Attention Keynote Speakers: Create an Experience

I attended the 2018 MPI (Meeting Professionals International) WEC in Indianapolis this year and one phrase was cemented in my mind: Design an Experience. This is a phrase, not only for meeting professionals, but keynote speakers as well. The days of a traditional speaker, only spouting talking points, are slowly drifting far, far out to sea (even further out than that). To be clear, the fundamentals of speaking are still there — but I’m focusing on the approach to speaking. I could be stating the obvious to many of my industry friends (speakers included), but conference attendees are seeking more than a person “presenting” (or speaking to us) on a subject, they are wanting someone who can connect.

While at WEC 18, there was an opportunity for attendees to get in a car and thrill ride around the Indianapolis 500 racetrack (at 130 miles per hour). See video for my experience — and one time around was enough (as you can hear the other passenger as if I’m alright…clearly, I was grabbing the handles). I’m not suggesting speakers make attendees sign wavers and perform dangerous stunts. I am driving at being hyper aware of how you’re connecting to an audience, not only with their five senses, but with their mind and heart. How do you have attendees, well after the event, thinking like a concert experience? Have you said, “the singer was performing like I was the only one in the room.”  To get you in gear (pun intended) on this concept, I’ll break it down into three areas:


Provide Relatable Value

Number one, it’s always about the value —  the value of connecting a line from the speaker’s subject to the specific audience. In other words, if I’m an attendee, how is the speaker’s content relating to me/my profession? It’s super important that a speaker is diving into who their audience is and making sure they are embracing this. Often, this starts way before a speaker even hits the stage. Much of this work is done during pre-conference calls, when they begin to learn from the client everything they possibly can. Without the relatable value, it’s only bullet points on a powerpoint presentation  (something the attendee could have gotten online). The value that a speaker presents for an auto sales professional group is far different than the the relatable value that a speaker would deliver to room of financial advisors.


The Show Factor

I have an entertainment/theatre background and the best way for me to relate to the speaking industry is … it’s a show. The speaker is like an actor. There’s a stage … an audience … the speech has a beginning middle and end. Yes, it IS a show. Of course, there are many ways a presentation can be delivered. Some people are content heavy (and need a story), some are story heavy (and need content). However, a speaker must be aware of the audience. Sure, a speaker may have had a wonderful sleep last night and is totally refreshed and ready for their one session … after all, it’s their profession to be ready and alert! On the flip side, we have the conference attendees, some have travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles to attend — they have been networking most of the night (we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt “networking” was taking place), they are being shuffled from one session to the next, taking notes (or naps) and in some cases they have absolutely NO idea who the next speaker is (keep in mind, not every conference is hiring a celebrity or Super Bowl champion to speak). The more the speaker understands the performance, or as I call it, the show factor, of the session, the more opportunity there is for success. I’m not saying be fake. Quite the opposite … be real. Some speakers are able to be their own worst critic, while others don’t know where to start. Look at all the top athletes, what’s something they all have in common? The all have coaches. Someone to examine them from the outside. Speakers should be no different. Putting the time into the show factor (let alone, understand that it’s a performance) will go a long way. What is your show like, from the opening number to the curtain?


Break the 4th wall

In theatre, whenever an actor and the audience interact, it’s called breaking the fourth wall. It’s when both parties recognize that they are communicating with each other. The more a speaker can find ways to connect with the attendees — whether that’s literally talking with the audience, having them ask questions, provide answers, or many it’s through a digital poll, interactive sessions, team-building projects, you get the picture, right? There are so many options and this is where creating a great communication channel with the meeting professional comes in handy. The more collaboration that takes place to understand the attendees, the better experience you can create for them. 

Share what are you doing as a speaker to create a better experience for attendees?

Eagles Talent Management is a speaker management company that provide a variety of services for keynote speakers (connecting speakers to bureaus, managing calendar, developing content, etc.). To learn more about our company and the speakers we represent, explore our website.


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