Preparing a Keynote

I’ve been working on the keynote speeches I’ll be delivering this summer to teachers at two different summer writing institutes. I’ve heard lots of keynote speeches at teaching conferences before.  However, I’ve never been a keynote speaker.  And even though I’ve delivered lots of professional development presentations and have spoken publicly in front of 500 people, preparing a keynote speech is challenging since it’s a new genre for me! I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to craft something that will inspire the teachers in attendance.  Writing a keynote speech feels like a tall order!

Ruth and I are delivering one of the keynote speeches together, so we spent some time chatting about that keynote on the phone.  Ruth has delivered keynotes so I looked to her for some advice when we did some phone planning.  The most important thing she shared was to have a “thread” that runs throughout the speech.  I have spent time outlining my speech since our conversation, but I’m still searching for my “thread”.   (NOTE: My speech is about developing one’s own writing life since it will positively influence writing instruction.)

Therefore, I took a step back from outlining the speech and thought about the genre of keynotes speeches.  Keynotes speakers are supposed to inspire the audience.  They’re mission is to capture the essence of a professional gathering and rally a group of people in a short amount of time.  Perhaps that’s why I’m feeling a lot of pressure to get it right.

I started studying notes from past keynote speeches I’ve heard.   I’ve attended nine TCRWP summer institutes, which means I’ve heard 45 keynote addresses.  Add-in other professional conferences I’ve attended in the past decade and that amounts to a lot of keynote addresses!  I’ve taken notes and have even blogged about many of them.  Therefore, I reviewed what I wrote down.  After all, I want to share things with my audience that are compelling enough for teachers to capture in their notebooks or on their iPads.
From my notes…

Reviewing notes from keynotes felt a bit like the work of using mentor texts.  Just as we encourage students to seek out mentor texts to help them write better, I went back to speeches that moved me and asked myself, “What can this speaker teach me about giving a good keynote?”  Reviewing my notes made me realize it’s time to move beyond the outline.  It’s time for me to start crafting the actual speech!  (I just hope I get it right!)

If you have any other tips, advice, or suggestions for me about writing a keynote, then please share!  This feels really big and I can use any words of wisdom you have.