We’ve talked a lot about how you can become a keynote speaker and we’ve also covered some key tips on how best to deliver a speech. One aspect that has been slightly overlooked is speech preparation. Today we’re going to list 7 key steps to prepare a great keynote speech.
Before we begin, this post is meant for speakers who are at the beginning stage of their speaking career, speakers ready to take their speaking business to the next level or just anyone interested in presenting a speech in front of an audience, however big.
1. Choose a theme for your speech
If you’re a beginner, you’re probably given an indication of what the theme of your keynote speech should be. For experience speakers, the scenario might be more along the lines of “It doesn’t matter what you talk about, everyone will love it anyway!”. In both cases, you still have some serious planning to do regarding the theme of your speech.
There are three basic types of speeches: educational, motivational and entertaining. Begin by deciding which of these you want to accomplish as your general purpose. Whatever you choose, remember that you’re going there to offer value to your audience, not to brag about who you are, what you’ve done or how much you like yourself. If you’re not educating, motivating or entertaining your audience, in other words if you aren’t delivering any real value, don’t do it.
Select a core message that you want to convey, based on your theme. Make sure that it contains:
- Clarity: Aim to express your core message in a single sentence. If you cannot do this, you need more clarity.
- Passion: Your core message must be something you believe in.
- Knowledge: What do you know about this core message? Can you draw stories from personal experience? Have you researched the topic?
2. Create a presentation outline
This is the first step we ask all of our clients to do before jumping into designing the entire presentation. Structuring your ideas is essential to both the delivery and the design of your keynote speech.
Many speakers, experienced or not, sadly skip this step more often than not. Like Andrew Dlugan points out, an outline is a blueprint for your presentation. That means:
- It highlights the key logical elements. i.e. what points are being made to logically support the core message?
- It highlights the key structural elements. e.g. introduction, body, conclusion, stories, high-level concepts
- It links these elements together in a sequence, perhaps allocating very rough timings.
- It can also map out the transitions between elements, although this may be deferred to a later stage of preparation.
3. Start filling in each section
Use keywords. This will help you convey a clear message and keep your audience’s attention. It’s also of great help to you when creating the flow of the presentation. Start with the topic of your presentation, your principal keyword will derive from that and will most likely be comprised in the presentation title. The structure of your presentation will give you another set of keywords.
Be brief and clear. Don’t crowd your slides. Instead, opt for no more than 2-3 sentences per slide and keep in mind your keywords. Think of them more like statements than sentences.
4. Make it visually attractive
Use visual elements to illustrate your ideas. Graphs and charts can help show relationships, comparisons, and change. Make sure to use these visual graphics to enhance your message and increase understanding. Too much of anything can lead to over stimulating your audience and losing their attention.
The relationships between the colors you’re using are also important. Limit the use of color to 2 to 4 colors/shades. Use colors that will stand out and will be easy on the eyes (dark backgrounds and light text is a good case practice.)
5. Tell stories
Tell stories and anecdotes to help you illustrate your ideas and your research. This will definitely make your presentation more effective and memorable. In a UCLA study, students were asked to recall a series of speeches they had heard. Only 5 percent remembered any individual statistic, while 63 percent remembered the stories presented in those speeches.
“Things are not what they seem.” It’s that to get people to sit on the edge of their chair or to get them involved in your story, the audience has to constantly discover something new.
Howard Suber, UCLA
6. Connect with the audience
Invite your audience to engage with you. This will get them emotionally invested and it will differentiate you from inexperienced, nervous speakers.
Plan an inclusion of the audience in your presentation somewhere. It can be a slide with a question, a game or just an empty slide to help you connect with people and re-gain their full attention. You can try different things, from a simple show of hands, to requests for brief personal input, to role playing and games, to small group exercises- and their merits.
7. Rehearse, Rehearse, rehearse
By rehearsing your presentation several times you’ll be able to put yourself in the shoes of your audience and see what improvements you can make.
You can even record yourself giving the presentation. This will enable you to also work on your speaking rate and body language. It’s also a useful exercise for people who get nervous when they speak in public.
You should also try these mobile presentation apps.