As George Bernard Shaw observed, ‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place’. Is the measure of an impactful keynote speaker their ability to deliver a presentation, or their capacity to inspire action?
Just as in Sales, success is not having delivered the pitch but rather having secured a purchase from the customer, keynote speakers need to ‘close’ to be effective.
But what does closing mean for a speaker? It requires a shift from a KEYnote mindset (‘I am the most important speaker here today. You will listen to and learn from me.’) to a 'WEnote' mindset (‘My role is to anchor this audience in a common purpose. I will listen to and adapt to them.’). This shift will leave the audience with a desire to act on something important to them, vs. passively listening to a story.
Here are the three principles of a WEnote...
It's Not Me, It's You
As Ben and Kelly Decker observed in their HBR article, communication style should be situational. In this instance, keynote speakers need to aim for emotional connection and audience-centered content. This can be done through advanced interviews with some participants, or by asking the audience questions during the presentation, and using their answers as jumping off points throughout your presentation. An audience will be far more engaged if you have identified what is in it for them vs. delivering a canned presentation expecting them to connect the dots.
Action Speaks Louder Than Words
Communication is only 7% verbal. Body language and tone of voice dominate the message you deliver, so shielding yourself behind a podium or on a raised stage can limit connection with an audience. Walking around the room with a handheld or lapel mic can transform a keynote to a WEnote by allowing you to engage with more people in the room, get a better read on your connection, and create some energy. Only 5% of a lecture will be retained... breaking tradition by 'allowing' your audience to discuss your topic with you and among themselves before or during your keynote, and inspiring them to take action immediately following it, will greatly improve their retention of your presentation.
3 What's and No How
The three questions a great WEnote will answer for the audience are What?, So What?, Now What? What are you sharing with me? Why are you sharing it with me? And what will I do with it? Many keynote presentations only achieve the first what - a story is told, slides are shown, but little connection is made and few are called to action. The important thing is to connect without constricting the audience. As Simon Sinek points out, it’s called the ‘I have a dream speech’, not the ‘I have a plan speech’. Inspiration comes from creating a clear picture of 'what could be'. 'How do we get there' is best left for the audience. This is the question that will lead them to take action after the WEnote experience, and allow them to bring their individual strengths and perspective to the challenge.
The Final Mark of a WEnote
The final mark of a WEnote: it will not end with a mic drop. It will be a baton pass... a seamless energy trade that allows the recipient to accelerate forward!