Re-Imagining your CEO’s Keynote Speech

Skift Take

Frustrated that your CEO doesn’t make more of events? Learn how you can inspire them and other senior leaders to deliver keynote presentations that truly engage; that have the power to change minds and behaviours.

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 amongst this warp speed innovation one area of events remains largely undisrupted and 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 priority list.

Learn from the Greats

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 at the same event, also Sundar Pichai at Google I/O ’15.

The creativity, energy and blood and sweat that have gone into these presentations are 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 himself or herself 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 earlier 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 they’re 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 dynamic new 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 is no Steve Jobs when it comes to presenting. Well Steve Jobs wasn’t a natural presenter; he just rehearsed a lot. In fact 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 engage your CEO in re-imagining their keynote:

  • Demonstrate the value of their keynote and its reach and use beyond the event
  • Inspire them with what’s possible
  • Start early and introduce them to a great creative production team, giving them the confidence to do something amazing.

In Conclusion

Like rock stars, politicians, comedians and authors, CEOs are finding that live events are an increasingly important channel to communicate through. Yet, unlike those others, live performance and storytelling hasn’t necessarily been part of the CEO’s rise to the top.

One of the great things about a career in events is the opportunity to work with the senior business leaders of the day. Doing this successfully means having the inspiration, skills and data to get them on side, to build their confidence and work with them to create amazing live performances. With so much content competing for people’s attention there’s no plan B. So, don’t delay, book a meeting with your CEO to discuss their next keynote.