Keynote speaking: Tips for improving your skills

The question of what it is that makes an individual a great keynote speaker is one we face as an agency on a regular basis. Often a brilliantly effective form of marketing, do it well and public speaking will instantaneously position you as an expert in your field.

Delivering a keynote is no easy feat. Lots of people, even seasoned CEOs, have a huge fear of speaking publicly. 

Jerry Seinfeld famously said ?According to most studies, the major fear that people have in life, the number one scary thing, is having to speak in public. Death ranks only number two. That means it?s less worrying to be in the coffin than deliver the eulogy?. 

Having to deliver the best-man?s speech at your friends wedding, presenting the year-end results to your staff or devise a unique keynote for a blue chip company can all be scary things but with proper preparation and practice they need not be.

Delivering a good keynote speech can be great for self-esteem. It can be empowering to overcome the worries and insecurities that normally come with delivering a speech in public, and having the opportunity to share your expertise in a room filled with your target audience is marketing at its best. 

Just going through the exercise of writing a specific speech sharpens and refines your thinking skills and develops use of language. 

In preparing good speech you need to seriously think about a structure that will clearly communicate your message to the audience and help you develop persuasive skills and probably force you to re-evaluate your speaking habits. 

When you are on stage you are adrenalised. You will feel your cheeks flush with blood. All very normal. But what adrenaline does is give your body a huge turbo rush. You don?t realise it but it?s a primeval function to help you get out of uncomfortable situations.

The problem is that it?s only to you that this is happening. You are at hyper-speed and speaking 90 words to the dozen. It sounds fine to you, but to the audience you are gabbling at a very fast rate. You have to learn to adjust to their listening speed. Speak slowly. Give big pauses for them to digest your pearls of wisdom. Use metaphors to help them visualise difficult things.

Key note speaking is a tremendous career builder and stepping stone to positioning you as a an individual renowned for your thinking skills, your leadership and communication ability, your poise, professionalism and creativity. It is arguably the most effective way to take your message to a wider audience.

There is a long history to public speaking being used to bring about change. Speakers’ Corner in London was always a platform where it was accepted that anyone would have the right to say anything without fear of reprisal.

Clever, coherent, well produced speaking is a way to unite people under a common cause and motivate them to a combined action. 

By developing yourself as an authoritative public speaker your public persona will develop, your brand strengthen and your message will be heard and set you head and shoulders above the rest, all while securing you a nice fee in the process.

Gina Neithorpe-Cowne is the managing director of talent management and speaker bureau Kruger Cowne.

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