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3 Keynote Killers
by Sally Strackbein

Are you getting as many engagements as you want? Perhaps your killer keynote is suffering from one of these keynote killers:

1. Old and Moldy

Imagine getting ready to bite into a juicy peach and, just as you bring it to your mouth, you notice a big, brown, mold spot. How disappointing. That’s the way your audience feels when they’re all excited about hearing a powerful keynote speech and find that it’s old and moldy. 

I just read an old novel in which everyone was scurrying around searching for a pay phone. No one had cell phones. Is your keynote stuck in the last century? Many audience members will not relate to material that was old before they started high school.

Update your stories and examples with 21st century details or replace them with new, fresh ones.

2. Unripe and Unready

The opposite of moldy stories and examples are unripe, unready ones. You tossed the moldy peach in the garbage and got another. No mold spots so you take a big bite. Ugh. Sour. This peach is unripe. It's not ready to eat.

Are your stories and examples so new that few in your audience are familiar with them? Perhaps you refer to a new cable or Internet series. You may love it, but many in your audience may not have seen it.

Is your keynote so new that only people born after 1990 will understand? It's no fun to feel ancient and ignorant because you don't understand what the speaker is talking about. Test your material on friends and colleagues of other generations so you are inclusive and universal.

3. No Balance

Cotton candy vs broccoli. Who wants a meal of either one? Is your keynote all fluff and no stuff or so good for you that you gag?

Emotion is a key factor in engaging your audience. Your stories, your platform skills, and your vocal mastery all add to the audience experience, feeding their soul. But did you leave out the learning? How will your audience use what they heard? Grabbing them isn't enough. You may have them jumping up and down, laughing, and weeping, but what about when they go home? What is your lasting message that settles into both their heart and brain?

Or perhaps you serve only broccoli. Do you deliver value packed information loaded with relevant facts? You have so much to cover that you don't have time for stories and examples. Your job is to get the facts into their brains. Except that human brains are hardwired to retain information delivered via stories. When you attach your facts to stories, your audience retains your facts.

Just like a great meal, a great keynote needs the right balance of emotion and learning.


Your keynote will sell better when your material is fresh, not moldy or unripe. When your keynote has a balance of emotional and factual components, you will make a lasting difference and you will be in demand.

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copyright © Sally Strackbein.

Permission is granted to reprint this article in your newsletter or magazine with the following byline and clickable link:

Sally Strackbein is a consultant, speaker and author.
To find out more about her programs and services,
or call 703-262-0361.

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