What Makes a Good Keynote Speech?

Keynote speakers can provide a great event experience. See what every speech should include.

Good keynote speakers can help drive attendance at events, whether through their high-profile name or their self-promotion. But what makes a good keynote speaker (and speech)?

A good keynote speaker should set the tone for your event. Potential topics should be discussed beforehand (or you may already have pinpointed a particular speaker based on the topics he or she typically discusses), as well as how they relate to the overall event.

The speech also takes some finesse to engage the audience. Scott Cullather, global managing partner of brand communications agency inVNT, shared the following four observations with Event Marketer.

  1. Share it on multiple platforms. Whether people prefer to read along or simply listen as the speaker presents, make sure guests have options such as a PDF of the slides they can print or download to their handheld devices, visuals through an app or even a live-streaming video.
  2. Tell a story. The speech should unfold like a story — with a beginning, middle and end — to hook the audience. Use audiovisual tools, from PowerPoint to embedded video, to help share and visualize information.
  3. Provide sound bites. Much like an interview, a good keynote speech should have profound tidbits that audience members are eager to share via social media.
  4. Keep it brief. The 10/20/30 rule can be helpful in crafting a well-formatted speech. The gist is no more than 10 slides, no more than 20 minutes of speaking and no less than a 30-point font.

What makes a bad keynote speech? According to communications expert Nick Morgan, three common pitfalls of keynote speakers are they “try to dump too much information on the audience, they focus too narrowly on an area of specialty, or they fail to get a discussion going amongst the participants.”