A Leader's Gift Blog: Keynote Speaking - Lessons Learned  Along the Way

I've spent several decades consulting with Fortune 100 companies, developing leadership-development engagements and writing leadership- training programs.

Through that experience, I have been given the opportunity to deliver keynote addresses. I am always honored and excited by these engagements and look forward to doing more of them in the future.

I didn't pay much attention to the introduction, until I heard my name and the audience start to applaud. As I stood on the platform, waiting for the applause to die down, I thought to myself, "This will be a good speech. I practiced every line, memorized every story, and know right where the laugh and applause lines are." The first couple of minutes went just as planned, and then a slow, dull ache began to roll over my entire body. I was doing a great job describing the challenges faced by nurses and healthcare workers, the only problem that group wasn't scheduled for two weeks later. I was actually standing up in front of an industrial distribution association. In that moment, I wished I could have simply cried out "Beam me up, Scotty!" I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, and I brought it all on myself. I was so focused on my performance, that I ignored the purpose of my presentation.

I've picked up a few valuable lessons along the way that I thought I would share with you as you enter into or grow this side of your business.

  • Focus on the results, not the speech itself: When discussing a keynote address with a new client, move away from a review of the points you will cover and toward a discussion of what problem the client is trying to solve. In this way, your fee becomes an investment, not a cost. (See more on this idea in an article I wrote in Speaker Magazine.)
  • Customize the experience: Your client does not want a "canned" speech that requires you to simply insert the company's name where appropriate. Do your research on the front end, uncovering the problems that need to be addressed from the company's and the industry's perspective, and deliver a message worthy of your audience's attention.
  • Care: If you sincerely care about the outcome, it will show in your delivery. People can tell if you are invested in their success or not, and if you are not, you will not be an effective speaker.

What lessons have you learned from giving keynote addresses? What have you seen as an audience member that you found particularly positive? 
 Be Encouraged,