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There’s nothing like a great keynote speech to magnify the success of an event.

Not all keynote speeches take place in auditoriums.

No matter how wrapped up we can get in our technology, there’s something about a live, in-person keynote speech that has particular power to move us. From Cicero to Sojourner Truth to Martin Luther King, Jr, great speeches from great speakers have power to transform history.

The goal of your event’s keynote speech may not be to transform history, but you still expect excellence. Today’s keynote speakers are evolving with society and with technology, but the content they present is still the foundation of an unforgettable experience. Here are some ways keynote speakers are changing for today’s audiences.

Keynote Speakers Are Using More Technology (Sometimes)

PowerPoint is great, but it’s certainly not considered cutting edge. Videos, sharing apps, and downloadable visuals can now become part of the keynote experience. But despite the fact that presentation technology can give audiences a futuristic experience, technology isn’t everything. And multimedia isn’t mandatory.

There are, for example, speakers who buck the high-tech trend and use their own artistic gifts to create diagrams and pictures on digital whiteboards during their presentations. Not everyone can do it, but those who can add energy and movement to their presentations, and their DIY approach can make a great speech even more memorable.

They Interact More with Their Audience

Audiences want to interact with keynote speakers, and many speakers provide audiences with opportunities to do so. They may deliver live instant surveys to the audience and discuss the results, include Q&A sessions after the speech, or even include audience members in parts of their presentation. Keynote speakers who stand behind a lectern and talk “at” their audiences aren’t nearly as memorable as those who make it a point to include the audience in various aspects of their presentation.

Some Use Unorthodox Seating Arrangements

Giant auditoriums aren’t always the preferred setting for a keynote speech. Many event planners and speakers want smaller venues to create more of a personal connection between the audience and the speaker. Today’s keynote speakers may give a presentation to a room full of people sitting on beanbag chairs. Or they may make their presentation in a classroom setting with desks, to encourage notetaking or writing down questions that will be answered after the presentation concludes.

Interaction with the audience is an important part of many keynote speakers’ presentations.

Different seating arrangements create different energy. It’s important for event planners to discuss seating arrangements with keynote speakers in advance, so the speaker can tailor their presentation to the space in which they’ll deliver it.

They Give Audiences Actionable Takeaways

Keynote speeches that include actionable takeaways are more memorable and make a stronger impression. Speeches may include reference materials, quizzes, or other collateral that attendees can take with them when they leave.

Speakers who offer tips to their audience that can be used in daily life leave more of an impression. And those who have online libraries of their materials help audiences revisit and retain more of what they learned during the presentation.

It’s not uncommon for keynote speakers to have YouTube channels or other online materials that event planners can use to build enthusiasm before the speech or to reinforce key points afterward. Some keynote speakers offer online webinars as additional services, and these can be great adjuncts to the live presentation.

Keynote speeches today are quite different from those from a generation ago. It isn’t so much that keynote speakers have changed (though there is thankfully far more diversity now), but that they have access to more technology and tools to reinforce their content.

Ultimately, however, it is the content of keynote presentations that matters most. Dazzling technology can’t make up for lack of substance in a keynote speech. The opposite isn’t true, though. A truly great keynote speech can move people even in the absence of technology. Abraham Lincoln certainly didn’t have PowerPoint or custom video when he delivered the Gettysburg Address, after all.

Do your research, get references, and worry more about content than technology, and you’re likelier to find a keynote speaker for your event who elevates it and makes it memorable for all the right reasons. And if you have an event in your future, I invite you to check on my speaking availability.

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