What’s the #1 form of marketing?

Your #1 form of marketing is a great speech.

A great keynote speaker is someone who can keep an audience mesmerized for 30-90 minutes. They might have people go through a series of emotions or take them on a dramatic journey. Or their speech is packed with relevant, timely information. Some of the best speeches stay in your memory for years.

Here’s an example: Captain Gerry Coffee spoke at my very first NSA convention in Washington, DC, in 1996. I can recall vividly his story of being captured and held as a POW in the Vietnam War. He talked about how the prisoners developed a communication style between them. They used Morse Code to tap out messages to each other between the walls. In fact, I can still hear him using his hand to knock on the wood and how that echoed through the microphone. You could have heard a pin drop in that room of 1500 speakers and there was not a dry eye in the house. The fact that I can remember this so vividly nearly 20 years later tells me something.

[Tweet “Your speech is your best marketing tool “]

— so let’s get busy sharpening that tool!

[Tweet “There is no better form of marketing than a great speech”]

I’ve witnessed about a dozen epic keynotes over my 25 years in (ABOUT A DOZEN WHAT?) our business. Gerry Coffee’s was memorable and moving. Joe Calloway’s “Let it Go” speech contained a lasting “phrase that pays”. But it was also one of the most relevant speeches I’ve witnessed. Art Berg inspired us. I can still recall his phrase…”while the difficult takes time, the impossible just takes a little longer”. Les Brown’s Live Your Dreams speech literally changed the course of my life.

Have you witnessed an epic keynote? Please share with a comment.

PS: As luck would have it, my next book is perfect to help you sharpen your speech. The Epic Keynote: Presentation Skills and Styles of Wealthy Speakers is due out in May 2014. Click here to be notified when it ready.


  • Dr. Mary C Kelly

    Great points about a keynote being the key to a great speaking business!

    Thanks also for profiling Gerry Coffee. He is a great man.

    • speakerlauncher

      Thanks Mary. Gerry Coffee was a true gentleman and very kind when I asked him for some comments for my book.

  • I was “moved” all over again when you mentioned Captain Coffee’s memorable presentation. I was fortunate enough to experience his presentation almost 20 years ago. To this day, I have vivid memories of his knuckles knocking on the podium.

    I’m looking forward to reading your new book.

    Warm regards,
    Sara Canaday

    • speakerlauncher

      I’m glad I’m not the only one Sara. I was really new to NSA at that time, and the entire event was quite overwhelming. Sadly, I’m not sure I would have appreciated his story as much today with 20 years of skepticism under my belt. But I hope I would. 🙂

  • I would not call it a keynote, but I just watched a TED talk with Dee Williams – Dream big, live small, and I thought is was brilliant, funny and tragic, all in 12 minutes. I doubt I will ever forget it.

    • speakerlauncher

      I’ll have to check that out Dachia. Thank you. Don’t you think that TED Talks have really changed the game for keynotes? Saying more in less time – duh, what a concept! Why didn’t we think of that sooner?

      • Well, I do love the idea, but of course there are still topics that I want to hear more on, or the speaker is so great I don;t want them to stop… so there is still a call for loner keynotes. As keynotes are anywhere from say 30 to 90 minutes, is there really an average? A particular time frame to be filled the majority of the time? I wonder if people are paying X dollars for a speaker if they want to get their money’s worth as if they were at the buffet… and taking a third trip when the second one was questionable.

        • speakerlauncher

          I think 30-40 minutes has become more popular. Our audiences are so attention deficit now. A seasoned meeting planner might ask the speaker what their sweet spot is and try to accommodate. They may not get more bang with more time on stage – but perhaps they ask for a book signing session or something that engages the audience in a different way. My friend Kris Young is brilliant at this stuff. Dachia, did you listen to our teleclass?

          • I’ve listened to a couple, but not sure if I heard that one. I need to go to your audio vault and catch up.

          • I did hear it before, but am going to listen again.

  • Mara Svenne

    Sorry for the quibble, but how is 2006 ‘nearly 20 years ago?’ Isn’t it only 8?

    • speakerlauncher

      Thanks for the catch Mara! It was 1996, I made the change.