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As a leading communication skills development firm, The Ammerman Experience pioneered a wide range of interactive workshops and training sessions designed to show people how to face the media, manage crisis situations, speak at public meetings, and deliver effective sales, analyst, and other business related presentations. Through our quarterly newsletter, the Advisor, we share some of our expertise in these areas.

How to Give a Keynote Presentation

Published: Sep 28, 2015

It’s an honor to be asked to give a keynote presentation. Sometimes, though, that sense of honor can turn into a nerve-wracking fear as you realize that you don’t, in fact, enjoy giving public presentations.

Chances are that if you find yourself asked to give a keynote presentation, you’ve given your fair share of presentations before. Even if that’s the case, though, a keynote presentation can be especially intimidating. After all, you’re expected to be an expert on the topic you’re speaking to – and besides being an expert, you’re probably expected to be pretty inspiring, too. That’s a lot of pressure. But hey, pressure produces diamonds, right?

So, don’t worry– you’ve got this. Follow these six pieces of advice, and you’ll be on your way to giving a keynote presentation that really shines.

1. Only speak about things you know and care about.

The first step to giving a great keynote presentation: making sure you actually care (and know) enough to give one.

Think about the great presentations you’ve seen. Likely all of them had one thing, at least, in common – the speaker genuinely cared about the topic they were presenting on. Passion and knowledge are obvious onstage, and a lack of passion and knowledge are just as obvious.

If you don’t know and care enough about your subject to feel (at least a little bit) excited about the prospect of presenting on it, take this simple step: say no.

Sure, maybe this point is a bit of a cop-out, but it’s important. Don’t agree to give a keynote presentation if you don’t feel it’s a good fit for your expertise.

2. Nail the intro.

You’ve probably heard it before, but your introduction is a critical part of your keynote presentation success. Your audience will have made an assessment of you and your message within a matter of minutes, and they’ll also remember your introduction better than they will anything else. So, take time to craft a good one.

Here are a few ideas.

  1. Don’t lead with your bio. As a keynote speaker, you’ll often be introduced by somebody who will tell the audience what you’ve done and give you credit for being an inspiring expert on your subject. Don’t open by repeating what they’ve just said. Instead, launch into something interesting. It’s time to…
  2. Use an attention-getter. This might be a story based on a personal experience, a mind-blowing statistic, or a anecdote from a popular media source. Choose something that you think is legitimately interesting. And make sure that it’s relevant to the purpose and content of the rest of your speech, so that you can use it to lead you to…
  3. State the purpose of your speech. Once you’ve gotten the audience’s attention, you can tell them what you’re going to tell them.

3. Stay focused.

Make sure that you keep your speech concise and to the point. Do anything else, and you’ll lose the attention of your audience more quickly than you can say, “and speaking of statistics, that reminds me of an interesting study done by Dr. Samuel Sams, who was actually one of my professors at the University of Education – which is a great school, by the way (a recent magazine ranked it as among the top fifty private universities in Indiana) – during my time there, which was actually among the years that he really began diving into the logistic regression for these variables.”

Stay on point. Keep your points brief. The worst keynote presentations are the ones in which the presenter takes an hour and a half to say nothing.

4. Tell stories.

Want to know how to make time fly during your keynote presentation – for both you and your audience? Tell stories.

It’s been proven over and over again – stories are one of the best methods of presenting information in a memorable way. We’ve discussed this before, but if you want to take a concept and apply it in a way that your audience can understand, do it through a story.

There are multiple formats for using stories in your speech. One easy way: present an idea, tell a story that supports your idea, and then restate your idea. Do this three times, and you’re pretty close to having a completed keynote presentation.

Not only will the audience remember your ideas more easily this way – you will, too. After all, it’s much more natural to tell a story than it is to recite a list of facts. Storytelling is a good way to avoid sounding rehearsed.

5. Know your stuff – don’t read your stuff.

That brings us to our next point – don’t sound rehearsed. If you’re reading your slides, it makes it seem like you don’t know what’s on them. And that’s never a good thing. The more natural you look and feel, the better your keynote presentation will be.

6. Practice, practice, practice.

Finally, if you want your keynote presentation to go as well as possible, follow this simple word of advice: practice, practice, practice.

You may already know the importance of practice in public speaking – but, somewhat surprisingly, many people don’t. In fact, many people have the ludicrous perception that public speaking is a natural talent, and that those who are best at it simply get up and talk without the need for a rehearsal.

Think of your presentation like any other performance. Would a cast ever perform a Broadway show without practicing? Would an orchestra ever attempt to play through a symphony without having a rehearsal? Would any athlete enter competition without training first?

Of course not. Likewise, you need to practice your speech until you know it like the back of your hand – and then practice it again.

If you can record yourself practicing, do it. If not, giving your speech in front of a mirror is incredibly helpful, too. Once you’re comfortable with your performance, your audience will be, too.

Keep these six pieces of advice in mind, and you’ll be on your way to keynote presentation success. You’ve got this. Good luck!

Want more presentation help? At the Ammerman Experience, we offer presentation training to help you present to the best of your ability. We believe that communication skills are learned – and that anybody can learn them. Get in touch with us online or at 281-240-2026 to start gaining the skills to give a great keynote presentation.

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