In recent years, I have been invited to speak on developments in social media and digital marketing in front of many audiences outside my regular classrooms. I very much enjoy these opportunities and it also forces me to stay up-to-date to be relevant out there in the “real world” which I believe benefits my regular students as well. By interacting with audiences not only during a talk but also before and after taking the stage, I develop new relationships and get a chance to learn from their experiences and insights in their industries and professions.
One of the keys to a successful keynote presentation is obviously how you prepare before the actual event and so far I have been fortunate to rate amongst the best speakers at various events and even as the best one out of 75 speakers at the Swedish Web Days in 2013. In this blog post, I will highlight a few pointers that have worked out for me:
- Interview the organizers in depth. The first step is to schedule a session with the organizers to ask them about their agenda and their objectives with the event to ensure that your talk falls in line with the overall theme and their possible change agenda if it is a company-specific event. During this conversation you should also take the opportunity to ask as many questions as you can about the expected audience such as where they come from, what companies they work for, what headaches they have, how old they are, what they are likely familiar with related to your topic, etc. One of the easiest things which is yet appreciated is to customize your presentation to at least talk about the location or the company you're at, such as if you have any prior experiences with them. This can often be light-hearted and you can reference events such as when I went to Gothenburg to attend a David Bowie concert.
- Learn about the industry and context of the audience on your own via contacts and online research. I have been exposed to a big variety of contexts as I have spoken for companies big and small, to for-profit companies, to non-profit organizations, to government agencies, to city governments, to executives, to marketing professionals, to small business owners, to Swedish moms, etc. While audiences share some characteristics across the board in terms of what they want out of a keynote presentation, they can also vary widely in some respects.
- Learn about the other speakers. Another thing that you can do is to ask and inquire about the other speakers on the program to understand more than what is often publicly available on an event website. Then you can learn how your presentation fits in the overall scheme of things. You can check out the other speakers on YouTube, their blogs, books, etc., in order to ensure that you maximize the value that you provide in your part while building upon what the participants will learn from the others. You can also ask the organizers if they have seeded any particular talking points to the other speakers that may be different from the ones that you have been assigned.
- Network with the other speakers. Potentially you could also reach out to the other speakers beforehand and express an interest in seeing them in connection with the event. You could simply network with them beforehand via social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Also, some organizers of big events invite speakers to informal dinners or get-togethers the night before the event and this is usually both enjoyable and a great opportunity to network with professional speakers that may help you land your next gig. Just remember to try to help them first 🙂 This can also make you relax a little bit because the next day when you get up on stage, you could have some new friends on your side that could have been more intimidating to have in the room had you not gotten a chance to speak with them beforehand.
Good luck with your own speaking and please let me know if you have any other tips!