First one in, the last one to leave

Value is something you cannot fake.

Strike that.

Value is something you cannot fake, twice. 

I started a new talk this week on social media that I will be doing for the month of October that I am very excited about. The first time out was at the American Marketing Association October luncheon which was a blast. It was great because the people in attendance were intentional in being there, invested in trying something new, and highly engaged - if you can't nail 30 minutes with a group like that, this keynote thing isn't for you. 

In order to get there, here are some of the steps I take both before and during the keynote itself.


When I am giving a talk I like to show up early (at least an hour) and test all of the equipment, from the mic, to the presentation, to the room, I want to get a sense of the space and see how it feels so I can present in a way appropriate to the crowd on hand. In this case, they had a mic but it was a smaller crowd, so I didn't use it and if there is a podium - can I get rid of it and how quickly.

Ditch the podium

Why no on the podium?

Well, in non-verbal communication the podium is a barrier that separates you from the audience which is a bad thing, this can be especially bad if you are on a stage above those who are in attendance. This is bad because not only are you putting a barrier between you and the audience - you are elevated and talking down to them which presents its own set of challenges that you need to work hard to negate. 

The 180-degree rule

While you are prepping the room, you have to figure out how to work the entire space. I will admit there are some rooms that this becomes impossible and you might have to get creative, however if you spend your entire keynote pointed at one side of the room and the other part gets to look at your back, it will be hard to connect with half of the room. You don't want half the room getting the message and the other half getting a less than subtle non-verbal message. 

Watch the crowd

As the crowd is entering, I like to walk around and talk to people, get a sense of what they might be interested in, and adjust the talk accordingly. This is one of the main reasons that I prefer to use my speech as a guide rather than the Ten Commandments, I like the ability to improvise on parts that I think people might be more interested in as the crowds change.  Each crowd is different, so each keynote should be as well.

Don't eat

This is the first rule of broadcasting, it should be the first rule of public speaking. If you are at an event that has food, eat before hand. In my case it was a luncheon, so my job is to deliver a talk - not eat chicken salad. I had a big breakfast to take me through and ate lunch at 2:30 after everything was done. Don't eat, it is a mistake that can go wrong in more ways that it will ever be worth.  

Answer EVERY question

Yes, even the hard ones. If you are allowing for Q+A and I think you should, I also think you should answer all the questions. The trick here is when your talk is over, stick around because some people don't want to talk in front of people but will ask in a 1-on-1 situation. So, try to stay til everyone leaves so they have a chance to talk to you. That one simple gesture might be the difference in you making a killer connection or even changing someone's life. 

I feel it is an honor to be able get up and talk to people who feel you will bring value to their lives, we need to treat it as such. So prep until you know your stuff, understand the space you are talking in, don't eat, and stay until they have had their questions answered. 

Now go give a great keynote! 

Eric HultgrenComment