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What's A Keynote? And Why You Need One

pitch plan virtual summit 101 Apr 18, 2023
Keynote Speaker

Every event needs a well-planned and even better-delivered key session to set the tone. These sessions are typically delivered by a well-trained, well-known, and well-spoken speaker who can engage and excite your attendees while setting the overall tone of the event for all sessions to come. 

This is a big deal.

And it's really important to put some extra thought into these sessions since they play such a major part in setting up the expectations for the overall theme of the event. 

What's A Keynote? And Why You Need One

A keynote presentation is delivered by a 'featured' speaker and is one of the main sessions of your virtual event. Sometimes these sessions are delivered as the very first session to further hit home that they are setting the tone for the event, but other times they are well placed later in the day for various reasons. 

Keynote sessions are big draws for your attendees and should be broader topics that can appeal to the majority of your attendees, while still being quite useful in the information that is being delivered. These sessions require well thought out presentations and poised delivery. 

This is not a simple presentation where the speaker is going to simply click through a deck of slides and talk alongside it. This is also not a one-size fits all presentation, where speakers can simply pick up an old presentation deck they've used and just run with it...

Keynote presentations should have the ability to be molded and transformed into a new version of a tried and true message that is specifically targeted to your attendees. It needs to deliver what this group is in need of, excite them about a specific goal, or entertain them and bring excitement. 

A keynote, as I've mentioned... will set the tone and hone in on the central theme of your event. 

Ways To Utilize Keynotes in Your Virtual Event

As with almost everything I do, I tend to put my own twist on utilizing keynote presentations in my events. Sometimes I have one keynote speaker who gives a presentation that is directly marketed as a keynote and sometimes I don't. 

If I've hired a speaker to give a keynote, then that's what I'll market the session as since ultimately that was part of my reason for seeking out the speaker and paying them something other than speaker affiliate fees to participate.

In these instances, they would have a separate set of speaker guidelines that I would expect them to deliver and their presentation is basically the very first thing people will engage with- so it needs to be amazing. Most of the time I'll ask for these presentations to be at least 45 minutes long and they must include a slide deck. I prefer to have a copy of the slide for attendees to download, but it's not always a necessity.

In other instances, I've forfeited the traditional keynote speaker and recruited what I refer to as main stage speakers for each day of the event. It takes a lot of the pressure off and also shares some of the glory with other great speakers whose topics are broader and easily appeal to a wide audience. In these situations, I usually ask that the presentation include a slide deck, but can be between 30-45 minutes in length. 

I favor the second format the most and it seems to work really well. 

Multiple speakers get additional screen time with the audience, and more broad topics are featured on the main stage which encourages a larger number of attendees to tune in live for these sessions. 

How To Research Your Keynote Speakers

Once you're all set on what a keynote is and why you should have one at your event, it's time to think about how you'll get yours lined up! Choosing a keynote speaker is a big deal and as we already covered, it's really an important decision and can ultimately set the tone for your event. 

If this is where you're at, it's time to block out some time to do your research!


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