Keynote Speakers Need To Know Their Story

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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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Keynote Speakers Weave Their Own Life Story Into The Truths They Want To Share With That Audience

Stories are a vital part of a motivational speaker’s presentation. But many keynote speakers see stories as additions to their content, without ever really putting together the story of who they are. Your life story is what separates you from other speakers.

It is the story of how you were raised, the people who influenced you, the trials and triumphs you faced, the message you feel called to share with the world, and the reason you are standing here today on this stage. It is your story.

And the audience wants to hear it.

Keynote Speakers Don’t Just Have One Story. They have as many stories as they have life experiences.

Sometimes keynote speakers think they have just one story –  how they ended up in that wheelchair, how they conquered cancer, how they climbed Mount Everest.

While this one story may have been a defining moment in their lives, there are many other stories present that are just as valuable, and just as applicable to your audience. Use them.

A Keynote Speaker’s Story Should Cover The HighLights, Not Every Detail.

Sometimes speakers think that their story  must include every detail starting the moment they were born. The audience doesn’t care about all those details. Every detail you add will make your story heavier. Audiences don’t like heavy stories that give them a lot to keep track of. Stick to the highlights – and only those details needed to tell the story.

Focus on the highlihts of your life, not the trivial.

Appreciate Your Story. It Was Given To You For A Reason.

Sometimes we think our story is not as exciting as someone else’s, and we hestitate to share it. Share it anyway. If your life experience is something that someone else can relate to, then you story has value. Some of my most powerful stories are about simple people, living ordinary lives, and facing very typical challenges.

Not everybody in your audience can relate to climbing Mount Everest – but they can relate to trying to get their kid to listen to them. Think of the Seinfeld show – a show about nothing – yet every mundane situation was something that most of us could relate to. Brilliant. And it was the secret to their success.

Here’s an example of one of my stories:

I was the kid you threw things at on the bus. Most days I prayed not to be noticed. I spent my whole life trying to get a seat at the cool kids’ table – trying to be like you, act like you, have what you have – to blend in. When I became an adult, I realized that the things that made me weird, were actually going to be the things that would make me great. As a kid, if you stuck out you were dead. But as an adult, if you don’t stick out, you’re dead. And now I’m here to show you how to come out of your comfort zone – to embrace what makes you unique – and to show you that it’s not about getting a seat at the cool kids’ table. It’s about knowing your seat is perfectly cool – just the way it is.

Keynote Speakers Include What That Story or Experience Taught Them

Make sure your story includes what you learned from that experience. This is important, and will connect to the truth you are sharing with that audience. All stories are about something that changed you in some way.


  • ImanWoods

    This is awesome. And applies to many different career paths. As a photographer, if you don’t stand out, you’re done.