Most keynotes fail at actually providing learning and retention.
Sure, many keynotes are inspirational, motivational and provide an engaging story. And if that’s all we’re looking for from a high-paid professional speaker for a keynote, it works.
However, when an organization pays $10,000-$75,000, or even a higher fee, for a 45- to 60-minute message, we expect more.
Too many keynotes are filled with exhausted clichés, empty entertainment, and low-importance ideas. ~ Dr. Will Thalheimer.
Well, I agree with Dr. Thalheimer! We’ve got to raise the bar…for our paying registrants’ sake.
Most Conference Education Misses The Learning Mark
But it’s not just keynote speakers that fail at providing learning. And on-the-job performance improvement.
Most conference education misses that mark as well.
Dr. Will Thalheimer, an education, learning and performance researcher, and evidenced-based education practitioner, has written extensively about learning and on-the-job performance improvement. He’s also written about how most keynotes fail miserably.
Seven Criteria Needed To Foster Conference Keynote Learning
Thalheimer has identified seven criteria needed for authentic learning based on scientific research. Most keynote speakers only meet two or three of these seven tenets. If we were to grade conference keynotes on learning, they would have less than a 50%, a failing score by any education institution. Yet, organizations continue to pay top dollar to secure keynote presenters. Something has to change!
Let’s take a look at Thalheimer’s seven principles needed to exploit conference keynotes and education for learning.
1. Provide Valid, Credible Content
Most conference education and keynotes do an average job at providing credible, legitimate content. They are ok at best. Rarely does a keynote presenter provide sources and credible research to back their message.
2. Provide An Engaging Learning Experience
Usually, most keynotes, but not all conference education, does a great job at providing an attention grabbing, enticing experience. The learning piece is questionable though.
3. Support For Basic Understanding
Most keynote presenters use stories to help audiences gain a basic understanding of the primary concept. And those stories, when done well, stick.
4. Encourage Contextual Decision Making
Many keynote presentations miss the mark for contextual learning. They don’t ask audiences to think about applying the information to their real-world challenges. The presenters don’t customize their message for the audience’s context.
5. Assist With Long Term Retention
The majority of conference education, including keynotes, provides too much content leading to cognitive overload of the audience. Presenters rarely help attendees with memory-retrieval practice, how to use learning cues and spacing concepts.
6. Sustain Application Of Learning
Rarely does any conference education support the application of new ideas and concepts back on the job.
7. Back Perseverance Of Learning
The majority of conferences as well as its presenters seldom provide resources, reinforcement and materials to help audiences deepen their learning of the concept.
Radical, Fanatical, Out Of This World Solutions To Improving Keynotes
Thalheimer says that instead of spending thousands to hire an outsider to keynote a conference, consider an insider. He says that with the right coaching the insiders can learn the first three tenets of conference keynote learning. And they’ll excel at the last four tenets.
Or hire an outsider that has great content…just not one that has an extraordinary fee. Then pair that outsider up with an insider. The insider can bring context and application to the keynotes message while the outsider provides a new perspective.
What are some other ways we can ensure our keynote presenters provide all seven criteria for audience learning? When is it appropriate for a keynote not to provide audience learning?