When Walter Bond speaks, his audience listens. Bond has become a highly successful and influential keynote speaker, having spoken more than 2,000 times to business organizations across the country.
A quick look at one of his speeches will show you why he’s in demand. Even if you’ve never heard of him before, you can instantly understand his compelling message. From the sweat dripping off his face to the conviction in his voice, audiences can feel his passion. They connect with his story of a young athlete fighting for excellence and eventually becoming an NBA player. They feel motivated to better their own lives, follow his advice, and obtain peak performance. Few will say they leave his keynote speech feeling uninspired or unchanged.
Walter Bond does what a keynote speaker should—he challenges and drives people to transform. He possesses the qualities and substance that lead some of the most successful businesses and industries in the world to want him to address their leaders and workers. If you’ve ever wanted to become a keynote speaker, you will need to learn many of the same qualities. Without them, you won’t be able to drive impact, inspire change, or even keep the audience’s attention.
In this article, learn:
- What a keynote speaker does
- The qualities you can develop to become a talented keynote speaker
- And how to be hired as one
What is a Keynote Speaker?
The keynote speaker is the person who presents the most important talk or discussion at an event or conference. They are essentially the highlight of the event. Keynote speakers are often people who are revered as industry experts. As such, they don’t always speak professionally as their sole source of income. Most importantly, a keynote speaker is someone the audience wants to hear. That means they’re usually successful business leaders, celebrities, professional motivational speakers, or someone with a high level of prestige.
A keynote speaker will be the one to give the keynote address or keynote speech at an event. This speech is meant to tie up the themes and messages of the entire event and leave the audience with the key takeaways from everything they have learned. In essence, a keynote speech captures the heart of what the event was about. An equally important part of a keynote address is to provide the audience with a call to action, inviting attendees to act now on all the information they’ve received.
How to Become a Great Keynote Speaker
An excellent keynote speaker doesn’t become so overnight. It takes preparation, experience, and unique insight to stand out from the crowd. If you’ve ever wanted to become a keynote speaker, start by learning the following steps. Some of these steps may also apply if you’re looking for an effective keynote speaker for your event.
1. Get Clear on Expectations
Confidence is always in direct proportion to preparation!Daren Martin
To become a great keynote speaker, you must first start by getting clear on what the event organizers expect from you. That means meeting with them well before the event to discuss what the event is, who is attending, how long they want you to speak, and any other information that will help you. If you don’t receive a briefing from the organizers, you’ll need to ask for one.
This information will help you craft a keynote speech that resonates with the audience while staying true to the event’s theme. Whether it’s setting new ambitious goals or achieving improved employee engagement, you’ll know how best to proceed.
Outside of meeting with the organizers, look up more information about the event to discover what it means to the attendees. At the same time, become familiar with the schedule of speakers and their topics. In this way, you’ll be able to tie everything together without directly repeating anything someone else says.
2. Know Your Audience
Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: To Whom It May Concern.Ken Haemer
Every keynote speaker must tailor their message to their audience. When you don’t have a specific audience in mind, you end up with a message that fails to resonate. Your audience will tune you out because what you’re saying doesn’t speak directly to them. To better know your audience, you need to get inside their minds. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What pain points do they have?
- What do they want to hear?
- Are they experiencing setbacks in their life right now?
- What do they want to learn more about?
- How do they want to feel walking away at the end of the day?
- What do they care about?
- What would be meaningful to them?
- How can you make their life better with this speech?
Answering these questions helps you craft your keynote address in not only substance by style. You’ll be able to select the right tone that works best for the audience. You’ll know which story will help you connect with them. Becoming familiar with your audience will also help you relate to them, providing them with clear examples that can change their lives.
3. Take Time to Research the Event
The best research you can do is talk to people.Terry Pratchett
Researching the event is a must for every keynote speaker. If you don’t, you’ll appear unprepared, making it seem like you’re giving a poorly crafted impromptu speech. Instead, find out as much as you can by looking at previous events. For example, you should look up hashtags of the prior year’s event on social media. See what people said about it. Note what they liked and what they felt could be better. Most of all, find out which speeches stuck with them the most.
In addition to reaching out to the organizers, you can integrate yourself even more into the event. That would mean showing your collaboration skills by attending meetings with the organizers to gain a better understanding of the event. Interview the organizers to ask them how to drive the most impact with your speech.
You can also reach out to previous attendees directly. Talk to them about their experiences and their main takeaways from earlier events. Find out if they feel something was missing when they last attended. Get their thoughts on how their lives changed. Chances are the previous attendees will be back, so talking with them will help you connect with your potential audience and create a speech that will help them.
4. Choose a Story That Drives the Speech
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.Robert McKee
One of the main things people will remember from a keynote speaker is the stories they tell. A story is your way of emotionally connecting with the audience. You can share the hardships, challenges, setbacks, and successes you’ve experienced in your life.
When telling a story, keep the following in mind:
- Go into detail.
- Speak from the heart.
- Don’t be afraid to show emotion.
- Paint a picture with your words. Help the audience visualize what you’re sharing.
- Show how you overcame challenges.
- Make the story about the audience as much as it is about you.
The goal of a keynote speaker’s story is for people to see themselves in it. Yes, you might technically be talking about yourself, but the real story is about the people out in the audience. In your story, the audience is the hero. This will motivate them to take action and create positive changes in their lives. Go back and listen to the speech from Walter Bond. Note how many of these suggestions he uses. In the end, he relates his story to his audience and motivates them to be better.
For more advice and helpful tips, learn more about how to tell a story.
5. Be Quotable
The first time you say something, it’s heard; the second time, it’s recognized; the third time, it’s learned.John Maxwell
Another item people will take from a keynote speaker’s address is the memorable quotes with profound meaning. These are the words and phrases people will hold onto, write down, and revisit from time to time. As you write your speech, can you see certain phrases standing out? Those just might be the quotes that stay with your audience.
A good quote should be bold and powerful, something that can fit on a social media quote card. Quotes need to be punchy, sharp, and, above all, wise. When you create quotes, you create snippets of knowledge that people can share with others. In this way, your message can extend beyond the room and out into the world.
Other tips for creating memorable quotes:
- Speak in plain terms.
- Be relatable.
- Try to keep it to one or two sentences.
- Make sure you speak the truth.
- Use humor when appropriate.
- Make it something others can repeat from memory easily.
6. Practice Giving the Speech
There are always three speeches for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.Dale Carnegie
When you’re the keynote speaker, you want to give a polished and impactful address. That means you need to practice well before the event. As you practice, you can make any adjustments needed, trimming the fat or adding important information where appropriate.
Practicing also allows you to try different things, such as the tone of your voice or where to place pauses for emphasis. When you practice, do so in front of other people like trusted friends, family, or acquaintances. Encourage them to give you feedback so you can perfect your delivery.
Of particular importance is practicing the stories you tell. The more times you give your speech, the more you’ll come to understand the peaks and valleys of it.
Overall, practicing helps you see what works and what doesn’t. Continue to refine your speech as you go along. Don’t expect perfection—there will always be something to improve. But at the least, you’ll end up with an address you can be proud of.
7. Develop Visuals to Pair With It
The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. And more importantly, they will remember you.Paul Arden
Not all speeches should use visuals, but visuals can enhance a presentation and make it more memorable when appropriate. When you’re the keynote speaker, use visuals to drive your point home. All images you use need to complement what you say. For example, if you’re talking about a visit to Paris, include photos of the places in Paris you went.
Visuals act like quotes—they help people remember parts of a keynote speaker’s speech. An image might be something like a shocking statistic or useful map. If you show the things you’re discussing, they will be reinforced in the minds of your audience.
Other tips for creating visuals for your speech:
- Use only high-quality visuals, not blurry ones.
- Create your visuals after you’ve written the speech.
- Don’t rely on text in your visuals (unless showing a memorable quote).
- Keep each visual simple, relaying only one idea per image.
- Include simple charts.
- Use your visuals when practicing your speech.
8. Don’t Leave Immediately After Your Speech
Make sure you have stopped speaking before your audience has stopped listening.Dorothy Sarnoff
Stick around after the speech or event as a way to further help your audience. Remember that a keynote speaker integrates themselves with the people they address. Talking with the audience afterward, face-to-face, is the perfect way to do this.
Chat with the people and answer any questions they have. Connect with them through social media so you can continue the conversation. Talking with your audience can also open up other opportunities to speak at future events. It’s also an excellent way to gain followers and show you care. As a keynote speaker, you should take every chance to share your message and reemphasize your points.
How to Get Booked as a Keynote Speaker
Getting started as a keynote speaker presents its own unique challenges. While the desire to change people’s lives and share a meaningful message can be powerful, you also need to know how to navigate the turbulent waters of a new profession. The following tips will help you set a solid foundation for future success as a keynote speaker.
- Set up a website or landing page that demonstrates your expertise and allows people and organizations to book you.
- Advertise on social media.
- Show a highlight reel of your best speeches.
- Publish your speeches on a YouTube channel.
- Always provide your audience with your contact information.
- Find events or conferences in your industry of expertise and contact them about speaking there.
- Get involved in your community by showing a servant leadership mindset.
- Gain further credibility and expertise by publishing articles and other materials in reputable outlets.
Still looking for more help crafting your speech? Check out these articles.
Speech Outline: How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Speech
How to Start a Speech: 9 Tips You Can Use