I have the privilege of being invited to address many academic, nonprofit, and business groups. After doing this for a decade, and following some social media brooding on keynotes, I thought I’d put down some thoughts on how this works for me.
NB: for reasons of time I won’t cover the tactics of good speechmaking. Maybe that’s for another post.
Refresh some content It’s vital to keep trying out new content in each presentation. Some audiences will overlap across events, especially when talks occur in a related industry or the same geographical area. Digital media also gives us access to speakers, so it’s increasingly likely that audiences will have seen your earlier work. Avoid boredom by refreshing your material.
Keynoters are supposed to energize their people, to inspire and excite them. Wearying your audience is a fatal crime for keynoters to commit. Fatal for the audience, and lethal for the speaker.
It’s also intellectually sound to revise your stuff. If the topic is current, things may have changed since you last took the podium. Include that. If the topic is historical, attitudes and reception might have shifted, so you can address those.
For me, I connect my presentations to one of my research projects, Future Trends in Technology and Education (FTTE). I conduct FTTE research just about every day of every month. This yields all kinds of news stories, analyses, case studies, and other material which can find its way into my presentations. I don’t recommend that everyone maintain a regular report like this, but do commend continual reflection and inquiry, especially through social media.
Keep other content the same On the other hand, keynoters have to rely on some material. That’s partly because event organizers usually invite someone to speak because of a known quality, and expect to see that in play. It’s also because you can test out a content chunk, honing it over time, and take advantage of that. Representing familiar material can free a speaker up to improvise more, and to demonstrate confidence.
It can also save time, which matters a great deal. Continue reading