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keynote speakers in the spotlight.

Keynote speaker: a term in presentation world that we can’t avoid any longer. You will find this type of speakers during congresses and events. They are those well-spoken, eloquent, one-liner-spitting creatives. I wondered: what exactly is a keynote speaker? And how do they view the value of a good presentation?

Trigger 1

As presentation specialists, we have been astonished about the quality of the content (the story), the design (the visual or physical support) and the delivery (the way of presenting) the so-called keynote presentations for quite some time.

A couple of years ago, I had to make arrangements for a speaker during an event myself. I booked a speaker for a client for an event that required quite an investment for just 1 hour. Since creating presentations is my specialism, I offered him to take a (free) look at his presentation, so I could make sure that it would be professional and appealing. ‘No thanks, that won’t be necessary’, was his response. The result? A minimal performance with a super disappointing presentation that, in my perception, was not living up to both the time and financial investment.

Trigger 2

The second trigger for me to investigate the concept of ‘keynote speaker’, was my own performance at the start of this year. I got to give a TopTalk during the Hotellotop at the start of this year. I got to share my personal story with 800 people in the RAI Amsterdam. This was a reverse situation for me as a presentation specialist: from ‘back-office’ to ‘front-of-the-house’. I got to experience all those steps that speakers have to take in the same way.

This is my experience:

  1. Writing the story, revising the story, practicing the story, rewriting the story, testing the story on my peers, finalize the story (sort of).
  2. Determine, based on the story, where to create emotional impact, visualize complexities and make the message more beautiful and powerful for the audience. publiek
  3. Brainstorm and visualize how to convey the message as powerful as possible by triggering the senses and, in doing so, creating a memory.
  4. Get started on the visuals. I chose to use video shots to enforce my story (see video).
  5. Practice, practice, timing, practice!

Whether it went well? I experienced that it is a true art to deliver a story with a strong message, that it is super exciting to stand on large stage (how do you move on such a wide surface?) and it truly requires know-how to deliver something impactfully.


These were the triggers that made me decide to, together with my team, start a research on when exactly you can be named a keynote speaker. Which demands and expectations are intertwined? What should/shouldn’t you do as a keynote speaker? What inspires them? And, essentially: how do they inspire their audiences?

I am super excited that, already, I got to interview 7 names from the (big and small) world of speakers (many thanks!) about their view on the art of speaking.

First findings

Of course, we can already give you a sneak peek of our results. What we found from just the interviews with the keynote speakers, was the following:

  1. The majority of the speakers thinks there are too little truly good professional speakers in the Netherlands.
  2. Several definitions of the concept ‘keynote speaker’ were given, but without much overlapping.
  3. Many of the speakers state that the lack of speakers in the Netherlands can be addressed by starting the guidance of students on giving better presentations within their education.
  4.  The majority of the speakers state that speakers are nervous about innovating when it comes to visual aids due to the technical risks – they would rather play it safe.

Help wanted

The results are so interesting that we would like to involve a student from a college/university in order to take this research to a higher level. We want to be able to validate both the qualitative and quantitative research, by supporting our findings with scientific theories, among other things.

Do you know the student that would like to support us with our research? Reach out to us quickly so we can work on and share this interesting and valuable research together.

Also, we are collecting more useful content at the moment. So, do you consider yourself a keynote speaker and would you like to share your view on keynote presentations and professionally speaking with us? Directly contact Mandy by sending an e-mail to mandy@presentsavvy.nl or calling her on +31(0)70 2210459

To be continued…

Besides the (keynote) speakers, we have also approached a couple of speaker agencies to ask them about their view on the world of speakers. Also, we decided to zoom in on the other side of the spectrum by letting the event managers have their say. After all, they are responsible for arranging speakers for events and deciding who will get up on the stage.

As you might have understood, our ‘small’ research has become much bigger and more valuable than we had anticipated on. It has become so interesting that speakers are now approaching us to be able to contribute! To be continued…