Re-imagining your CEO’s keynote

We all know business events are in the midst of tumultuous genre defying change. Technologies are re-defining where an event begins and ends, and everything that happens in between. Bold new formats are catering to audiences’ desire to be at the heart of the action, to interact and collaborate. In among this warp speed innovation one area of events remains largely undisturbed, resistant to change – the CEO keynote.

It’s easy to see why. Who wants to be the person who tells their boss’ boss that their presentation is stuck in the 80s? Or, looked at from a different perspective, the conference keynote might not be right up there on the CEO’s to do list. But recent leadership keynotes from Intel, Netflix and Google have set a new benchmark.

If you haven’t watched Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s CES 16 keynote you should, and Netflix’s keynote from the same event, also Sundar Pichai at Google I/O ’15.

The creativity, energy and blood and sweat that has gone into these presentations is jaw dropping. Why all the effort? Because they know these events, amplified by broadcast and social channels, are the most valuable of marketing opportunities.

Whether you’re communicating with employees or customers what can you take from these examples, how can you use them as stimulus to raise the quality of your CEO’s presentation?

1) Draw Inspiration from TV

Cast your CEO not as a presenter, but as the host of a session that includes a plethora of different content. Have them introduce other speakers, interview people on stage, use props and interact with the audience. Keep changing the pace and give them creative ways to deliver their messages.

2) Take Some Risks

CEO presentations are typically designed to reduce every risk. Yet the power of a presentation is in the audience’s tacit understanding that it’s a live one off moment, in which the presenter is putting themself out there. Building risk into your CEO’s presentation might seem like playing Russian roulette with your career, but a good production team will mitigate that risk. Brian Krzanich’s keynote has him coming on stage on a self-balancing vehicle, and amongst many other things includes BMXers jumping over him. Surely you could engage your audience with a live product demo?

3) Sweat the Graphics

The above examples all have stunning presentation graphics. They treat the on screen content as an extension of their advertising, there’s not a bullet point in sight. Crucially the CEO’s aren’t talking to the slides, the onscreen content simply transitions to reinforce the message their making. The graphics are designed to work as a backdrop for films and tweets as well as live content.

4) Get Creative with the Tech

We’re at such an exciting moment with event technology, there are so many ways it might add a new dynamic dimension to your CEO’s presentation. Sundar Pichai starts by going live to four locations around the world where people have gathered to watch the stream. Brian Krzanich’s audience are all wearing interactive LED wristbands.

5) Entertain

These keynotes are business-to-business, yet they entertain the audience in ways more commonly associated with consumer content. The teams behind them understand that whoever the audience, they’re more likely to engage if they’re enjoying themselves. Think about the surprises, the moments of unabashed joy that you could build in.

Having read the above you’re probably thinking yes, but have you met my CEO? He / she’s no Steve Jobs when it comes to presenting. Well Steve Jobs wasn’t a natural presenter; he just rehearsed a lot. And, none of the above mentioned CEO’s are particularly great presenters, but they all benefit from skilled communications experts designing presentations that suit their personalities.

Here are three ways to help your CEO re-imagine their keynote:

 1) Demonstrate the value of their keynote and its reach and use beyond the event

2) Inspire them with what’s possible

3) Start early and introduce them to a great creative production team, giving them the confidence to do something amazing.

We first wrote this post for Event Manager Blog.


Secrets of the world’s most inspiring presentations

A review of Jeremey Donovan’s book How to Deliver a TED Talk.

There was a time when people predicted the end of conferences, that technology would remove the desire for people to come together in one place to hear others present. In fact the opposite has happened, live content has become more valuable and digital channels have served to amplify it to other audiences. TED Talks exemplify this. Tickets for the annual conference cost thousands of dollars and are sold by invitation only; many of the talks have online viewing figures that TV shows would kill for.

Jeremey Donovan is a self-confessed TED Talks addict; he’s watched and dissected hundreds, all of which pursue the TED mission of ideas worth spreading. And, in this very readable book he shares 113 tips drawn from the content, delivery and design that sit behind the best of them.

TED is famous for the time limit it imposes on presenters, typically 18minutes but sometimes only three, it is this stricture that makes the format so compelling. Presenters are forced to think carefully about how they communicate their idea and to ruthlessly edit their content.

Whilst you’ll find plenty of other books offering advice on presentation delivery and design, this book is particularly valuable on structuring content. I’ve selected four of the tips I found most useful and the TED Talks the author uses to illustrate them.

1) What’s your Idea?

The key difference between TED Talks and all too many other presentations is the clarity of the idea being shared. Before starting work on what you’re going to say crystalize your idea worth spreading. Often this is best done in the form of a question and answer. Susan Cain asked herself, “How can I help people accept themselves and others for who they are?” She answered with her idea worth spreading, “To show introverts that they contribute equal value to the world as extroverts.”

TED Talk: Susan Cain “The power of introverts.”

2) Organising your Idea

Donovan shows that TED Talks are frequently made up of five parts, an introduction and a conclusion with three parts in between. In these central parts the idea is unfolded through premise and proof. The most viewed TED Talk of all time is Ken Robinson’s “How schools kill creativity”. He introduces each of his three central parts with an anecdote, an emotional proof point, from which he then draws a premise.

TED Talk: Ken Robinson “Do schools kill creativity?”

3) The Hook

The first minute is the peak of your audience’s attention, so hook them fast. It could be a prologue in which you ask the audience to imagine themselves in a particular situation. Or a question, or a shocking statement; Jamie Oliver started his TED Talk by saying: ‘Sadly in the next 18minutes while I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead from the food they eat.”

TED Talk: Jamie Oliver “Teach every child about food”

4) The Catchphrase

This might sound trite, but encapsulating your idea in a pithy action orientated phrase helps the audience remember and spread your idea. Simon Sinek shared a common thread for why some leaders and companies succeed while others fail. He communicated his idea as, “Start with why.” A further tip is to repeat your catchphrase at least three times during your presentation.

TED Talk: Simon Sinek “Start with why”

How to Deliver a TED Talk is essential reading for anyone briefing speakers, preparing a presentation or writing a business pitch. And, along the way you’ll be introduced to many ideas worth spreading.