Keynote Speaking – 10 Qualities of the Keynote Artist

Motivational speakers rank near the top of AOL’s “Top Ten Most Overpaid Jobs.” Why?

Being a practiced public speaker is not equal to being a good keynoter, because keynoting is an art form unto itself, demanding skills and a disposition above and beyond training and consulting. Speaking takes many forms. Some speakers are successful in intimate settings, others on large platforms. Few do both with equal ease (excluding celebrities, of course, who can cough and get a standing ovation).

For those investing time, energy, and money to build a speaking career, Shakespeare’s exhortation “to thine own self be true” is absolute wisdom. Sought-after keynoters know it is not enough simply to have

  • a successful track record, whether it be consulting, or medicine, or any other field;
  • several books to one’s credit affirming unrivaled expertise;
  • experience in facilitating groups and presenting workshops; or
  • confidence in one’s ability to take the next step.

While these credentials constitute a great foundation for moving into keynoting, there are a host of more challenging traits most keynoters possess. Keynoters must be able to:

1. Set the stage for a meeting and build attendance with their name recognition (or a powerful subject).

2. Wow the audience with insight, wisdom, humor, and direct application of ideas to shared problems and challenges.

3. Make them laugh. Laughter is the shortest distance between two people, so a tough message delivered on the wings of laughter usually finds its mark. You don’t have to be funny to speak–only to get paid the big bucks.

4. Deliver the message with stories that bring home the points.

5. Demonstrate the intellectual foundation that satisfies the audience’s need for authority and credibility.

6. Create an emotional connection with the audience that speaks to their hearts.

7. Extend a call to action that gets them committed to diving into the rest of the meeting with confidence.

8. Create a mood of excitement about what’s to come.

9. Give rise to conversation among the participants as they continue to reflect on the message.

10. Make people glad they came and leave them wanting more.

A keynote artist can do all these things, bringing the conference to a triumphant closure. Then the organizer will breathe a sigh of relief; the CEO may confide sensitive problems because she has been so moved; participants will leave reflecting on what the keynoter stirred up and confident they can rise to the challenges ahead.

All the accolades are great, but to a keynote artist, they represent confirmation that the miracle of transformational speaking has occurred.

With appreciation for your voice in the world, Gail.

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© Gail Larsen 2002-2010. All rights reserved. Real Speaking is a registered trademark. Permission to reprint: You may reprint this article in your own print or electronic newsletter. Please include the following statement: Reprinted from “Real Speaking Power Points” a free e-letter by Gail Larsen, author of Transformational Speaking.

Gail Larsen is the founder of Real Speaking. She supports people in discovering and giving voice to the message that is theirs to speak, as well as identifying the markets and format where it will be heard. She loves to hear from you and read all your responses. Please share your comments by contacting Gail through her website or to subscribe and receive occasional insights and ideas that will enhance your public speaking and communications; visit

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