Notes on format innovation, how to get an agent, and experience design
A lot of people want to do more keynote speaking. But they can get frustrated and embittered that doors don't open. As a former talent agent, I get it - live gigs can be a real career accelerator, whether you’re a DJ or a doctor. But when it comes to keynotes, it's worth asking - what they are actually *for*?
Teaching? Perhaps, but it's very challenging to teach a concept that an audience can reliably comprehend, apply and synthesise - all within a 20-30 min time slot that usually has other stuff mixed in with it.
To teach effectively you’re gonna want to use some tools beyond a slide deck. And if you want to be great (c'mon, I know you do), build your skills in Learning Design.
More likely is that keynotes are for inspiration. They’re for opening your aperture to something new; tapping into a new way of seeing the world; feeling motivated to take a little something forward into your day to day. The best speakers leave you... well, inspired.
But here’s the problem.
Inspiration - rather like those slightly sour grapes at the back of my fridge - is perishable.
If you don’t believe me, think of a time you had a great idea for something but left it alone for a bit. When you got around to it again, the inspiration was like grapes on a vine. It seemed to wither and die. The inspiration perished. It may have also left an unpleasant odor - a reminder of what might have been.
So if keynotes are for inspiration, and inspiration is a perishable good, what keeps it fresh? What makes it last beyond the hours or days of the dopamine hit?
It’s possible someone will invent a better refrigerator.
Another option is innovating on the format.
Offer follow ups, leave behinds, Easter eggs, re-ups, magic tricks, box sets, tasting menus. They’re all available, and there are dozens of formats you can use. Even better, hardly anyone else in the game can be bothered to do this.
If you want to do more keynote speaking, it’s worth finding ways not just to help people keep the inspiration fresh - but get them excited at keeping a regular supply of it on hand.
'Cos no one likes sour grapes.
P.S. If you want to do more speaking and are asking yourself 'how do I get an agent?', try flipping the question inside out.
P.P.S. This post is also perishable.