Issue 1 of The Art of Keynoting
A lot has been written on the art and science of public speaking.
It's a much-feared activity, to some the scariest thing of all, whilst also having the potential to be a massive opportunity. Being bad at it can be both personally and professionally humiliating, a fact that should be well known. This is also why there is no lack of basic instruction regarding how to go from fearing speaking to being OK with it. You can easily find any number of books that will detail how to overcome the primal fear of stepping in front of an audience, and the basics you need to consider in order to survive on stage. What is however often forgotten in this, is that being great at public speaking is a whole different matter. This is curious, as being excellent at speaking can bring opportunity, money, even romantic opportunities. I should know.
I am, myself, a very good speaker. I’m not saying this in an arrogant fashion, or to polish my own shield, only as a statement of fact. I speak professionally, have done so successfully for many years, and as I tend to say when people ask, you normally stop sucking after the first few hundred keynotes. I no longer know how many keynotes I've given (record-keeping is not my strong suit), but I've either just passed the big 1K or am just about coming up to it. As I write this sentence, I'm on a plane, as I'm giving a keynote for a huge marketing conference tomorrow morning in one country, then flying directly to another country to give a keynote at an international corporate dinner. I've spoken at some of the biggest conferences in the world, and gotten great ratings at pretty much all of them. Now, there are far better speakers than me as well, and I count some of those better speakers as dear friends. All I know is that I'm good enough to be a pro, and in this day and age, that means you have to be better than just good.
Whilst working with professional speaking, I've noticed that there is a massive difference between good and OK speakers, and those who are truly excellent. Now, and as stated, I do not claim to be the greatest speaker in the world (I know I'm not), but I have worked with some of the very best ones. Further, I travel around the world to share the stage with everything from newbie speakers and unprepared managers, to superstars and leading management gurus. In other words, I've seen the best and the worst, and lots and lots of the mediocre. This was also what inspired me to write this little course. I want to help you to not be mediocre as a speaker!
Being mediocre is really easy, though. All you need to do is trying to replicate best practices, copying other speakers, and tailor performances according to what you believe audiences want. This will create a perfectly average me-too speaker, as inoffensive and unremarkable as the buffet food often served at conferences. What I've tried to do is to create an antidote for this, a way out of being an average speaker and at least on the way to becoming a great one.
What will follow is thirteen lessons, grouped along three main themes, although there is some overlap between them. The themes are "Be different", "Be yourself (no, really)" and "Go big or go home", and written out like this they can seem quite self-evident, even mediocre in their inoffensiveness (Who would object to the notion of being yourself?), but they group together a set of ideas around how to not be like 97% of people on stage. You should also note that although everyone you'll ask will say that it is important to be yourself on stage, very few people know how to actually do this…
So, buckle up, and let's get into the art of keynoting. The first real lesson will be with you soon.