What is a keynote speaker?

A keynote speaker gives a special form of speech during an event. He or she puts listeners in the mood for a particular topic, stimulates them to think and sparks their interest. A keynote speaker supports organizers in highlighting a topic in a general way that goes beyond the purely technical level and thus gives the audience a general introduction or overview of the topic.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Jens-Uwe Meyer on innovation and digitalization

The length of the keynote speech varies: From a short inspirational talk to a one-hour keynote speech – for example on digitalization – or an interactive 90-minute presentation.

Get to know keynote speaker Dr. Jens-Uwe Meyer

Role of a Keynote Speaker

In the context of an event, a keynote speaker has different roles and functions. Although a keynote speaker also provides facts, this is usually a secondary consideration. Expert speakers often have the role of presenting facts. A keynote speaker therefore has other roles and functions:

  • The “Icebreaker” role: A keynote speaker stimulates the audience to become curious about a topic. Keynote Speaker Dr. Jens-Uwe Meyer, for example, is often invited as a motivational speaker at events where future strategies of companies are presented or customers are introduced to innovative digital services offered by companies. His keynote on digital disruption illustrates the trends and principles of digitalization to the audience. A keynote speaker often holds the opening keynote speech in his role as “icebreaker”.

  • The “translator” role: A great keynote speaker avoids buzzwords. Especially at professional events a lot of technical and sometimes abstract expressions are used. An example: Bitcoin technology. The technology behind the Bitcoin is complex and in need of explanation. A keynote speaker helps the audience to understand such complex topics. In order to explain the technologies behind the Bitcoin, Keynote Speaker Dr. Jens-Uwe Meyer often conducts an interactive session with the audience. The individual listeners serve as “data storage” for a transaction that is carried out in the audience. (Listener A lends listener B two euros) The interactive presentation of a complex technological process helps listeners to get an idea of a technology. The effect can even be explained scientifically: When a keynote speaker presents a topic in an interactive way to the audience what listeners have learned is anchored in the so-called “limbic system” of the brain, the memory of experiences. Over the course of the event, the audience will be able to fall back on these experiences again and again. This makes technical information easier and simpler to understand. A keynote speaker acts as a “translator”.

  • The entertainment role: Most events follow a particular structure: technical information, which often requires a high level of concentration and receptiveness on the part of the participants, is supplemented by other elements such as a keynote speaker and workshops. A great keynote speaker uses infotainment: supplementary or superordinate information on the topic of the event – presented in an easy to understand and entertaining way using examples, anecdotes and punch lines. A keynote speaker can help organizers to create a dramaturgy that is perceived by participants as stimulating and motivating. In contrast to a clown or artist, a professional keynote speaker has the professional background that allows him or her to connect with the audience.

  • Motivational function: At many events, the audience is introduced to complex topics. However, there is often a lack of motivation to put what audiences hear into practice. Here, a keynote speaker supports the organizers by delivering messages with a strong motivational character. A keynote speaker who acts as a motivational speaker often ends his or her keynote with straightforward reminders. For example: ” Do it!” An appeal not to wait too long to implement the newly learned. Motivational messages are often backed up by practical advice: “Take your smartphone now. Block thirty minutes a day in your diary now and start the implementation tomorrow”. A keynote speaker ensures that the contents of an event are understood by participants at both the technical and the emotional level.

Keynote Speaker is a profession by itself

A high quality keynote speaker understands his or her role. The keynote speaker has a dramaturgy within his speeches with which he takes the audience on a journey. Emotional pictures and stories, anecdotes and punch lines mixed with well-founded messages. A professional keynote speaker is constantly on the lookout for anecdotes and images that can be used in a speech, inspire the audience and underpin the motivational character of a keynote.

Dr. Jens-Uwe Meyer: Keynote Speaker on innovation and digitalization

More about Dr. Jens-Uwe Meyer

The speeches of a keynote speaker are constantly changing. The pictures and videos that professional Keynote Speakers use in their presentations are often taken over by listeners for their own presentations. Therefore all elements that a Keynote Speaker works with have to be renewed regularly. The examples that a Keynote Speaker includes in his or her presentation must also be regularly updated and adapted. On the one hand, the organizations a keynote speaker talks about are changing, and on the other hand, the examples of keynote speakers are often used by the audience for presentations. The adoption of these contents by listeners in the audience is welcome and desired. A keynote speaker and his or her messages thus anchor themselves even more firmly in the minds of the audience. It is therefore part of a keynote speaker’s profession to regularly rework his or her presentations – at least every six to twelve months – in terms of content and dramaturgy. Only if a speaker meets the requirements described in this article will he or she become a great keynote speaker.

Get an overview of the current keynote speeches by Dr. Jens-Uwe Meyer.