Keynote Presentations: Make the Most of This Event Format
Keynote presentations are an event format most organizers will likely not be able to avoid, and your audience will expect. For organizers, let it be a highlight and your chance to shine. Take the opportunity to capture your audience’s undivided attention with something that really brings the “wow” factor.
What is a keynote presentation?
A keynote presentation is one of the most frequently used formats you will find in an event agenda. It works best when it focuses all eyes on stage to take in exclusive content, a special speaker or top talent. It puts all the focus on them. So you will want to use this space to full effect. Keynotes are a highlight of all types of events, from top diplomatic meetings to internal events to trade shows.
Keynote presentations bring all the eyes of your attendees to one central location. Here, the keynote puts your speaker on show– it most typically involves one person, possibly announced on stage who speaks directly to your audience for a given amount of time. They may be accompanied by slides or visuals, but many of them do not include any visuals at all. Here, engagement for your audience is minimal– generally, you will want your audience’s focus and full attention.
Because this format is so ubiquitous, this event feature can become stale if it is overused or placed at the wrong place in your agenda. To make the most of this format, things aren’t quite as simple as putting a speaker on stage. It requires looking at each keynote as a performance– you’ll want to make sure your speaker is the right fit for your audience, with adequate preparation and technical support to make the most of the presentation.
Why would you choose this format?
The keynote format is great for showcasing a special person, important takeaway, or key element of your event– one that you want all the participants to come away with. Keynotes are best used sparingly– – hence the word “key” in the title– used to rally your audience, and bring your participants around a notable figure or memorable moment. These work best with “wow” moments– top speakers or big themes that you want to transport well to your audience. With one speaker– your audience members can focus directly on what is being said– and it is easier to follow than an interview session or panel discussion, which is less scripted and may transcend a few different topics.
Keynotes are great elements for hitting the “inspirational” aspect of your event. They can be used to great effect to create a sense of awe and interest. You can use keynotes to balance other aspects of your event– for example, if you have a number of collaborative elements, where your participants are engaged in lots of activities, you can collect them and concentrate their energy at the end with a well-placed keynote presentation.
For many events– keynotes can also be an attention-getter for your event– bringing registrations or used for marketing purposes when a top speaker or luminary is used to attract participants to your event. However, you will want to be careful here how you use this device. Your target group will see through any gimmicks. If a special keynote speaker is chosen solely for the marketing value, but not necessarily for the tone or theme of the event, it might make your event feel random or haphazard. Speaker choice, theme, and tone are integrally important.
How to make a keynote presentation a success?
The most important aspect of a keynote presentation is the speaker and the story that is being told. It is such a minimal format, these two aspects must be carefully aligned with the tone and concept of the event. Here, you want your presenter to be a good fit for your audience as well as sufficiently prepared to make an impression. Knowing who the right speaker is for each event and the audience will be different for each event. Sometimes that speaker is someone that is generally known– for example, a CEO or executive presenting key themes for a team of employees at an internal company event. Other times, a keynote is given by an external speaker, invited to share an external objective, or to inspire or delight the audience. Here, you can bring considerable creativity to your speaker choice. You might choose someone to bring a fresh perspective or to bring novelty to your event. There are many speaker agencies out there and many inspirational voices. Before looking for or identifying that specific person– you will want to know what are the themes and takeaways that this element should convey. Identify the key themes and tone you want to project with your keynote presentation in advance, and get feedback from your team and possible attendees about the speakers they would like to invite.
Common mistakes of this format and how to avoid them:
1- Poor Speaker selection/content not right fit for the audience
This is a big one that a lot of events get wrong, especially if they are working with a luminary or key name that is an impressive person.
There are two main aspects where the speaker selection is important– one is not choosing a speaker/content that is right for your audience, and secondly is not preparing that speaker in advance with what your audience is looking for.
Solicit feedback from your community and prospective attendees about what they are looking for in the event, and what inspirational figures they would like to connect with. Consider bringing on keynote presentations that may challenge one another or your audience– if you wish to push big ideas or spur innovative thinking.
2- Keynote is not the right fit for the event format
When you look at the energy level and trajectory of your event experience– a keynote talk is one that serves to collect and capture your audience. It is the ideal format to bring your audience together–and inspire – but when the segment is going on it is when people are listening quietly and not engaging with anyone else. You want their full, enraptured attention. You may want to host keynote presentations after the lunch period, or at the very start or end of the day. Sessions right before the lunch or refreshment breaks might be disruptive, as people may leave for meeting appointments.
It really depends on the other things in your agenda or the size of your event – but having too many keynotes for the event will lessen the impact of each one and blur in your audience’s minds. Make sure your keynotes are distributed appropriately throughout the day and the venue, and break each session up with different event formats in between.
3- Not accessible to the audience – not enough viewing opportunities, space used poorly, technical problems
Once you’ve identified the right place in the schedule for your keynote presentation, now you want to make sure your presenters have the right setup to make the most of their appearance. In-person, you will need to have seating arranged in a formal classroom style, or gallery setup, and have enough seating for your intended participants to join.
In a loud, or large venue, you can create intimacy for keynote presentations using a silent disco approach, where your participants are wearing headphones and your presenter is speaking to the audience via a microphone that registers in their headsets.
In a digital setup, keynotes can really shine by having an intimate approach with your audience, where it seems that the presenter is speaking directly to them.
Make your Keynote Really Shine
Beyond getting the right speaker and content for your audience, here are some ways to make sure your keynote really shines:
- Multiple camera angles, good lighting, and considered videography allows you to repackage and reuse the content from your keynote digitally in another context. Maximum resharing possibilities, and also from the presenter themselves– gives you additional opportunities to make the most of your keynote presentation.
- Consider incorporating lighting/scenery effects to shine a spotlight on the presenter. Create a special atmosphere around your speaker to make the presentation stand out.
- Be sure to broadcast regular announcements during the venue prior to the speaker coming on stage so that the room is filled.
- Before your event, ensure you develop a plan to ensure how to use the keynote material after the event to make it live. One way might include a goodie/takeaway for guests that reference the keynote theme/key ideas or concept
- Keynote speakers and themes can be a great way to bring a wow factor to your event marketing– so be sure to incorporate appropriate photos and images to convey the lessons to be learned.
PIRATEx Head of Market