About a month ago, a Toastmaster I’d competed against reached out to me and asked if I’d like to deliver a 20-30 minute keynote speech. For me, this was a no-brainer. Yes, yes I would like to! Only one problem. I didn’t have a speech that long.
I said yes, then immediately got to work building the content for my speech. Then, I got busy. About a week and a half before the keynote, someone casually mentioned it and jolted me back to reality.
No time to panic—I just had to put something together and memorize enough of it to give a good performance. No problem, right?
When I walked into the event, I had not practiced this full speech in front of anyone. I hadn’t even said it back to myself in one sitting.
As I looked around me, I noticed that I was the youngest person there. I had a new idea for an introduction. It was a little risky—I didn’t want to offend anyone by pointing out the age difference. At the same time, addressing the elephant in the room with a mild joke seemed like a great way to start the speech.
So far, what you’ve read may seem like a setup to where I fail spectacularly, offend people in the room, and run out crying. Thankfully, that’s not the case. The joke was my best in the entire speech, and my speech when pretty smoothly.
But at the end of it all, I felt like I could have done better. Here are the things I would have changed:
- Obviously, I would have prepared for longer and memorized all of my main points. I walked through 10 sources of inefficiency, a process for getting rid of them, and 5-6 principles of efficiency. That’s a lot to remember. I ended up walking to the lectern multiple times to reference the next point.
- I would have reduced how many points I bring up. Even if, *gasp*, I had to leave out valuable information. The reality is that a keynote can only be so valuable before it’s basically a training. You have to balance information with entertainment and inspiration.
- I would have told more stories. Stories are how you connect with people. You can tell stories for each of your major points of information, and people will find your speech and the information easier to remember.
- I would have added more humor throughout. There were long gaps without a laugh.
- I would have left out the history of efficiency piece. It’s funny—had someone else given the speech, I would have been annoyed at that part of the speech myself. It’s boring and not really important. But lo and behold, there it was!
One last point that I want to mention: the joke I added at the beginning could have come across as if it was at the audience’s expense. But because of the way I phrased it—”give you experienced people life advice”—I made myself the joke instead. Never open up with a joke at the audience’s expense.
I hope you enjoy the video.