Preparing for a Keynote Address: It’s Not About Your Ego

Recently I was preparing for a keynote address at a local Gifted and Talented conference.  The presentation I'm was asked to provide the event is one that I had given several times over the last few years, but as I sat down to regroup and reorganize, I wondered … “what makes this time different than all other times I have presented on this topic.”

The topic of this weeks presentation is about the many ways we can use Google Slides in our classroom.  We start out by taking a look at what Google Slides is and then slowly begin to dissect the application as being something more than a PowerPoint Substitute.  It's a topic that is near and dear to my heart as I routinely see teachers using Google Slides simply as something that students can stand in front of and read to their classmates.  In all honesty, there are hundreds of things you can do with Slides, but I will save that for another day.

Recently, I began to think about how we prepare for edcamps vs preparing for large conference presentations vs preparing for a keynote.  There is a bit of a difference, but ultimately we have the responsibility as presenters to remember that when it comes down to it, the presentation, keynote, discussion (etc) should not be designed to promote our own ego and agenda.  The content should be fully focused on our audience and on their needs.

How to Create Memorable Presentations

The Unconference

In order to create a memorable presentation, you first need to look at the event you are attending.  An edcamp is a weekend (generally) event that is attended by a wide variety of volunteers.  Teachers arrive at an event such as an edcamp or TeachMeet not knowing what they will be learning that day.  I find that the average edcamp has more than 50% of its audience in attendance for the first time.  Unconferences by nature are designed to be more spontaneous and in turn, the sessions are sometimes best to be thought of as “conversations” rather than lectures or presentations.  Several times, in fact, I have had edcamp organizers on the podcast who have told me that unconferences are all about leaving the slide decks at home and making connections with great educators.

When facilitating a conversation at an unconference it's best to remember that your audience can come from any type of school, from any type of subject area, and from any type of expertise level.  More and more, I see edcamps creating “tracks” with their sessions to alert participants to the idea that a session is beginner or advanced.  This is helpful.  However, I find that sometimes, the best sessions are created from a well-rounded group composed of several backgrounds.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to facilitate unconference topics with literally hundreds in one session (iMovie Trainers were quite popular that day) and sessions with only a small handful of people.  I very much enjoy when the sessions are small because you really get the opportunity for everyone to connect and collaborate.

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Hands-on Workshops

I think of creating a hands-on workshop the same way I think about creating my classroom lessons.  Generally, audience members know about your subject area and you are creating an experience to enhance their knowledge.  When I create a workshop, I am more about providing a constant stream of communication AND a physical activity rather than providing the group with a long and drawn-out lecture-style presentation.  To use the rules of CUE Rockstar, you should only talk for the first 5-8 min to set up the session and then the rest of the time should be total interaction and content emersion.

The goal of any workshop is to get the attention of the audience and to get them to follow your lead.  If you think about your workshops the way you think about your lesson plans, the first 10 minutes should be your self-introduction and anticipatory activity.  I encourage audience members to interact with each other and perhaps introduce themselves to several people.  This breaks the ice a bit.  Then we schedule a conversation to see where the room is to get a feel of the room.  I generally “work the audience” a bit at this point with some light humor and try and try at that point to throw in some technical terms or other vocab to see where we are with our subject knowledge.

No matter how short or long the workshop is, it's important that each member of the audience walk away with something.  The audience comes for a show and they come to learn about the subject in an interactive environment.  For this reason, it's important that you have all of your notes, videos, and other materials prepared ahead of time so they can walk away with the not only the experience but the “party bag of knowledge.”  When you give out the link to your workshop materials, it should be something that they can understand and remember.  It should be branded with your logo. Your show notes should have more than enough information to provide your audience with that reminder that you prepared a great workshop and that they had a good time learning from you.

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Keynote Presentations

A good keynote presentation should take an audience member on a journey.  Everyone has their own style.  I have seen amazing keynote speakers stand up in one space and captivate an audience, and I have also witnessed speakers run around the stage without much of an idea of what they appeared to be doing.

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Should you be telling stories or should we be lecturing?

One of my favorite speakers to study from is Chris Lema.  A WordPress expert, Chris begins all of his sessions with a long story that you can't turn away from.  They are captivating and I used them for the study materials when I prepared my recent TEDx Talk. Stories are a great way of communicating and bringing an audience into your world.  Once you have them …. you have them.

Should you have audience participation during a keynote?

As a professional educator, you need to accept the fact that you are in fact, a public speaker. Several times, I have asked teachers to be on the podcast only to hear them reply with “I'm not good at speaking and I have nothing to say.” This simply isn't the case in the real world.  If you think about every presentation as a lesson, then you should build in some type of audience participation moment.  This could be anything from a back channel, to a big of what comedians call “crowd work” to at least some fancy humor designed to get them on their toes a bit.

Wrap up on a high note.

When I planned my TEDx talk, I crafted it in an ABA form.  I started talking about my children, moved into a topic that relates to the audience, and then circled back to the kids.  It all wrapped up in a nice little message.  When thinking about your audience, you want to make sure they walk away remembering you out of all the presentations they might encounter that day.  You want to become something they talk about the next day at the water cooler.  When wrapping up your keynote, you should provide something for your audience to put in their pocket and use the next day.

Plan, Prepare, Pretend

As the saying goes … “Fake It Till You Make It” Your first unconference session will most likely be a learning experience for your next opportunity to lead a discussion.  Your first workshop will always be a dress rehearsal for your next.  Your first Keynote will hopefully be a dress rehearsal for your next.  What is most important is to make sure you are filling the needs of your audience the best that you can.  If you do that, everything else will fall into place for you once the conference is over.

Good luck with your next presentation, workshop, or keynote. I would love to learn about your tips, tricks, or secretes in planning your public speaking adventures.  Please take a moment and leave us a comment below.

See you soon – Jeff

About the author, Jeffrey Bradbury

Jeff Bradbury, creator of TeacherCast, and father of the famous @EduTriplets Thanks for checking out TeacherCast today. Please take a moment to find me on all of my Social Media channels!

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