What exactly is a keynote speaker?

A key question that we have dived into plenty recently: what is actually a keynote speaker? What makes a keynote performance different from other presentations? And when can you call yourself a keynote speaker? Professional speaker and co-founder of The Speakers Club Niek van den Adel will answer these questions for you in this blog.


"There are different ideas about what a keynote presentation is," he says. explains Niek. "Thus, the term is less known in the Netherlands than abroad. In my view, the keynote is the main inspirational speech of the day, the one that sets the tone or embodies the topic of the day. The difference between a keynote and a normal presentation is that keynote speakers are often professionals. Your job is to amaze the audience and do so in a way that is inspiring to your listeners.", states the speaker. "A singer is that in the world of music, a keynote speaker is that in the world of presentations. He/she is deliberate about communication and visuals, stands out from the rest and thinks globally. You are not a keynote speaker when you 'just' come to give a presentation, a keynote speaker is basically an artist with words."

Mockup - KeynoteSpeaker


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Therefore, you cannot just call yourself a keynote speaker, Niek believes: "You are a keynote speaker if you take your profession seriously. You cannot show up with your USB stick five minutes beforehand. Everything about your performance has to be right from head to tail. You will have to think about the lights, about smoke, about the structure of your story and your performance, the tension curve, the clothes you put on, the way you move, talk, the content of your presentation and, of course, your language - everything has to be right down to the last detail. You have to be able to evoke recognition from the audience. So it's someone who does something different from others and looks at things differently, because then it will benefit you as an audience. You can compare it to a concert: the keynote speaker is the lead singer, the main act. We sometimes call them event plasters. The keynote speaker is the one who, after a presentation by a boring director or tiresome professor, leaves the listener on the edge of their seat again."


The key question, of course, is how exactly to become a keynote speaker. The key to success, says Niek, is in distinction: "A keynote speaker should be surprising, astonishing and astounding at the same time! That's why very few are really good at it. Fortunately, there is a lot to train. Anyone can deliver a great story, but sensing a room, stimulating interaction and using humour is hard to train. Your sensus has to be strong, you have to be able to sense what the audience needs. So you have to avoid not interacting/clicking with your audience and avoid the default. In fact, 99% of people who give a presentation already do that. They are unaware or overly aware of their own story and therefore fail to connect with the audience. They focus too much on content or just tell stories without content. The greatest singers tailor the programme of their performances to the cheers and happy faces. This is why they also do try-outs, so they can then do their performance for three/four years in the way the audience understands and can relate to it. As a headline act, this is at least as important for a keynote speaker."

keynote speaker Niek van den Adel


Niek van den Adel In addition to being an (inter)national keynote speaker, he is also the author and initiator of Speakers Club. Niek's talks cover topics such as resilience, customer focus, leadership, inspiration and care - topics he has dealt with a lot himself and can talk about with appropriate passion, humour and emotion. He knows how to touch and make his audience aware of essential issues and can quickly connect through his positive and humorous approach. His extensive experience and tireless perseverance make him a valuable, driven coach and a witty sparring partner.

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