Keynote speakers gain in importance

Surveys of congress and trade fair participants show that the public increasingly wants more virtual offers, more interaction and the increased use of technical aids and tools at events. However, these surveys also make it clear that this does not explicitly mean that keynote speakers and the personal form of presentation will become less important – on the contrary.

This also means, however, that keynotes will continue to have their significance in a very interactive and technical environment, or even increase it. But what exactly does keynote-speaking mean? The term “keynote” comes from music: here a choir tunes a note before each performance so that the individual singers can coordinate with each other – the same applies to keynote speeches. The speaker, mostly well-known or prominent, introduces the participants to the tonality and content of the event with a clear, concise and provocative speech.

Keynote speeches are subject to constant change

The change in the requirements of a keynote speech is changing in parallel with the changes in the whole event industry: the challenges and opportunities that social networks offer, the general digitization, the speed at which changes take place… all this also influences the way keynotes have to be viewed and held.

How these developments and changes have evolved in recent years, what the current status is and what the prospects for the future are, is explained in this small series of articles.

In 2013, the most comprehensive study on Keynote Speakers was published.

Tagoras and Velvet Chainsaw published “The Speaker report“, in which they stated that the way keynote speeches are conducted can indeed be seen as an indicator of change in the event industry in general.

As the main demand for the future, the editors of the Speaker Report identified the claim of organizers to be able to increasingly derive added value from investments in keynote speakers. This means that the organizers are attaching more and more importance to the fact that the keynote has an actual and comprehensible relation to the event topic and did not serve as an emotional icebreaker – as was often the case in the past.

The requirements for the keynote speaker changed – and are still changing – from “icebreaker” and entertainer to an entertaining expert who can give effective and audience-relevant lectures.

Almost as important to the organizers was and still is the effect that a keynote speaker has on the audience: on the one hand, due to his name and his familiarity, he should act as a magnet of attraction in advance, on the other hand, of course, also during his speech, charismatic and with his (stage) presence captivate, electrify and motivate the audience. In summary, the editors have come to the following conclusion:

“For prospective speakers, the ability to engage the audience is critical. To learn to capture, engagement must be integrated into session design.”

Directly connected with this increasing demand on keynote speakers is the trend to no longer limit their use to the actual speech, but to involve these speakers in the run-up to and after an event.

According to the study, about 2/3 of the organizers expect the keynote speakers to not only actively participate on stage, but also in other phases of the event.

Around 40% of the organizers asked the speakers to write an article in a newsletter, publish an article or give a specialist interview in addition to the actual keynote speech.

Further requirements and wishes for the speakers followed: to write a blog entry for the organizer or his organization, or to hold a webinar – another quarter of the organizers wished the speakers to show “remaining commitment” – these could be meet-and-greets, VIP receptions, book signing sessions or similar activities.

The requirements of the organizers in detail

In summary, the organisers’ requirements for keynote speakers and the corresponding environment (including event and congress organisation agencies) can be summarised as follows:

1. quality before quantity: fewer speakers, more suitable and therefore “better”.
2. relevant speakers: in addition to entertainment value, specialist knowledge is becoming increasingly important.
3. innovative event formats: The speakers must also be familiar with these formats and be able to adapt to different formats.
4. more flexible handling of formats: away from the standard to experiments (this development is still in its infancy).
5. additional performance of the speakers: the keynote speakers should be able to be used for other activities (webcasts etc.) in addition to the actual speech.
In summary, the Speaker Report shows that the demands placed on speakers are increasingly changing. The organizers attach more importance to a comprehensible and measurable added value, the requirements for enthusiasm, charisma and entertainment value are extended by technical requirements. And last but not least, the keynote speakers should be able to actively participate in an event in various formats and make their presence and skills available to the organizer off-stage, in direct contact with the participants and using current transfer techniques.

We would like to invite you to dive deeper into the future of meeting design in a personal consultation and find out together with you and your team which trends, storytelling strategies and keynote speakers will be relevant for you and your company in the future!

You can read the second part of this article here.

The Event-Experience-Journey: On the “Pink! Way” to the ideal experience!