KAREN McCULLOUGH, CSP, is a keynote
speaker who shares her humorous and
realistic perspective on the multigenerational
workforce. She is committed to creating and
delivering killer keynotes that blend great
content with humor and audience interaction.
Find her at karenmccullough.com.
BY KAREN McCULLOUGH, CSP
MAKE IT PERSONAL. Part of your preparation is to learn
about your audience before you arrive. Customizing your
material (especially the opening) will help you make a deeper
TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Get in the habit of timing all the
pieces of your talk. Seasoned speakers are adaptable, but that
takes practice. When your allotted time is cut short, you’ll need
to know how to adjust your presentation without missing a beat.
The final step is where all your hard work pays off … and it’s
the most fun. Enjoy it!
GET COMFORTABLE. On the day you speak, arrive early and
get to know your surroundings. Make friends with your AV
team as you walk the stage for the sound check.
GET CONNECTED. As attendees arrive, introduce yourself
and start engaging before you hit the stage.
GET FEEDBACK. After each gig, reflect on your performance.
Consider audience reactions. When were they with you Where
did you feel enthusiasm? Get a house laugh? Take note of what
to add or eliminate to make your next presentation even better.
LATHER. RINSE. REPEAT.
IT’S TIME TO START AGAIN.
So, is it a magic formula? Nah. The real magic is in the
journey—going through the cycle again and again and again—
building connections and getting better and more confident
speech. What do you really want to say? Figure it out upfront.
Then only weave in bits that directly align with your intended
message. Stay on point!
START STRONG, END STRONGER. From the beginning,
you must engage, impress, and earn likeability. In the first
two minutes, the audience will either think, “Yes, I want
to listen!” or “Where’s my phone?” Similarly, what they
hear at the end is what they’ll remember. Wrap up with
a thought-provoking closing that is positive and inspiring.
Send audiences off happy and ready to take action.
You have written a dynamite speech. Now it’s time to get it
off the paper and out of your mouth—and to make it professional, personal, and flexible.
DON’T WING IT! While there are lessons to learn from
improv, this is not the time to shoot from the hip. Get your
opening and your closing down solid … that means memorize.
The more comfortable you are with your presentation, the
more freedom you will have to make adjustments on the fly.
For many speakers, that is the question. I am not a fan of a
keynoter using notes unless you are reading a recent quote,
fact, or idea that came hot off the press. Notes can take a
speaker out of the moment and make you look unprepared.
Instead, try investing your time in preparing a great slide
deck to accompany your speech. Often, that’s all a speaker
needs to stay focused and on track. You can always add
speaker notes in the software that only you can see.
Bonus: You have a head start if you are asked for handouts.
Just be sure to practice!