What is a keynote speaker?

A great keynote speaker, inspires and motivates through their personal story, breathes life into the conference and is the key to having an engaging and memorable event.

In this resource I look at

  1. What is a keynote speaker?
  2. How are they different from other speakers?
  3. What makes a great keynote speech?
  4. How to find a keynote speaker
The impact of a motivational speaker nz

What is a Keynote Speaker?

The ‘keynote speaker’ sets the tone for an entire event through their keynote presentation. A ‘keynote’, whether in music, writing or public speaking is the principle underlying theme of a larger idea. It’s perhaps clearest to see in music where the ‘key note’ is the first note of a scale, and everything else, all harmonies and modulations, are referenced off that. 

Normally, the keynote speech is delivered at the opening session of a conference. Normally there is only one keynote address at an event and this keynote presentation is given in the largest room to all participants of the conference – the plenary session. 

This is a conference keynote speaker – however, you do also hear of people referring to any important or significant presentation at an event as a ‘keynote’ ie ‘I walked passed several rooms where speakers were giving motivational keynotes.’ 

Professional speakers often talk about giving keynotes or workshops to refer to the type of engagement with the audience, regardless of where their presentation sits in the conference. In this sense ‘keynotes’ are largely one way presentations, as opposed to ‘workshops’ where the emphasis is on audience participation and interaction.

What is a public speaker? What is a guest speaker?

A ‘public speaker’, ‘guest speaker’, ‘conference speaker’ or ‘plenary speaker are just more generic terms for people who are speaking at events. 

A public speaker is the broadest term, as it applies to anyone who presents to anything other than a mirror. 

The guest speaker is someone usually from outside the company or organisation, as opposed to an internal speaker. 

A conference speaker is someone who presents at conferences or has the full time role of speaking at events.

A ‘plenary speaker’ is someone who presents in a plenary session – when all participants of the conference have been invited to attend.

Normally, the keynote speech is delivered at the opening session of a conference. Normally there is only one keynote address at an event and this keynote presentation is given in the largest room to all participants of the conference – the plenary session. 

This is a conference keynote speaker – however, you do also hear of people referring to any important or significant presentation at an event as a ‘keynote’ ie ‘I walked passed several rooms where speakers were giving motivational keynotes.’ 

Professional speakers often talk about giving keynotes or workshops to refer to the type of engagement with the audience, regardless of where their presentation sits in the conference. In this sense ‘keynotes’ are largely one way presentations, as opposed to ‘workshops’ where the emphasis is on audience participation and interacti.

What makes a great keynote speech?

There are five elements to a great keynote speech.

  1. a trusted, authentic expert, 
  2. develops a rapport with the audience, and then 
  3. delivers clear, helpful practical information 
  4. in a way that is memorable, and that
  5. achieves the organiser’s objectives.

What makes a keynote speech great is because of what you do as a result of having heard it. For it to be a great keynote speech, something has to change. The audience has to be captivated AND receive solid content and pragmatic techniques that they can take away and make tangible and meaningful improvements in the pace of their progress towards their goals. 

The speaker needs to leave a mark. If you were to ask an attendee a year later they’ve got to be able to remember three things from the presentation. In fact, if they can even remember one thing about what they heard it would have been a far better than average presentation!

Giving good advice is hard. Giving good advice that people are going to act on is even harder. Giving great advice that people remember takes a lot of skill and experience. The speaker needs to be engaging, provocative and entertaining. Content needs to be honed down and made catchy. It’s often helpful if visual aids are used. 

Perhaps half of presentation skills can be learned – but the other half is an apprenticeship. It takes time on the job. Even after 500 times a speaker presenting in front of an audience a keynote speaker is improving.

How to find a great keynote speaker for your event

Need a keynote speaker?

There are a three different ways of finding a great keynote speaker for your next conference. You can search yourself on the internet. You can use a speaking agency like Essential Talent, Speakers NZ, Captive Audience and Celebrity Speakers – but you will pay an additional booking fee of about 10%. 

Or use word of mouth – ask people who they’ve heard and they would recommend. I have written a resource about how to find a great keynote speaker here. Actually it focuses on finding a great motivational speaker but all the same principles apply!

Who are great keynote speakers in NZ?

If you’re looking for a keynote speaker in NZ, especially if your looking to provide your attendees with the tools and mindsets to take on tough challenges then I can help.

I’ve been a keynote speaker since 2003 when I won, and broke the world record, for the trans-Atlantic rowing race. I was back in the news again a few years later when I completed the first ever unsupported, unresupplied trek to the South Pole by kiwis.

Conference organisers often put me on first thing – to start the day with a bang. Others have me on as their keynote speaker just after lunch to jolt attendees out of their food comas. But most commonly I’m doing my keynote as the last event of the day to ensure that the participants leave feeling energised and inspired.

Over the last fifteen years I’ve been proud to be involved presenting as a keynote speaker for many of the biggest (and not so big) companies in NZ. Companies like Air NZ, MacDonalds, 3M, Fonterra and IBM. Check out just some of my feedback here. Go on. I dare you.

I’ve co-hosted three series of the TVNZ documentary series ‘First Crossings’ and ‘Intrepid NZ’ – recreating the adventure stories of early NZ pioneers.

I’ve written or co-written three books. The Sunday Star Times Award winning ‘The Oarsome Adventures of a Fat Boy Rower’ – about the trans-Atlantic rowing race and ‘Escape to the Pole’, about the trek to the South Pole. Also ‘First Crossings’, which describes ten of the best stories from the TV show.

But before all that I was a management consultant. So it’s from my unique background in business consulting and ultra-endurance adventures, that I share powerful, battle-tested tools and techniques that make your team more effective in taking on big challenges, and more resilient when dealing with adversity.

I tell surprising true stories of surviving towering waves, desperate ocean chases and yawning icy abysses that keep your team enthralled, while I coach them to higher levels of performance.

After taking part in one of my keynotes or workshops your team will have the skills and attitude to expand what they are capable of, to take ownership of problems and apply themselves with renewed enthusiasm and persistence.

If you’re after a keynote speaker to add some spark to an event, someone who is going to entertain as well as inform then drop me a line using the contact form below or call me on 027 282 4203.

Keynote Topics

Click here to download the latest info pack that contains details about all of my presentation topics, background and bio! 

Why Choose me?

Because I get testimonials like this:

“From the minute we decided to book Kevin he was brilliant to deal with. Kevin took the time to understand the audience he would be engaging with. He came up with his ideas on how best he could help us achieve our goals. He makes his content & key messages relatable to his audience at all times.”- Ian Holland, ASB Bank

Because I’m the highest rated speaker in Australasia

Closing on a hundred 5 star Google reviews! Want more proof? More than a hundred additional reviews here.

Because I get and hold attention

Want your audience to be paying attention? I won the trans-Atlantic rowing race and was the first kiwi to trek unsupported to the South Pole. When I present on mental toughness, facing challenges, energising teams and taking performance to the next level he shares tried and proven real world lessons.

Because I’m massively experienced

Want to sleep the night before? No problem. This won’t be my first rodeo. He has been delighting and inspiring audiences for more than 17 years. In that time he has spoken to nearly 700 organisations across New Zealand, Australia and the UK. From pip-fruit growers to board directors Kevin has worked with an audience like your team.

Because I make an impact

Want your team to be acting, talking and thinking more effectively? My messages will be resonating around your organisation long after his presentation or workshop. My more than 100 client testimonials reflect the effort that goes into making each presentation and workshop exceptional.

Because your time is precious

On the internet it can be difficult to tell speakers apart. Making the wrong choice could be all the difference between having a conference or event that sparkles or fizzles. You could spend a lot of your precious time looking.

Or you could join companies like Fonterra, ASB, BNZ, MTF, Beca, Air NZ, MacDonalds and Warehouse Stationery and contact me and get this sorted now!

We have been running our winter seminar for over twenty years, and Kevins after dinner presentation was the best yet. – Chris Lewis

We have had numerous motivational speakers over the years. None have had the resounding impact that Kevin had. – Ah Leen Rayner, 3M

Drop me an email at [email protected], or use the form in the footer below and I’ll explain what I can do for you. I normally get back to you within 10 min.

Or just call me on 027 282 4203.

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