Create and Deliver a Keynote

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With a 19-year corporate training background, I thought doing keynote speeches would be easy. After all, training seminars are six hours, and keynotes are often 20 minutes.

I thought I could just isolate a specific teaching point, organize it tightly, make it funny, and deliver it like a story. But I fell flat. The audience didn’t respond; the organizers didn’t invite me back; and I wasn’t sure how to fix it.

Have you ever wondered why the keynote speaker gets paid so much more than a breakout trainer? I resented it at first, feeling like the trainer did all the work and provided all the valuable information. But then I thought about the two roles. The keynote gets the attention of the audience and riles them up, so the trainer can come in and instruct their now-open minds. It takes more preparation, practice, and finesse to do a keynote – but what specific steps does it take to make one work?

For any kind of creative or strategic planning, I use a mind map. Pick the teaching point you want to make, then branch off the sub-points as in the picture above. Make sure you have some hooks to make it memorable, and you give the audience a chance to opt in (more on how to craft a message in my blog post called The Formula for Speaking Success.

The hard part is the delivery. It mustn’t be a presentation or a performance. It is a vulnerable sharing of yourself in an intimate moment on stage. The point in a keynote is for you to be there with and for the audience. You can’t fake that, and you have to renew yourself for it every time.

I couldn’t pull off a great keynote until I could truly speak from the heart and be “out there” with them. I learned to do that by practicing vulnerability in my own life – not telling stories or giving advice – but truly sharing, with the intent of inspiring and moving my audience.

What audiences truly want is you. And keynotes are a concentrated sharing of you – your energy, your experiences, your compassion. And by sharing yourself, you fulfill your purpose in taking to the stage.

If you are a speaker, trainer, and coach who wants to build your business, consider attending a Star Marketing Summit. They are held twice a year at different cities. The next one is in Denver July 28-29. Go to for details and support.

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