Activate Your Audience

How to Make Dry Keynotes More Engaging

You don’t have to be an Oprah or Tony Robbins to deliver magnetic and engaging keynotes that will captivate your audience and drive home your message.

Regardless of your industry, nothing will alienate an audience and make people tune out quite like a dry, dull, uninspiring speech. 

The good news is that you don’t have to be an Oprah or Tony Robbins to deliver magnetic and engaging keynotes that will captivate your audience and drive home your message long after the speech has been delivered.

Characteristics of Great Public Speakers

Even if you work in a conservative or traditional field, a keynote address is an opportunity to inspire and engage the audience in a way that will build a lasting connection to your company or brand. 

But in order to do so, both the content and the presentation must deliver value and engage and entertain an audience — think more Ted Talk and less lecture or a live version of an investor meeting or earnings call. 

What makes a good public speaker? 

While some may be born, the reality is that most are made. Here are a few key characteristics of great public speakers and speeches:

  • Grab their attention with a strong opening like an interesting anecdote or a compelling origin story
  • Work on your body language — a stiff speaker will ultimately deliver a stiff speech
  • Don’t be afraid to pause for effect
  • Don’t hide behind jargon or the language itself — use emotion and passion to convey authenticity
  • Work on your cadence
  • Be confident — even if you have to fake it
  • Treat the speech like a conversation with the audience

Great! So now that you know what makes a great public speaker, how can you translate that to your own organization and events? 

Here are a few pointers to make sure that every keynote and public address is a hit, as well as a personal endorsement and recommendation of your leadership and brand.

Activate Your Audience

Your keynote may consist of numbers, facts, and an avalanche of data, but if you want the audience to tune in for more than the first five seconds, let alone the duration of the speech, you’ll have to peak their interest right away. 

Trying capturing their attention right away with an interesting and unexpected fact or anecdote that will build suspense and set up the premise of the keynote.

Gain — and Keep — Their Attention

The best way to activate an audience and keep them listening is through the good old fashioned art of storytelling. 

Even if your content is fairly dry, a good story is the best way to get your message across and to allow it to take on a life of its own in the audience’s imagination.

The Art of the Aha

Your company or brand’s story and products may already be well known, but a good keynote is a chance to take the audience on a journey behind the curtain to reveal something new and unexpected that will humanize and allow them to connect to your brand. 

Everyone knew practically all there was to know about Steve Jobs and the origins of Apple when he gave his now legendary commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, but unexpected revelations like the fact that a random calligraphy class planted the seeds for what would later become Apple’s iconic aesthetic is what one would call an aha. 

Find yours and use it.

Say Something Funny

Depending on your industry, humor can be tricky. Rather than forcing jokes or making awkward attempts at being funny out of context, find ways to convey a little humor as it relates to a problem or issue that the company has struggled with and overcome. 

Like storytelling, humor is one of the best ways to engage and connect with your audience.

Be Original

Although most successful speeches and presentations have many things in common, a speech should never come across as formulaic or you’ll risk boring and disengaging the audience. 

Try to find a unique spin on your message and your brand that will entertain your listeners and leave a lasting impression long after you have delivered the speech.

Written by

Jonathan Ronzio

Experience Chaser, Writer, Speaker

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