The six possible ways to deliver your keynote speech

Mark Schaefer
8 min readSep 19, 2022

I was leading a coaching call the other day, helping a client craft their first keynote speech. I explained to him that there are many ways to deliver an effective talk and I thought this would make an interesting insight to provide to you today.

I’ve been on the professional speaking circuit for more than a decade and I’ve observed some of the best in the business. I’ve seen six different ways people can prepare and present a keynote speech.

It’s important to understand these different styles and how they might work for you …

What is a keynote speech?

First, let’s step back and describe how a “keynote speech” differs from other types of talks.

  • The keynote speech normally sets the tone at the opening of an event or brings the event to an inspirational close.
  • Greater importance is placed on the keynote speech because of the fame or accomplishments of the speaker. Typically the keynote speaker is promoted as a highlight of the event.
  • Normally the keynote speaker is paid because of their status in the industry.

If you want to have a career as a speaker, your goal would be to become established and experienced enough to be known as a keynote speaker.

Let’s get into the six speaking options:

1. Extemporaneous

This involves little or no preparation. It ranges from a stream of consciousness to preparing a few notes right before the speaker is ready to go onstage. Often, this is described as “I’m just going to have a conversation with you right now.”

I have rarely seen anybody pull this off well. In fact, if I made a list of the Top Five WORST speeches I have ever seen, they are all somebody trying to wing their way through a speech with little or no preparation.

ADVANTAGE: No preparation time, total flexibility.

DISADVANTAGE: High risk that you come across as unprepared, and unprofessional. You might run under or over the allotted time of the speech if you’re just rambling. It can hurt your reputation if you fall flat because most organizers do NOT expect a keynote speech to be a…

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Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!