By Anton Vanhoucke

How anyone can be a Keynote Speaker: 9 quick hacks for more engagement.

cheerful young woman screaming into megaphone

When did you last dream of captivating, inspiring, and influencing an audience? How can you make more impact when delivering a keynote address, a sales pitch, or a motivational talk? After reading this blog to the end, you’ll have learned more techniques to enhance your speaking prowess and leave a deeper impression on your audience.

I’m sharing secrets that work, from my personal experience. Do you know what’s so special about these secrets? I can openly share them and still influence you! Hold my beer.

1. The Art of creating Engaging Openers

To hook your audience from the very beginning, start with an open-ended question that introduces your topic. Make a promise using a comparative adjective—easier, faster, better—setting expectations for what’s to come. Reinforce these points throughout your speech to maintain engagement, especially when transitioning between different themes or ideas. Do you want an example? Reread the title and the introduction to this blog. Then take a break and feel how the power of this format engages you. Then read on for the next secret.

2. The Power of ‘Who’ Questions

A special case of the opening question is the who question. Begin with a compelling ‘who’ question and raise your own hand while posing it. This simple gesture immediately establishes a connection and makes your audience feel involved. For example, “Who here has ever felt the excitement of impressing someone? (Raises hand) The feeling is awesome, isn’t it?”

keynote speech tip: raise your hand

3. Weaving Anecdotes into the Narrative

Anecdotes are a speaker’s secret weapon. Share stories with enthusiasm, authenticity, and humor, ensuring they resonate with your audience. These anecdotes create relatable touchpoints, forging a deeper connection between you and your listeners.

For instance, I’m passionate about leadership and autonomous teams. In an explorative workshop with a new client, I was invited to share some ideas for improving that client’s innovation process. Instead of sharing ideas, I told stories of other clients. I shared anecdotes of their initial question, how that question evolved, what interventions we organized, and what the value was. I was in the explorative workshop with a colleague, and on the way back he commented: “Wow they were really clinging to your lips!” His comment totally surprised me. I felt like the only thing I did was share some stories. But these stories turned out to be more powerful than I knew. I didn’t even use the second biggest engagement hack:

4. Catering to Diverse Speed Preferences

Audiences come with varying speed preferences. Some are introverted and prefer a slower pace, while others are extroverted and thrive on faster delivery. To keep everyone engaged, alternate your speaking pace. Moreover, tailor your language and support materials to cater to these preferences. Visual aids for fast-paced individuals, audio cues for the moderate-paced, and emotional appeals for those who prefer a slower pace.

keynote speech tip: vary the pace

5. Pace and Space: A Dynamic Duo:

Your presence encompasses more than just your voice. Combine pacing with spatial dynamics for an even more impactful delivery. Imagine how engaging it could be if you take more distance and tell a high-energy anecdote. Then you move closer to the audience, lower your voice, start speaking slowly for emphasis, and deliver the punchline. How powerful is that?

You can also you left and right movements. Position yourself at specific points to reinforce ideas, creating a mental map for your audience. Designate specific spots on the stage for each major point, returning to these spots to reinforce your ideas.

Want to know another underused mode of communication? Hand gestures! Try using consistent hand gestures for specific ideas. For instance, every time you mention the attention of the audience in your speech, you lean forward in a pensive motion, squinting your eyes and rubbing your chin.

6. Commanding Attention with Imperatives

Speaking is not only about sharing information and ideas. You can actually ask your audience to do things. And they’ll like it because your imperatives will activate them. Phrases like “Pay close attention,” “Take a deep breath,” or “Imagine this scenario” prompt engagement and maintain focus. Imagine how these directives could keep your audience actively participating in your next discourse. And now reread the previous sentence and appreciate the power of imperatives! Then read on, because the best is yet to come…

7. Pre-Pump to pique curiosity

The next hack is a double whammy. Wonder what it is? It is opening with statements like “The next hack I’m about to share is really special…”, “Honestly, have you ever wondered…”, “What amazed me is…”, or “Here’s something hardly anyone knows…” These introductions focus and refocus your audience’s attention and prepare them for upcoming insights. You create intrigue by using attention-grabbing openings. Why is that a double whammy? Because it also changes the pace. You can slow down a bit when pre-pumping and still keep everyone’s attention! Now that you have their attention, how can you imprint something in their memory? Read on!

8. Crafting Lasting Impressions

As you wrap up your speech, remember that people retain a single emotion and a single message. Decide in advance what emotion and message you want to leave your audience with. Conclude with an action-driven moment, giving a clear directive for what they should do, avoid, or remember. The directive should be empowering. This means it should give the audience ideas or tools to resolve problems they have. What a great gift to give! But wait… how do you know what problems are relevant to your audience? That brings us to the last point.

9. Listening: The Bedrock of Effective Speaking

Listening is the cornerstone of exceptional speaking. It’s not just about understanding your audience but demonstrating genuine interest. As the saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Discovering their passions and interests allows you to tailor your message for maximum impact.


In essence, the art of public speaking is a delicate dance between captivating your audience’s attention, maintaining engagement, and leaving a memorable imprint. By incorporating these techniques—crafting powerful openers, utilizing engaging questions, weaving relatable anecdotes, adapting to varied pace preferences, mastering movement, using imperatives, pre-pumping key points, creating lasting impressions, and genuinely connecting through listening—you can transform into a masterful speaker who effortlessly leaves a mark on every audience. Remember, the journey to becoming a remarkable speaker begins with a willingness to truly listen and connect.

Feel free to connect with me if you want to discuss more ideas about speaking. And maybe I can engage your audience around the topics of teamwork, leadership, objectives, and a happy workplace!

keynote speech tip: connect with your audience

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