This spot on the program is so important since the opening keynote speaker sets the tone for the conference. After years of speaking, I have isolated what I believe meeting planners look for in an opening keynote speaker and how you can be a successful opening speaker.
Why Should I Give this Opening Speaker my Attention?
Put yourself in the seat as an audience member. Why should they give you their most valuable resource; their time? The opening keynote should connect quickly to engage the audience. This is why conversation with a committee or meeting planner prior to the keynote is vital. The speaker also has to remember that some in the audience may not want to be there but must attend to receive points towards accreditation. Regardless, successful speakers gather information from the company’s website and use a pre-speech questionnaire. Many opening speakers mention current events to help connect quickly with the audience.
Story-telling is a Powerful Tool for an Opening Speaker
I am in our church choir and have a front row seat when it comes to watching the congregation’s body language when our minister tells a story. Heads are raised and even the youngest perk-up when a story is told. Every speaker should have an arsenal of stories. Be sure to select the story that connects best with your audience.
Humor Used by an Opening Speaker Can Go a Long Way
I have heard people say not to use humor until after 10 am. That is ridiculous. Everyone loves to laugh and if you can throw in a few funnies it will add richness to your speech. As a funny speaker and motivational humorist, I love to make people laugh. Just the use of some levity as the opening speaker will lift the spirits of your audience.
Make the Meeting Planner Look Good
Don’t give the meeting planner anything to stress over especially when opening the conference. The meeting planner is nervous and wants the conference to have a successful start. Contact the key person when you arrive and take care of all the proper pre-speech details. Have a sound check and don’t arrive late. Remember another job we have is to make the person who hired us look great and feel confident in their selection. The best compliment is when it is said to the planner, “Thanks for finding this speaker. How are we going to top this next year?”
The Most Beautiful Sound in the World is Speaking Their Name
People love to hear their name in proper context. I have said many times, for example, “I was speaking to John who has been a member of this association for 20 years and he said……” This small comment will win over your audience since you have taken the time to recognize one of them. It is a great way to gain respect and trust as the speaker.
Just using a few of these suggestions will add value to your platform presence as the opening speaker but also if you are positioned on other places on the program. Be prepared, be relaxed and have fun. Remember what a privilege it is to be on the platform.