My 21 Favorite Tools as a Keynote Speaker

 20 Favorite Tools as a Keynote Speaker by Kelly Swanson

Keynote Speaker’s 21 Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens – these are a few of my favorite things (tools) I use as a motivational speaker to make my job easier. Please note that there is no right way, and no wrong way – this is just my way – shared in the hopes that it will help you find your way.

1. Smartphone.
I happen to have an iPhone 4. I can do all of my work on this little phone – no matter where I am. I can answer emails, check my event schedule, return calls, post on my blog, Twitter and Facebook, etc. So my office doesn’t have to close when I hit the road.

Keynote speakers must be able to work wherever they are.

2. NSA membership.
I belong to the National Speakers Association. Best investment I ever made. Here is where I find out (and keep up with) the art and business of speaking. And here is where I meet people I can connect with and learn from.

It’s important for motivational speakers to have a strong network of people who are in the same business.

3. eSpeakers/EventPro Software. 
This is a software program that contains all my event information.  It also connects with bureaus (agents of the speaking business) who are members of eSpeakers. I make one change to my promo materials, and it changes on all of their sites.

NSA members are automatically given a basic eSpeakers page. I bought the bells and whistles that allow me to post my calendar on my website and give you the option to hold dates directly without having to contact me.

The more bookings you get, the more you will depend on tools to help you keep all those tiny details together.

While they may seem tiny, some are very important.

4. Tripit Account.
An eSpeakers account will connect you with Tripit, an online travel APP.  Tripit keeps up with my travel details (which are many) and alerts me of flight changes and delays. It is often faster than the actual screen at the airport.

Always be prepared when dealing with airports.

5. Website that I can update.
Your website is a vital part of getting business as a motivational speaker. Being able to update it yourself is a huge advantage.

Your website will sell you more than anything else other than seeing you in person.

Give it the attention it deserves.

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6. iPhone video camera. 
This allows me to shoot videos in my hotel room and upload them to YouTube.

Be prepared to share your experiences through social media.

7. YouTube channel.
Youtube videos are one of my biggest selling tools. They also help my search engine rankings. Having a YouTube channel allows me to post them all in one place.

YouTube Channels help you control your public image and test what the public likes to hear from you.

8. Homemade green screen to make videos. 
We have a room set up just for green screen videos. I use this a lot when I want to record stories or make videos for client events. (See How to make a Really Cheap Green Screen YouTube video to make your own homemade green screen).

Keynote Speakers don’t just focus on stage time, they focus on all the off-stage opportunities they have to get business and stay in touch with their fans.

9. Facebook fan page.
I’m not sure if this is really a tool, but I’m going to throw this in here anyway because a Facebook fan page is extremely valuable to get my name out, keep me in front of my audience, test new jokes, share articles, and boost search engine rankings.

One key to being a better speaker is to become a better writer.

10. Treepad Software. 
I generate a LOT of written material on a daily basis. Treepad is a software program that helps me organize my material.

It also can be available to access online through my own website – so I can find something I wrote even when I’m on the road.

It’s important to have some type of personal database program that can organize all your speech notes, thoughts, tasks, and anything you might want access to from any location.

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11. iPhone recorder. 
I get a lot of ideas when I’m driving, and it’s really hard to type and drive. Oh yeah, and illegal.

So when I get a bright idea, I just hit the record button and talk it out. Then I can email it to myself where it’s waiting when I’m ready to get it.

Have something to capture all your creative bursts of insight.

12. A plastic box with an expandable file. 
I don’t have fancy file cabinets. I have one plastic box with an expandable file inside where I put all my bookings filed by date.  Each booking has a separate tab with the date, city/state on it.

When I hit the road I can just grab the booking information, or grab the whole box.

13. Gag gifts. 
I have so much fun buying silly little gag gifts to give away during my shows. Audiences love getting free stuff, and I love all the extra laughs I get handing them out.

People love getting something for free and gifts can connect you with your audience.

14. A squooshy big travel bag that fits under the seats of airplanes.
I always check a bag and never carry on a bag that has to go in the upper bin.  It’s just a hassle I don’t want to deal with. I bring a bag that will slide right under the seat in front of me. It took me a while to find the right one, but now that I have it, I use it everywhere.

Use items that make your travel experience easier and less stressful.

15. iPad.  
I love my iPad because it gives me something a little bigger than my phone, but lighter than my laptop. I love it for taking notes and writing – as well as a ton of other stuff.

Have more than one tool in case another one stops working.  Always have back-up.

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16. A GPS APP and the car charger for iPhone.
I got tired of taking the GPS out of my car every time I traveled. So I use the one on my phone now instead. Since they can sometimes be unreliable, I use Google maps, but also subscribe to a Verizon GPS service.

I like the security of having two options and have found many instances where I needed both. Because it sucks so much battery time from my phone, I always bring my car charger for my phone.

Plan for emergencies.

17. A plug with three outlets in it.
Being that my family usually comes with me, there are never enough plugs for all of our devices. So I bring one of those plugs that has several outlets in it. One day I might even consider bringing a strip. These are also handy in the airport where finding a free plug is hard.

Plan for the unforeseen.

18. A travel pillow.
I don’t like to mess up my hair. And a travel pillow helps me sleep better on the plane and in the car. Love it.

Well-rested off stage means better performance on stage.

19. A pair of roll up shoes.
I don’t like to wear comfortable shoes. I like heels and boots and fun shoes. But eventually my feet wear out, or my new shoes rub a blister. Then I pull out my tiny little roll up slippers that come in their own pouch. Instant relief, and they don’t take up a lot of space in my purse.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself while on the road.

20. Keynote App. 
Since I’m usually creating a new program wherever I go, outlines are very important to me. I will often use my Keynote APP to store my outline and keep me on task during my program. Yes, a piece of paper works fine too.

Your notes will save you.

21. MegaTymer. 
It seems that whenever I speak they never have a clock. And staying on time is a MUST in this business. So I bring my MegaTymer, which is a big giant clock that sits on the floor and even lights up if I want. I can put it all the way to the side of the stage, or even in the audience, and still see it. It’s great. It has a stopwatch/timer feature too. But I don’t use that.

Caution: This thing is expensive, and every time I put it in a suitcase on the plane it comes home broken. You have to carry it with you on the plane.

Meeting planners, audience members, and other speakers do not like it when you go over your time. Be respectful of your time frame.

What are YOUR Favorite Tools? We’d love for you to share them!

Okay, that’s enough for now. There are probably other keynote speaker tools I love, but I’ll save those for  a “part two” version one day.


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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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  • ImanWoods

    I will be printing this out and using it as a check list. So useful!

  • I like that Treepad software and the green screen idea – I am going to steal those – thanks for that information! Great list. You should create a pdf that we give away for free that is a checklists of all the things you should have as a traveling public speaker….


  • Multi-plugs and technology… a girl after my own heart :) This is such a great resource. I love the apps and eSpeaker and Tripit sound like a life saver!

  • Jess Pettitt

    i love the three outlet one plug – saves so many people from fighting in airports!

    i also recommend writing a facilitator’s guide for every interactive workshop you do – so you have it ready when you need to give a client something extra as a bonus.