Each keynote speaker’s content has an area of focus: keynote speakers specialise in everything from sales to global affairs to team building to positive thinking. And, no doubt, someone out there specialises in negative thinking as well.
But the more important meaning of “what happens during that time the keynote speaker is onstage,” — what the keynote speaker can do for your event and, perhaps, for your company trajectory, can be more opaque. How do keynote speakers add value to your company, your event, your conference, your corporate future–if in fact they do?
On this we go to a couple of offstage experts:
Dr. Nick Morgan (coach of professional speakers) and Katrina Smith, peerless leader of Keynote Speakers Inc. (a speaking bureau with a storied roster, including the inimitable Guy Kawasaki).
What’s the point of a keynote speaker?
Nick Morgan: “The point of a keynote speaker is to change the minds of a group of people, to persuade them of something they hadn’t seen, known, or believed before.”
Katrina Smith: If a company, industry association, group of executives, or particular department “needs to understand the need for meaningful change, or see how that change has affected someone in a real life situation, or hear from someone else why that change was so valuable and essential,” a keynote speaker is the ideal vessel to relay that message. “We are social creatures, and while we can get information from books or websites, we get inspiration and social relevance and a sense of community from other humans.”
What can a keynote speaker really accomplish?
Nick Morgan “A keynote speaker is a temporary tribal leader who can move an audience to action. A keynote speaker has the opportunity to take an audience on an intellectual and emotional journey that can propel an audience to a new place, position, or outlook. People only take action because of other people, and a keynote speaker has a unique opportunity to do exactly that.”
A great keynote speaker will make the most of this situation by “asking for commitments from audiences, because speakers are uniquely positioned to get audiences to do something — thanks to the temporary authority they are granted by the occasion.”
Katrina Smith: A keynote speaker can compel through force of personality, with material that might not have worked in another context: “One keynote speaker can’t change the world. But one speaker, with the right message, the right tools, and the right delivery, can make an audience understand why their world needs to change, and then not only show them how to do it, but how to get inspired to do it well.”
What do you feel is not something that realistically a keynote speaker can make happen there onstage?
Nick Morgan: “A keynote speech is not an effective means of creating detailed next steps, plans, or high-depth strategic ideas. An audience is too busy responding to a keynote speaker’s message to work on such details. “
Katrina Smith: “It’s not realistic to expect that a speaker can come in for 45 minutes and fix a long-standing problem the company has been facing, a problem that perhaps the executives have been struggling for years to overcome. It’s not [going to work as] a quick fix. But it is a powerful delivery technique for new ideas, practical explanations, memorable examples, and inspiration about why the whole thing is important in the first place.
Source: “How A Keynote Speaker Can (And Can’t) Transform Your Event” by Micah Solomon (Forbes)