One of the biggest steps in designing a compelling and effective conference or event program is selecting the keynote speakers. Just as the name suggests, the keynote sets the tone of the program and acts as a drawcard to attract delegates to register their attendance.
A keynote should be memorable and influential; it could be thought-provoking, persuasive, even revelational but it must always add value to the conference by establishing the core message and framework for the rest of the program.
As experts in program design, we know this challenge all too well. Add into the mix that keynotes can be a significant investment for your conference or event budget, the pressure is certainly on to nail it!
However, like all major decisions, if you follow a clear ‘selection process’ you can be confident in making the best choice. Here are some tips from our content design experts at Nectar:
- Take a Step Back
Make sure you have completed the pre-program research and have a clear set of measurable conference objectives. What will be achieved by bringing this group of people together; why is it important? For example if it’s a sales kick off, the objective may be to launch a new product line to increase sales. For an industry conference, it could be to get the group to focus on ways to solve specific challenges and imperatives. For more on this, read – What Story are You Telling at Your Events?
- Know Your Audience
Take the time to develop a full audience profile – not just the demographics, but include information on what frustrates them, what motivates them. This will assist you have a clear picture of why they would attend a conference like yours in the first place – what are they looking for? If you answer this with your keynote you will drive attendance to your event.
- Set the Conference Theme and the Flow of the Program
A conference theme, whether published or not, is important when establishing the ‘tone’ you want your keynotes to set and the key messages you need them to convey and support. Also look at the flow of the program and determine when a keynote presentation will add value and build the overall story you are telling at the event. For example you may consider keynotes not only to open and close the program but also after lunch (traditionally considered the graveyard shift) or at the conference dinner to increase the energy of the group and enhance their conference experience.
- Have Clear Goals for Each Keynote Session
There are many excellent speakers to choose from, all with different experiences, styles and messages. So it’s vital to have a very clear brief for each keynote session of the conference. When narrowing down options, these goals will serve as an important reference, especially if you are working with a committee or team who will invariably have differing opinions or recommendations. Alignment with the goals for the session has to be a priority when choosing a keynote speaker.
- Cover Off the Logistics
When setting the content goals for the session also consider other decision influencers such as budget, the room setup, audience size and the conference’s location in terms of travel and accommodation. Do you want the session to have questions from the audience; how will that be managed? These sorts of factors may also impact choice of a keynote speaker.
- Have Realistic Expectations
While the role of a keynote speaker is to move an audience to think and ultimately act in a different way, remember we only give them a short period of time (usually 45 – 60 minutes) to achieve this. In this time the speaker can take the audience on a journey and persuade them to look in a new direction, and often a speaker will call for a commitment from the audience towards change but they shouldn’t be expected to cover in depth strategy, or detailed implementation plans. The keynote introduces the behavioural change you want the audience to embrace, the supporting program sessions should then provide them with the tools to implement this change.
This is why events are so exciting! The power of bringing together of people; the energy created when a group become aware and all face a new direction together – it is in that moment that change can happen.
Do you have a conference or event coming up where you could use some assistance with the program design and nailing those keynotes? We’d love to work together.
Contact us for a free one hour consultation to discuss your project and brainstorm ideas.