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What Is a Keynote Speech? (+10 Speaker Tips to Deliver Powerfully)

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Read Time: 10 min

Being asked to give a keynote speech can be a little intimidating, especially if you've never given one before. You may even be wondering: what is a keynote address?

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A keynote speaker may be someone who's very accomplished in their field. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

Keynote speeches are important and being asked to give a keynote talk can be a great opportunity for you and your business. So, if you're asked, consider taking advantage of the opportunity. But first, you'll need to learn a little bit more about keynote speeches.

In this short tutorial, we'll cover what you need to know about giving a keynote message. We'll provide you with a keynote address definition. We'll provide you with some good keynote speech examples. Plus, we'll cover ten tips to help you become a better keynote speaker.

For valuable tips on how to create a top-notch presentation, be sure to download our free eBook:  The Complete Guide to Making Great PresentationsIt'll help you master the complete presentation process.

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What Is a Keynote Speech?

So, you're probably wondering what a keynote speech is and how it differs from any other speech you might give. A keynote address is typically given to set the theme for an event. Examples might include the main speaker at business conference or even a guest speaker at a graduation.

Keynote speakers are sometimes well-known figures or even celebrities. In other instances, depending upon the audience, they may just be someone who's very accomplished in their field. Keynote speakers are often paid for their services and a professional keynote speaker who is in demand can earn quite a bit. Even if you've never given a keynote message before, being asked to give one is both an honor and a great opportunity.

Keynote speeches are usually based on the speaker's own experiences and knowledge. They can also include motivational and inspirational elements. Effective keynote speakers often make use of storytelling as well. But the most important factor for keynote message success is audience engagement. The keynote speaker needs to capture and hold the audience's attention and set the tone for the entire event.

If you're trying to learn about a particular type of public speaking, hearing an example can help. One good example of a good keynote speech comes from Oprah Winfrey, who gave the keynote address at the 2018 commencement for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. You can listen to her speech for yourself:

For even more examples of effective speeches, many of which could serve as keynote addresses, study this roundup of some of my favorite Ted Talks:

How to Make Your Presentation Stand Out With a Slideshow

If the keynote address you'll be giving will include a slideshow presentation, you need to make sure that slideshow is the best it can be. Part of making effective use of a slideshow is to make sure that your presentation design is attractive and eye-catching. Admittedly, this can be tough to do if you're not a professional designer.

Fortunately, there's any easy way to create an engaging slideshow even if you're not a designer yourself. Envato Elements is a great way to find beautiful presentation templates for any need. These professionally designed templates will help your slideshow to really stand out. Plus, you'll be able download stock photos, WordPress and web templates, graphics, and more—all for a single flat rate! Download as much as you need as often as you need it. This is just the type of service a busy professional needs.

 But even if you're sure you're only going to give the one presentation and you don't need any of the other assets available through Envato Elements, we've still got you covered. You can purchase an affordable, one-time download of a professional slideshow template through GraphicRiver.

Now that you know where to find good slideshow templates, you may be wondering which templates to pick. The template roundup below can help:

Now that we've discussed how to use a slideshow for your keynote message, it's time to examine some tips for giving a better keynote speech.

Speaker Tips for Giving a Keynote Speech

You're pulling your keynote message together and you need to make sure it's effective. But it's been a while since you've given a speech, or maybe this is your first one. How can you make sure your speech is a success?

Here are ten tips for public speakers that'll help you deliver a powerful keynote address:

1. Know Your Audience

Understanding your audience is vital for any public speaker, but it's especially important for keynote speakers since it's vital that they establish rapport with their audience and also because they set the tone for the entire event. So, as early in the speech preparation as possible, give some thought to who you'll speaking to. Tailor your speech to their needs and interests. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who'll be listening to this speech?
  • What do they already know?
  • What do they need to know?
  • What are these listeners interested in?

If you know nothing about your audience, try asking the contact person who invited you to speak.

2. Do Your Research

If you've been asked to give a keynote speech, there's a good chance that you're already quite familiar with your topic. But don't take that knowledge for granted. Double-check your facts. Also, look for recent developments and include any relevant updates to your material. Pay special attention to information that'll be useful to your listeners.

3. Tell a Story

Storytelling is a great way to connect with an audience. If you've got personal experiences that your audience can relate to turning those into a story can often help engage your audience. Even if you don't have personal experiences, you may be able to share the experiences of others. For example, sharing the story of how a client successfully overcame an obstacle may inspire your listeners—especially if they've faced a similar obstacle.

4. Consider Giving an Interactive Presentation

Adding an interactive element to your keynote message is another way to capture your audience's attention. There are several types of interactive elements you can add including getting audience feedback in real-time and incorporating a Q&A session into your presentation. To learn more about interactive presentations, review this tutorial:

5. Practice Your Speech

Like any other speech you might give, you should practice a keynote speech until you're very familiar with the material. Strive to know your speech topic so well that you could talk about it without your notes if you needed to. As you practice, use your presentation notes or outline as a prompt rather than reading your speech. If possible, practice the speech in front of a friend or family member who's willing to provide feedback. The following tutorial includes a checklist for practicing a speech that could be helpful:

6. Overcome Your Fear

Does the idea of getting in front of an audience and talking make you uncomfortable? Well, you're certainly not alone. Studies from the National Institute of Health (and other sources) have shown that as much as 77% of the general public may fear public speaking. With a keynote message the fear and pressure is sometimes greater since the presentation is such an integral part of the event. Fortunately, there are methods you can use to overcome the fear of public speak ranging from positive self-talk to body language and more. In the tutorial below you'll discover over 20 ways to fight the fear of public speaking:

7. Stay Focused on Your Goal

If you're giving a speech, it's easy to become distracted. Unfortunately, if you stray too far from your topic you're likely to lose the interest of your listeners. This is where your speaker notes can be particularly helpful. Make sure that your speaker notes are visible (and use a large enough font that you can read them easily). If you do lose your pace or feel you've gone off topic, don't be afraid of a brief pause while you check your outline. You can learn more about creating speaker notes to your presentation tool in these short tutorials:

8. Be Brief

Avoid overexplaining the topic of your keynote address. You can do this by stating each point once followed by your supporting detail for that point (including slides and other visual aids). Next, summarize the point and move on to the next point. If you expected the audience to react to a point and they don't respond in the manner you expected, resist the temptation to go back over the point. Finally, when your presentation is complete you can restate the main purpose of your talk. Being brief and being focused matter and the audience will appreciate you for it.

9. Get Enough Sleep

You probably already suspect that you're not at your best when you go without sleep. Now science supports what you've always suspected—lack of sleep negatively impacts your performance. So, do your best to get a good night's sleep before your keynote talk. But that may be easier said than done--especially if you're at a business conference where there's a temptation to stay up late socializing and visiting with colleagues and potential clients. There are some practical steps you can take, even when you're traveling, to improve your sleep. You'll find some of those steps in this tutorial:

10. Share It Online

Once your keynote address is over, you can still benefit from it. One way to do that is to share your speech online. Sharing your speech online helps you to reach a larger audience than you initially spoke too. There are a number of ways to share your speech online, including:

  • YouTube. This popular site is useful for sharing video presentations.
  • Vimeo. Another site that can help you to share a live presentation.
  • Facebook live. You can live stream your presentation through Facebook.
  • Other social media. You can include a link to your presentation on most other social media sites.
  • Your website. Including a video on your own website can be a great way to impress clients and prospective clients.
  • SlideShare. If your keynote address included a slideshow presentation, you can share it on SlideShare.
  • Email. You can also share links to your keynote speech through email.

To learn more about sharing your keynote address, study these tutorials:

Make Great Presentations (Free PDF eBook Download)

We also have the perfect complement to this tutorial, which will walk you through the complete presentation process. Learn how to write your presentation, design it like a pro, and prepare it to present powerfully.

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Download our new eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. It's available for free with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter.

Your Takeaways

You've just been given a keynote definition and some examples of great keynote speeches to follow. Now that you understand what a keynote address is and why it's important, you'll want to make your keynote message as good as possible. 

Even if you've never given a speech before, you can use the speaker tips in this article to give the best keynote address that you can. Once you've finished your keynote presentation, don't forget to share it for maximum impact. If you've enjoyed the tips in this tutorial, you may also enjoy our Fundamentals of Public Speaking Learning Guide.

Have you given a keynote speech? What tips or advice would you add for others?

Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2018. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.

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