Keys to delivering a better keynote speech
The keynote speaker is introduced. He or she begins with some introductory remarks and then launches a Power Point presentation while carefully reading, word-for-word, from a script.
The speaker seldom looks up from his or her notes to “read the room.”
The audience intuitively picks up on the disconnect. The speaker – and the audience – are then held hostage to next half hour or so as that script is read. And it will be read. To the end.
Laura Katen has a better model for delivering a keynote speech. Katen an internationally renowned author and communications specialist, says a more effective model for delivering a keynote speech is to create a “communications structure” to guide the presentation, rather than a script that must be read aloud – no matter if that script is not resonating with the audience.
“Having a structure is different from being scripted, which could come across as insincere, robotic or reflecting nervousness,” says Katen, founder and president of Katen Consulting in New York City and author of “The Communication Habit: Strategies That Set You Apart and Leave a Lasting Impression.”
“Structured communication often highlights that you are organized, clear on your message and prepared. There’s also more of a freedom and flow when you don’t have to worry about reciting your message word-for-word,” Katen says. “If you are so scripted, there’s no spontaneity. The key is to know the points, but not how to get there. To master the art of creating structure, refer to your notes versus reading from them.”
Katen offers six techniques for delivering a more authentic, structured keynote speech that is not scripted:
- Convert your message into a few key bullet points. “It’s easier to remember concise talking points rather than long sentences and paragraphs of content. If you lose your train of thought, having a few key bullet points allows you to glance down and more quickly find the desired information instead of having to search for it,” Katen says.
- Place key pictures or words throughout your slide deck to trigger your thoughts. “As long as they relate to your message, pictures and words are a great tool for prompting your memory and articulating key concepts. Research also reflects that we process images 60,000 times faster than text. The right picture can keep an audience engaged, communicate your message and add impact to what you say, making it more memorable,” Katen says.
- Write reminder notes in the margin. “Reminder notes can help you remember to stay calm, smile, make eye contact with someone in the back of the room or exhibit open body language. Writing notes in the margin is a great technique for infusing energy and spontaneity. Being able to quickly glance down and see key reminders of how to be most effective also helps to avoiding looking stiff or sounding robotic,” Katen says.
- Circle, underline, bold or highlight key words. “A great way to add clarity and impact to your message is to emphasize key words and phrases. By underlining, bolding or highlighting these not-to-miss-words or statements, you’re much more apt to be able to say what you wanted to say in the way you wanted to say it,” Katen says.
- Record yourself so that you can see what you are verbally and visually communicating to others. “I can hear you cringing as you read this. ‘What, watch myself?’ I often get that response when I’m coaching clients to prepare a presentation. Recording yourself is incredibly valuable in literally seeing what others see, understanding how you are being perceived and increasing awareness around how your message is being heard. It is a great way to make verbal and non-verbal adjustments and eliminate tendencies you didn’t realize were undermining you,” Katen says.
- Practice without your notes so that your voice sounds engaging and not monotone. “Even the best speakers will tell you it’s hard to go out there and effectively wing a presentation. So, you have two options – you can create a structure of key talking points and simply read from your notes, which could make you sound monotone, or you practice. Practicing allows you to become more familiar with the words, come up with smooth transitions, add inflection and interest through the voice, and choose body language that reflects confidence, all of which helps you to sound engaging and not monotone,” Katen says.
Name: Laura Katen
Title: Founder and CEO
Company: Katen Consulting
Industry: Professional development and communication
City of residence: New York City
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University
Favorite vacation destinations: France and Hawaii
Favorite leisure activity: Hiking and “Game Night”
Favorite book: “Love At The Edge” by Joan Katen
Favorite musical artist: Lady Gaga
Best advice ever received: “Don’t follow money. Do a job you love and the money will come.”
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