Keynote Speakers

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Keynote speakers form the crux of any tentpole event. Whether it's a fundraiser, a charity golf outing, a political rally, or a comedy jam, keynote speakers are the reason most people line up to get in. A lot of times, attendees scarcely bother to make the other events (such as the "golf" portion or the follow-up brunch the next day) so long as they catch their favorite business tycoon or Hall of Fame pitcher in person.

Keynote speakers, by and large, make their speeches at the end of the evening, thereby giving event planners the chance to stock the affair with lead-ins. Some keynote deliverers fear being upstaged by lesser-known speakers on the so-called "undercard" and therefore insist on speaking first. Big-time performers tend to come with big-time egos, and sometimes it will be necessary to conform to their desires in order to ensure the smooth flow of the event..

Types of Keynote Speakers

By definition, keynote speakers are the focus of the evening, so less emphasis is placed on their format. Some speakers will conduct "town-hall" sessions in which the forum is open to questions throughout the 60-90 minutes. Others will opt to give a 90-minute address and take no questions. Some happy medium, however, is the norm. That way, a presenter may give an uninterrupted talk and make whatever digressions or asides he or she chooses, then leave time for 10 or 15 minutes of questions.

Most keynote speakers will conform strictly to the event's topic and format, which is generally the case with less famous presenters. If the weeklong conclave has been primarily informative or instructional, the keynote address shouldn't swerve too far off course and devolve into a spectacle of dramatic performance. By the same token, if the theme of the evening or weekend has been expression or creativity, the speaker may well choose a looser or even unorthodox approach to underscore his or her main ideas.


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