The remit of a keynote speaker is to deliver the highlight presentation for a conference, convention, banquet or other special event. As the featured guest, the responsibilities and skills required of an exceptional keynote go well beyond those of normal public speaking engagements.

The headliner is responsible for setting the underlying tone and identifying leading themes for the broader event. Their presentation acts as the anchor that frames up top challenges and opportunities on the minds of attendees that will then be explored in more depth during smaller breakout sessions.

Great keynote speakers spend significant upfront time researching and preparing custom presentations specifically tailored for each event. Pros conduct calls and meetings with organizers to deeply understand target audiences, preferences and the desired big takeaways. Crafting creative speech flow, impactful visuals, intriguing questions and powerful openings and closings that captivate attention are all essential.

The job requires mastering both verbal and non-verbal delivery for maximum effectiveness. Beyond imparting new information and perspectives, talented keynotes utilize well-honed dramatic skills of storytelling, humor and clearly articulated principles the audience can easily internalize and apply. Confidently displaying passion and conviction around key messages is critical.

Although the keynote sets the vision on stage, the job continues well beyond the allotted speech time. Savvy speakers mingle with attendees during breaks and meal sessions and lend friendly ears to absorb feedback for refining points and address additional curiosities sparked through one-on-one discussions. Extroverted speakers comfortable working the room before and after their formal presentation to get to know participants generally gain greater respect and loyalty.

The very best keynotes view themselves not just as featured guests, but as partners deeply invested in ensuring events achieve stated objectives. Pros measure their own success based on audience reactions and how well central themes carry through across each phase of the agenda. Their willingness to be involved however possible to promote ongoing thought leadership and meaningful exchanges of ideas can make keynotes invaluable contributors.

With the right combination of preparation, presentation excellence, accessibility and relationship building skills, top-flight keynote speakers earn invitations back time and again. An ability to consistently deliver great value makes these speakers the first ones meeting planners call when planning their next conference or corporate retreat. The keynote role comes with big responsibility, but also major upside influence.