13 Secrets to an AMAZING Keynote
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Willing is not enough; we must do.” Goethe
Many meetings quickly fade into the background of all the “meaning-less-repeat-what-we-have-already-done-before” dithering if we don’t start new conversations. Use these thirteen steps to make all your messages meaning-full. Don’t try and make people act differently, help them think differently. Encourage new behaviors by starting new conversations.
1. Creating a Buzz
The most successful messages are not those that provide the best answers but those that start the most productive conversations. Inspiration is nice and education reassuring, but meaning-full dialogue is transformational. Organizational change is not the result of imposed behaviors, but of shared understanding. A single exposure to new information seldom generates lasting transformation. It is the lasting dialogue that creates permanent change. My Red High Tops are not intended as a fashion statement, but as a tool to keep the conversations alive.
2. Attention Deficit Trait
Our most limited resource is attention span. Advertisers once perplexed with confining messages to 30- or 60-second spots are now creating ads as short as ½ second. Got a big meeting planned and tons of material to cover? Break it down to ten minute bites or you’re wasting everyone’s time. Neurobiologist John Medina’s’ research shows how we block out boring, and 600 seconds is a lifetime for new messages.
3. Follow the 30/30 rule.
Thirty words max per slide and . Reading and writing are relatively new additions in the evolution of our communication skills. Einstein believed that words and formulas were a poor substitute for pictures. We are visual by nature. Accompany new ideas with correlating graphics to anchor ideas and encourage retention.
4. Write it down and cut it in half
Writing your message helps your refine the ideas in your own mind and eliminate unnecessary details that don’t add to the message. Remember you know your story, your audience does not. You have to slow down enough to allow your audience time to feel your message. Jerry Seinfeld is said to spend hours trying to reduce a sentence of seven words to one of five. Communicate more by saying less. If you are planning the meeting, ask your speakers to write out the benefits of their presentation that you can use in promoting your event.
5. Can Vs.Will
Many of the speaker request forms I receive include instructions to provide “Practical information attendees can use right way”. At first blush this directive seems entirely reasonable but it is missing the point by one key word. The difference between average and awesome is the difference between can and will. A powerful message is one that not only provides information, but inspires action. This is the single greatest challenge for every leader that has ever lived. There is no shortage of information. In the US alone we publish almost One million new books every five years, and yet 93% will sell less than a thousand copies. The challenge is not in presenting new ideas, but in creating an impetus to act that is irresistible.
6. If they wanted to they would
Start with the humbling understanding that the ideas you are presenting are not new, and your audience has undoubtedly heard them before. The difference you are trying to make is not in what people know, but what they do. Except in the cases of those who are very new and inexperienced, (who are usually so enthusiastic you don’t care that they don’t know) performance breakdowns are not a lack of “know how” but of remembering why. Your challenge is not how, but why.
7. Your why is not their why
We are all wired differently. Your role is not to impose your inspiration on others, but to help them find their own.
The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own
8. Don’t Lecture
Most of us profess a desire to learn, but in reality we prefer the comfort of what we already know. Frontal attacks (lecturing) or enticements only serve to fortify defensiveness. The most difficult task for every teacher (and we are all teachers all the time) is not getting new ideas in, but in encouraging people to let go of their old ideas. Your ideas may be much better but their ideas are more familiar, and there are few things more certain to inhibit action than the unknown.
9. Soothe the transition
Create a comfortable transition by attaching new ideas to old experiences. Help people bridge the gap between where they are and where you would like them to be by reminding them they have been there before. We have all been the people we would like to be if only for a short time. Use the memories of past successes to illuminate a brighter future. Take a lesson from Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi. They each had the ability to “make people intrinsically unhappy with their current state of affairs without demeaning their accomplishments or dishonoring their past in any way”.
10. The Minions of Mirth
Laughter and humor are powerful not only because they grab our attention in the moment, but because they open the gates to recall similar moments from our past. Memory recall is “State Specific”. The ability to restore and retrieve memories is augmented by the emotional state we are in at the time. We have all been in gatherings where one funny story unlocks forgotten memories which are not so much recalled as they are relived in the moment. Humor unleashes “the minions of mirth” to bring your audience together in common experience. To create lasting change the learner must invite the new ideas in and make them their own. We are not thinking beings who have feelings, we are feeling beings who have thoughts. Our intellectual abilities are far outmatched when strong feelings are involved. Humor and laughter are used to displace the fear of the new and unknown by attaching positive feelings to new information.
11. Attach Symbols to Stories
The Bee characters were created primarily because they are fun. For almost twenty years a large part of my professional career has been spent as an “educational humorist”. Through humor and story I share life-changing lessons wrapped in a package of side-splitting laughter. Each story is designed to encourage a shared agreement with the audience that becomes part of a common language. People may forget my name very quickly, but the sight of my red high tops always brings back memories of lessons learned.
12. Bring the pain
The reality of the current state of our species is that we are inspired by pleasure but motivated by pain. Our entire physiology is designed to notice, remember and act on anything that might be perceived as a threat. This is why our media is so predominantly negative. They use fear to grab your attention so they can sell advertising. In my speaking, I think it works best the opposite way. Use the pleasure of humor and story to earn the right to share the pain of current reality.
13. Create a “disorienting dilemma”
This has been defined as one of the keys to lasting transformation. It is most often the result of life experience, but the same process can be used in compelling storytelling. Remember your mind cannot tell the difference between something vividly imagined and something real. Use story to draw people into a common experience with a surprise ending. This “unexpected twist” process is also a part of successful humor. When you guide your audience down a familiar path the comfort of story dissipates their defenses and they become part of the experience. The dilemma is created when you expose the dysfunction of the role they have subconsciously played in the story. Until people are sufficiently uncomfortable with current behavior it is unlikely they will adopt new ones.Share