Tag Archives: presentation

The ‘Why’ of Conference Keynotes

A few months ago I was discussing a conference with a staff member at my school, she had recently been to her first ‘edtech’ conference and I was asking her for some feedback. The topic of Keynotes came up and she quite innocently asked me what the point was of a Keynote, it was an interesting question and one I found I could not answer her fully but just give my opinion. The fact that she felt compelled to ask the question made me think that the Keynote must not have been successful.

Wikipedia defines a Keynote as follows:

Now think for a minute. Remember the last Keynote you listened to. Did it do this? I have sat through many a conference Keynote and some have been more successful than others. I have left feeling inspired by new ideas, had my thinking challenged and for me, most importantly have been left with more questions than before. On the other hand, I have been left feeling bored, uninspired, grappling at the choice and relevance and disappointed. I have sat through Keynotes where some ‘big names’- even celebrities have stood on stage and delivered speeches that I could have found on Google and YouTube. Even worse, they have spoken about so called ‘new ideas’ that my peers and I had been doing for years. Given my somewhat bias opinion I took to Twitter and asked the same question.

The responses were varied but some key ideas I liked were:

  • Future thinking
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Urgency for change
  • Element of story

A particular response I liked and that made me think was “make me stop Tweeting and listen”, this is something that resonated with me. I am a huge fan of back channelling and I love to Tweet during conferences but I’m not sure if I have EVER stopped completely and just listened and taken it all in.

I think an important thing to note is that a Keynote needs to go far beyond being inspiring. Any good entertainer can stand on a stage, pump people up and ‘inspire’ them but for how long? An hour? Until the days end? Will they have the courage to actually go, persevere and enact change in their schools?

Check out the Storify below for more responses. What are your thoughts? What do you want from a conference Keynote?