How to Create a Keynote Speech Your Audience Will Love

Date Posted:Thu, 16th Jan 2020

How to Create a Keynote Speech Your Audience Will Love

From BBG member, Matt Jennison, Founder and CEO, One Zebra


Creating a powerful keynote presentation can feel daunting and create a lot of stress and anxiety, but it doesn’t have to be this way. They key to success is identifying what the audience members really want out of attending this talk (advice, transformation, motivation, a new skill set?); they are giving their time to listen to you, so in return you should offer an authentic, well thought through and well-practiced presentation that provides real value.

Here are 7 principles that could make you a hit at your next conference: 


Most presenters make the mistake of getting on stage and immediately introducing themselves or talking about how excited they are to be speaking.

The human brain is hard wired to tune out anything that doesn’t help us survive and thrive, but long-winded introductions and thank yous to the organisers have nothing to do with the audience’s survival. If you do this, you are offering them a reason to pay zero attention for the remainder of the talk. Don’t forget, their magical mobile phone is one swipe away from a whole world of more interesting content!

How much more powerful would the opening line be if it began with a pain point that everyone in the audience is feeling?   It will hook the audience and demand their attention for the entirety of the presentation.


It’s not enough to state the problem once. A great presenter knows that human beings are hardwired to perk up when there’s tension. So, they ramp up the stakes by agitating that frustration. If you want to really demand the room, build tension between where the audience is and where they could be. Dig into the different levels of problems they face. This will keep the audience hanging on your every word.

If the audience’s problems aren’t solved, not only will they get worse, but tragedy could ensue.  What awful thing would your audience experience if they don’t move forward with the advice you’re offering? How much more frustrated will they be if they don’t find a way out of their misery?

You don’t want to go too negative when you agitate the problem or the audience could shift into denial and check out. However, it is important you establish something is at stake – because if there’s nothing at stake, there’s no reason to take action.


Now that you’ve ramped up the stakes by agitating the problem, it’s time to introduce the way out, by shifting the audience’s way of thinking. Introducing a paradigm shift relieves the audience of their tension and gives them hope that there is a way out of their pain and frustration.

Doing this in your presentation will lead the audience towards transformation and hope for a better future.  It demands them to tune in to your recommendations and ensures they stay engaged throughout the entire presentation.


Once the paradigm shift has been introduced, you must then explain how you can actually lead the audience out of their problem and into success. In this portion of the presentation, provide the audience with simple steps and explain how you or your advice will alleviate their problems and allow them to transform. Don’t forget to paint the larger picture of success for the audience.

Now it’s likely that you will be speaking to a wide range of people, so you’ll want to keep this section high level.  It’s easy to want to get into the weeds here, but resist that urge and keep it very simple.


The most powerful way to establish authority in a keynote is sharing success stories of past clients. Again, you don’t need to get in the weeds with this but the audience needs a reason to trust your advice will work.  Choose powerful anecdotes that show the transformation you’ve allowed people to experience. Before and after examples or mini case studies are also great ways to establish authority.

The elements of authority you choose to include should speak to what your audience wants and the success you promise you can deliver them. If your audience member wants to leave the presentation feeling more motivated, then include authority that will make them believe you have what they need to get motivated.

Don’t forget - expressing your own level of certainty in your solution is key in positioning yourself as the expert and getting the audience to buy into what you’re saying.


Your audience has a deep desire to transform. As the presenter, you are taking your audience on a journey towards a brighter future. It’s your job as the presenter to clearly depict where you can take the audience and what their life will look like. Never assume your audience knows where you could take them or how you could help them transform. You must clearly describe it in a way they can visualize. Whether it’s personal or professional, be very specific when you talk about the success you can allow the audience to experience.

Think about these questions:

  • How could you help them transform?
  • What would life look like once their problems are solved?
  • What new possibilities would open up for the audience if they overcome their frustration?

Not all presentations allow for a call to action. But if your keynote is meant to sell actual products or services, this is where you should include a strong, clear call to action. After the call to action, reiterate what success looks and feels like, so you leave the audience with a crystal clear visualization of where you can take them. 


Audiences remember two parts of speeches: the first thing that’s said and the last. The final remarks should echo the main problem you focused on from the beginning. Great presentations focus on one idea and nail it down from start to finish. The last statement is not the time to introduce a new concept or touch on a new pain point. It’s your final chance to say, I know what you’re feeling and I can lead you out of it.

Think about this as your mic-drop moment. Take advantage of the audience’s attention and use the last statement as the grand finale and keep the audience thinking of you long after the presentation ends.

You might change one life or millions of lives with your next presentation, so give it the time and attention the audience deserves. If you need help, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to help –