Is Keynote Speaking Dead?

Is it over for professional keynote speakers?

Is Keynote Speaking Dead?

Is keynote speaking dead? Is it over for professional keynote speakers? That’s what I’m gonna be talking about today.



Hey, there’s James Taylor here, keynote speaker on creativity, innovation, and artificial intelligence and the founder of speakers, you know, 

I was having a conversation with a publicist in America. And we’ve talked about what we did in our respective jobs, our roles. And I said, I’m a keynote speaker, I speak on creativity, innovation, AI. And he said All keynote speaking is dead. keynote speaking is over, there’s no word for keynote speaking, if I, he said, he doesn’t call it to keynote speaking anymore. He calls it free note speaking, because keynote speakers, gab, can get paid to speak. And I listened to him for a little while. And then I kind of laughed to myself, because what we are seeing from my own speaking business, the keynote speakers I work with, and I coach your speakers, you, as well as all the bureaus I speak to, is we’re seeing an actual boom, now in Keynote speaking virtual, and gradually now back into in-person and into a hybrid of these, but it’s not equal, or there has not been equally spread all this love, just now for keynote speakers. 

Now, there are some keynote speakers from the old world, that kind of pre-pandemic side, let’s say, that has really, really struggled, and some of them have had to just go from keynote speaking to free no speaking, they’re not, they’re struggling to get paid to speak. And there’s a couple of things I tend to notice about them. 

First of all, there’s a number of them who are, you know, they’re, the heart wasn’t in it. Towards the end there, they may be been speaking for a long time and maybe fallen out of love with their topic, their speech, where they had a signature keynote, they just kind of fell out of love with it. The material is a little bit old, a little bit dated, there, we’re still talking about blockbusters. And for them, many of them have just decided to exit the field and move on from speed, or some of them have just said this, I can’t get paid to speak. But I still enjoy speaking. But I’m going to be a free note speaker. And I’ll maybe upsell people or sell from the stage that is sometimes causing them I have a coaching program or some other product or service that they sell from the stage, but they’re not really getting paid to speak anymore. So that’s one grouping. And I think that the pandemic has just accelerated that. 

The other grouping that I’ve seen has really struggled during this time and has probably moved from the keynote is free note, as people just give the same speech every single time. And I was in a conversation with a bureau the other day, and they would tell me the story about one of previously one of the busiest speakers speaking over the 100 days, dates a year of keynotes a year, and they just can’t get arrested. Now, there’s no they’re just not getting booked. And part of the problem is that the speaker just gave the same speech every single time, maybe changing the logo on the PowerPoint slides that they did. That was about it really. Now, that may be fine. It wasn’t necessarily right. But it might be workable in the old, pre-pandemic world. But now, you’re not giving a speech in front of 50 to 100 people in a small room in a conference center. Now every time you speak, you’re speaking usually on video. And that video can be seen and can be shared, you might be doing pre-recorded, which case gets shared a lot of time even if you might have the best contract in the world and don’t want it to be shared. But over time that content is going to be seen if I if you’re a good speaker, then you probably don’t want it to be kept. You want it to be seen by more people, obviously with the rights stipulations involved. So those speakers who just gave the same speech over and over again, when those videos now are getting shared of that virtual presentation are killing their keynote because every speech is exactly the same. They’re not inventing to speak like I would do which I’m tailor making, maybe not the entire speech, but a large percentage of the speech is tailor-made for that client. So many of those speakers were given the same speech. The speeches have now been seen by people unless it’s a celebrity speaker, more well-known speaker, they’re not getting the same number of bookings. 

And the third type of speaker I’m seeing has had to move from being a keynote speaker, you might cause them to free note speaker they’re just struggling to get paid now to speak, are those speakers who they might have been very strong in terms of doing the side rooms or conference but then Not really the main stage is what we call the keynote speaker. They might call themselves keynote speakers. But they weren’t really keynoted speakers, one main stage, Nestle speakers, and I’m talking here about when we used to go on physical stages. So they might be very, very good, or maybe as trainers, as facilitators, as workshop leaders, and they would run in those side rooms. But they do not necessarily keynote speakers. Now, I’m a big fan of great trainers, great workshop leaders, great facilitators, because there’s an art and a craft to doing that really well. And the good ones, what they’ve realized is, Hey, this is a massive market. Now, we’re going online and virtual, I can give all these workshops, these training, facilitate all these, these things now, virtually, and they’re thriving, their business is booming, because now they can do multiple ones in a day, if they want, they can be doing multiple time zones. They are boundless opportunities for them. And for many of them, they’re not going to be coming back to doing so many in-person types of events, they will do some, but a lot of them are just going to stay virtually because many companies have gotten very, very comfortable delivering the workshop training as for the facilitation side, online, when we if you’re organizing a large conference now or any type of conference for a company, and you’re looking at the cost of doing this and all the challenges you have now you’re thinking, Okay, I’m gonna actually have my keynote speaker have that stage. But some of those side stages, the side rooms, actually, we’re going to deliver those primarily virtually, or they might take part as a series now as well. So those speakers are going to stay in doing that. 

Now, once again, I have to see all this, because I have a huge amount of love for workshop leaders, top trainers, because the ones that are really great, they’re having a bowl, they’re having a blast just now moving into virtual reality because it’s opened up their world. But many of those workshop leaders are not going to get booked as keynote speakers anymore, because it’s a different craft and a different type of thing. And here’s the other interesting thing, as we move into hopefully a post-pandemic world, you’re going to be moving into this hybrid space. And this is going to require those keynote speakers to not only understand delivering in person, on stage, for example but how to virtually deliver a hybrid or high flex version of these as well. And so the role of the keynote speaker, I think has become even more valued. Because when people do come back together, especially in person, events, again, you’re going to really want to ensure that you have thought leaders on that stage, not just the same speech that has been delivered time and time again. 

So if I was you, if you’re worried about maybe getting relegated into that free noting, you’re a keynote speaker, you know that your place is to be on that stage delivering that keynote inspiring, educating entertaining on that stage, then there’s a couple of things do you want to ensure that you’re doing? 

Thought Leadership

First of all, make sure that your thought leadership is right up there continually. I was having a conversation the other day with a very, very successful speaker that speaks on innovation. And he is really humble about always learning, always reading, always researching, always asking questions, always doing interviews, always doing all those pre-event calls to understand the client the challenges and what’s going on in his industry, he’s going to be absolutely fine. Because he’s developed then he’s using that he’s developing his own thought leadership. 

Investing In Your Skills

The other thing I would say is if you’re wanting to show that you can be that keynote speaker side, you need to start investing in your skills to be doing that, when we start going back in person and doing those, it’s going to be in a different place. Because now we’re gonna be talking about hybrid keynoting. So you need to have a couple of different skills. a couple of different things in your toolkit. If you go to, we share some of the latest training on topics like that. 

So today is an amazing time to be a keynote speaker. If you are committed to your craft, and your art as a keynote speaker. Yes. There’ll be lots of free stuff from now on. But if you’re a true keynote speaker, and you have that thought leadership, you have that skills, you have that message that you want to share in the world, you can take that stage, whether it’s virtual or in person, it’s never been a better time to be a keynote speaker.

-Is Keynote Speaking Dead