How to Create and Deliver an Effective Keynote Speech

Learn the tricks to a successful keynote address and what makes a keynote different from any other speech.

Lisa B. Marshall,
December 9, 2011
Episode #137

Page 2 of 2

Add Humor To Stories in the Dialogue

So, in keynote speeches, the humor is often located within powerful, impactful, emotional stories, and more specifically, within dialogue. And by the way, in any speech, but particularly in a keynote, it’s a good idea to give the other characters in your story funny lines.  For example, in my new book, I tell the story of how my mother took a large group of neighborhood children to the park.

One day a woman said to my mom, “Hope you’re having a good day at the park.  Nice looking kids.  Are they all yours or is this a picnic?” and my mother sarcastically replied, “Yes, they’re all mine and it’s NO picnic!”

Even though the overall story is serious, the dialogue adds a bit of humor and allows the funny line to be delivered by someone that isn’t me. One benefit of putting the humor in dialogue is that even if the audience doesn’t laugh, they still will understand the overall point of the story.  It’s OK, if they just smile slightly or not even notice the attempt at humor. That’s still much better than an obvious failed direct attempt at humor

Add Humor By Expressing Inner Dialogue

One of my favorite ways to add humor to stories is to share my inner dialogue. That’s because for most of us, our inner dialogue is very honest and raw. We generally aren’t comfortable sharing it in the course of regular conversation and certainly not in front of a large group of people. Since we normally can’t eavesdrop on other people’s internal thoughts, it’s funny to hear someone comfortably admit aloud words that just aren’t typically expressed, but most of us most likely think. And if you can just slightly exaggerate the inner dialogue, still somewhat truthfully, but on the edge of reality, it makes it even funnier.

I once saw a (NSFW / Not Safe For Work) video clip on Funny or Die where someone spoofed Conan O’Brian’s internal dialogue as he was being interviewed on 60 Minutes after the very public Tonight Show re-shuffle.  The creator of the video added subtitles that reflected Conan’s fake inner dialogue during his interview. For keynote speeches, I’ve found that the best way to make internal dialogue funny is to include internal dialogue along with external dialog.  “What I said was X, but what I was really thinking was…”

Repeat a Simple Message or Call to Action

Finally, although stories and humor are requirements for a keynote speech, the true hallmark of a keynote presentation is a single simple message or call to action that is repeated over and over again in a variety of ways. By repeating your message you are making your core idea more memorable.  Of course everyone is familiar with Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech which carried one powerful key message, that all people were created equal. 

Or perhaps you’re familiar with Nelson Mandela’s speeches after he was released by the South African government?  Every keynote speech he delivered had one core message: support his African National Congress.

A maybe you saw the You Tube sensation Dalton Sherman, at the time, a young fifth grader, who delivered a keynote speech at a teacher’s conference.  If you haven’t seen this speech, I’ve posted it on my website. It’s worth taking a look.  In his speech he repeated the words, “Do you believe…” 11 times which emphasized his central theme over and over again. 

To wrap up, stories, humor, and a call to action are requirements for a keynote speech. Keynote speeches take far more initial research, preparation, and practice than educational speeches. That’s why a great keynote speaker earns the big bucks. This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public (Keynote) Speaker, passionate about communication; your success is my business. 

Also, I wanted to let you know, I’ll be delivering another free seminar December, 14, 2011 details can be found on lisabmarshall.com.

Speech image courtesy of Shutterstock