Bad advice for writing keynote speeches

03-Jan / 0 COMMENTS

Listen to any broadcast game, especially football. You’ll get great pieces of advice like this,

“The key to victory today, is that whoever puts the most points on the board is going to win.”
“Well, the team that keeps the ball and moves it down field will have the advantage.”
“You have to connect on those passes or else you aren’t going to win.”

Oh really?

Yet it’s not too much different when it comes to public speaking advice on giving keynote speeches:

“The best keynotes are the ones full of stories.”
“Don’t bore your audience, surprise them!”
“Use numbers, but not too many or too few.”

Oh really?

It’s not that the advice is wrong. Sure, I’d love a speech with stories, a few numbers, and one that’s inspiring, passionate, and informative.
All of us would. That’s not the problem any speaker has. We can all go out there and identify a great speech.

Take the following speakers and imagine how each might approach a “keynote speech” they’ve been asked to give:

A psychologist turned self-published author wrote a book detailing a new type of therapy and now wants to go out and give a talk on the book and the new therapy in the hopes of selling the book and changing minds.

A high-ranking government official is invited by a local political group to their annual fundraising dinner.
A CEO is selected to give the opening keynote at an industry conference.

All three of these speakers are asked to give a “keynote speech” but any general catch-all advice for them would fall short. Might each one tell stories? I hope so. Will they use statistics in an engaging way?

Most likely.

Yet the problem with this advice is that it’s useless for a speaker who has to sit down and write a speech.

But what’s hard is sitting down to write the darn thing and to develop it over time. There are very few resources out there that pull back the curtains and give a step by step process to write a speech. Partly it’s because there can’t be a one-sized fits all approach—if someone claims they have one they haven’t thought too hard and realized that a wedding toast and an annual report to a board of directors are just a bit different from one another.

Part of what this email series is going to do in the upcoming days is lay out the step by step approaches that I take to write keynote speeches. It’s my goal to go take you through that process so that you can give the right type of keynote speech for the right occasion.

If you need a speech before the series ends,


Eddie Rice

Eddie Rice

Eddie is a speechwriter and public speaking coach. His clients include CEOs, college presidents, business owners, and government officials. Email him: eddie@customspeechwriting.com
Eddie Rice
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