Keynote speaking is in the midst of a major transition reflecting the larger customer-is-in-control forces at work in our society. Not too many years ago, a well known keynote speaker proudly declared, “I don’t change my speech, I just change my audiences.” Old fashioned shades of Henry Ford’s often quoted comment that his customers could have any color Model T they wanted as long as it was black. Just as customers today demand “just in time, just for me,” audiences are losing patience with speakers obviously taking a “if this is Tuesday this must be Calgary” approach to “the gig” (a term I detest). The most powerful keynote presentations today are well researched, relevant, and tailored to the audience’s industry, organization, or profession.

I have been delivering paid keynote presentations at association or industry conferences and organizational meetings since 1985. I have been a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers for the past few years and just recently joined the national Board of Directors. This membership has led me to attend National Speakers Association conferences and workshops throughout the U.S. and the CAPS conferences in Canada. A topic of many workshops and discussion groups is the need to tailor presentations to our audiences. One size or one or two speeches no longer fit all.

The struggle this creates for speakers is how to clearly explain our topic areas and the value a highly experienced and well prepared professional speaker can add to a meeting or conference. Effective professional speakers can bring an outside expertise to reinforce and inspire the changes needed inside the organization. I speak, train, or facilitate about 80 times per year. I have rarely given the same presentation, workshop, or retreat twice. When we revamped our web site early this year, I took a look back through hundreds of my engagements and developed a long sample list of ways I have tailored 60 – 90 minutes presentations, half and one-day workshops, and two-day management retreats. It fascinated me to reflect on the wide variety of applications, but then I am a little biased and emotionally invested in this discussion. If you’re interested, click here to see the sample list.