How I Build a Keynote Presentation


One of my favorite things do in my work is to craft a custom keynote for a client. I love the building of a keynote almost as much as I love delivering the keynote. Here are the 6 steps I take to craft my dynamic keynote sessions.

1. I start with a launch discussion with my client. In the launch discussion I ask my client a ton of questions: What keeps you up at night about your current customer service position? Where do you need your customer experience to be 5 years from today? If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your company culture, what would that one thing be?  My objective is to find out exactly what my client wants to accomplish by working with me.

2. Next, I go undercover as my client’s customer. This is often a lot of fun.  For a specialty retail store chain, my client gave me $500 to go shopping at 3 of their stores. When I’m working with call centers I will listen to recordings of phone calls or call in and be the customer. I worked with a large church recently and my family and I were “undercover” visitors checking out the ushers, greeters, signage and worship experience. My favorite undercover assignment was for a salon and day spa. I spent 3 months visiting their spa to get massages, Caribbean pedicures, hair color and even days of beauty. I know, I live the life. My undercover experience gives me data I need to come back and report on what my client does well and to give them a strategy for improving the customer experience.

3. I’ll interview a handful of employees.  I’m usually hired by management. To ensure my keynote is relevant to the audience, I always interview a handful of employees to learn what challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. These interviews are so insightful and often the meat of my presentation comes from what I learn from the employees. They tell me what the organization needs, what problems customers face and they give me ideas for process improvement. I love interviewing employees because the message I get from the interviews gives me credibility with the audience — because I’m speaking the audience’s language.

4. I gather stories and examples from the real world. The way to engage an audience is to present compelling stories, examples and analogies. After determining my client’s objectives and my strategy for improving their customer experience, I go out and find great companies that have mastered what I’m trying to help my clients accomplish. Sometimes, many times actually, I share stories from my own experiences as a customer. People tell me my stories are the most compelling part of my keynotes.

5. I find a way to make my keynotes interactive.  Whether I’m speaking to an audience of 75 or 1,100, I get my participants involved in my presentation. In a recent keynote I divided my audience into small groups and had each group pull out their smartphones and iPads to quickly research a company and report back to the large group. To help a company with corporate change, I facilitated an activity where participants had to make 10 changes to their appearance within 30 seconds and they had to live with those changes for the duration of my keynote. I used this exercise to teach my audience that they could live with forced and immediate change, even though it may be uncomfortable. Making my keynotes interactive keeps audiences engaged and it makes the session fun.

6. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. I’ve been speaking professionally for almost 20 years and I still rehearse every speech I give. I rehearse my content, movement, gestures, pauses…everything. You can never practice too much.


Want me to speak at your next conference? Visit my website to explore my speaking topics and to contact my office. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.


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