Friday, April 10, 2009

Impossible to Ignore Keynote Strategies

One of my favorite audience responses from my keynote work this year...

"You were impossible to ignore!"

My first thought after she said this was, "So, what you are saying is that you were trying to ignore me, but were unsuccessful?" Seriously though, she went on to say that it was one of the most engaging 25-minutes she has experienced from a convention keynote speaker and she has seen a good number of us.

Now, this post is not about celebrating me, but rather about celebrating and examining the strategies I employ. Here are a few reasons why I think she was unsuccessful at ignoring me:


(This 25-minute keynote was at the end of a 3-hour opening session for a student leadership conference, in a full auditorium of about 1,200 people.)

1. High-Level Interaction
The first half consisted of humor (wit, not jokes), building rapport by telling a quick story about an experience I had that they are currently going through and two quick full-audience interactive activities. There was zero space in the first 12-minutes to be physically, mentally or emotionally disengaged. It was boom-boom-boom.

2. Clear Outline
The second half was the content - the title of the keynote was The Three Giant Jumps to Have a Giant Leadership Journey. Everything about the content pieces revolved around there being three jumps. This repetition built in anticipation to find out what the three were going to be. This anticipation added to the "impossible to ignore" effect.

3. Emotion-Based Stories
Each of the "Three Giant Jumps" were in story form (Reverence, Remarkable and Risk). If I had more time, I would have included another full-audience interactive activity to support the second point. Because the points were supported with fast paced, interesting, colorful and emotion-based stories, the “ignore factor” was diminished by the power of the story – built-in start/middle/end, easy to understand reference points, and unique (two were stories from my life and one was from a friend’s life).

4. Energy
Energy is the most pervasive strategy employed by keynote speakers, workshop presenters and teachers in the Can’t Ignore Club. Our voice, body and attitude all communicate...

"I am excited and interested to be here, even if you aren't. And if you aren't, I'm not going to yell at you or try to push into getting there, we are just going to have so much fun and get so much done on this side of the fence, that you will eventually want to jump it yourself."

This energy strategy results in us being able to pull the audience up to our level of attention, involvement, excitement, joy, etc. It is very difficult to ignore someone who is fully invested in the moment and is armed with effective strategies to motivate that same level of investment from the audience.

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