the audience in the room and at the venue. We will here explore 5 simple steps to enable the creation of a great speech. An approach building from a top level story line your drill down from in steps.

Collections of old slides don’t generate new stories

Most organizations have a large library of visuals to support external engagements. When crafting a key-note speech it is tempting to build from a combination of different visuals. Attempting to build new stories from existing parts.

This might work for standard engagements.  But a key note presentation need to bring out a new and better story than anything you as a speaker have talked about in the past. And to come across to both a physical and a digital audience.

Building a key note from existing building blocks from a variety of sources put the story line under stress. You can end up in a syndrome I label the “Snow-white and the little red riding hood”. A mix of loosely coupled elements without a red thread across your story.

Start by building a clear storyboard

The first step is about laying out a story line with all elements defining the story. Focus is on finding a natural flow and logical sequence of talking points. The critical resource is the trusted “speech writer” supporting the speaker with preparations.

Best done with blank presentation. Where you start to articulate the main message as the headline in each slide.

Target 3-5 minutes per talking point. A key note presentation become more powerful with few talking points and clear messages around them.

Script the key messages to get across

The second step is to script the messages to get across for each talking point. Aspire to articulate 3-5 messages per talking point.

Write down the questions you are expecting, with scripted answers, as well as questions you want to plant in the audience. The purpose of scripting your key note in detail is to secure the initial delivery. And also to secure your story can be retold by others in your company. A great keynote speech continues to propagate long after the light is off in the room.

Articulate powerful one-liners to make your messages stick

When delivering key notes in the digital age you need to have strong one-liners in your presentation. One-liners that audience remember. One-liners that are so go the present listeners find it worthwhile to tweet them as you speak.

This is perhaps the biggest differentiator between a great and a good speech. A great 30-minute keynote can generate 10-20 unique one-liner tweets.  Your audience in the room are easy to trigger with well scripted sentences.

Create visuals supporting the messages you deliver

Hold of the visual creation until late in the process. Stick to the headlines form your story board. Keep a consistent visual language through the presentation. Avoid mixing two formats from different geographical origin.

The demand in the digital age requires both that the audience get a great experience and that the visuals are tweetable. Anyone seeing your visuals on a mobile phone should get the full blown experience like what the audience in the room get.

Plan to have one in your team live tweeting your visuals as you toggle from the stage.

Scrub your visuals down to numbers and visual cues

Even at this stage you are likely to have complete sentences on your slides. Consider scrubbing your slides down to essential numbers and triggers to your talking points.

The human brain process visuals 60 000 times faster than text. You want the visual message and the numbers on your visuals to dominate. This is a great recipe for getting the audience in the room to listen to what you have to say. Visuals with simple number messages are great for social channels when accompanied with a sentence or two.

Leverage the power of questions to and from the audience

There are three parts to your message, what you say, what you show and how you interact with questions. As you prepare your presentations you have an opportunity to leverage the dry-runs. Aspire to capture questions to expect and questions to ask.

You want to reserve time at the end to answer questions from the audience and or plant questions you can respond to. A great closing off step as you have the main messages behind you on stage.

Questions to ask yourself and your team

  1. Who is my trusted speech writer to pull it all together – all senior frequent key note speakers need one of these.
  2. What is the material we start building from – the effort is different when deviations from previous gigs is small.
  3. Does the audience require a different story line that your standard game – you want to connect will with your audience with words and terminology they are familiar with.
  4. What graphical language should we use for our visuals – most larger organizations have multiple formats in play.
  5. Who in our team is best at articulating one-liners that stick – think article headlines and similar.
  6. Do I leave enough behind to secure my key-note can be re-told – aim to support tour organization to deliver the essence based on your visuals and notes.

Additional reading suggestions

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