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The Power of a Killer Keynote

There is no better means of human connection than a story.

Different narratives intertwine to form emotions that we empathize with, being moved to inspiration.

The right keynote speech should be able to do this.

Ideally, it will make us think, challenge our assumptions, and offer the information through a narrative that will be relatable and digestible, engaging to listen to.

This weekend at the Edscape Conference, Pernille Ripp shared her story and it was one of great power.

It's important that all educators remember that everything we do is about the students and creating the best experiences for them to foster a love of learning and connection. At the very least we hope to expose them to material that will incite their senses and ignite passions.

This is Pernille's message.

Every choice we make in schools must involve the student's voice because no student should ever feel as though his/her voice doesn't matter. And teachers and administrators have the power to impact every child, every day with our choices.

We need to be inclusive rather than controlling. Flexible rather than fixed. Open rather than closed. In short, we need to encourage our students to trust themselves and us as they enter our spaces while we really listen to their words.

As I listened to Permille share her ideas about teaching mixed with her experiences as a mother and seeing first hand the impact of the right learning atmosphere, I walked away feeling reinvigorated and more committed to the challenging changes I've implemented in my space over the last few years.

When we make choices for kids, especially when others don't get it, we shouldn't shut out the noise, but instead invite dialogue to help others understand; not with the intention of changing their minds, but rather with the hope of fostering dialogue and making a better learning environment for all kids.

So what makes a good keynote?

  • It is succinct 

  • It has a narrative structure

  • It's based on personal experience or a series of honest experiences

  • It has visuals that add to the overall presentation

  • It doesn't seek to exaggerate or pander

  • It challenges the listener's beliefs

  • It has an aspect of connection

  • It appeals to listeners' emotions

  • It leaves the listener with a call to action of some kind

  • It lingers

Good content is essential but an engaging speaker does drive the message home. Eye contact, natural inflection and pace, and rhythm. The cadence of what is being shared must come in digestible bits, long enough to tweet and thoughtful enough to ponder beyond.

I'm still thinking about what Pernille said and I'm grateful for that. Her words, intermingled with the words of Angela Watson make me prepared to go back to work on Monday. So much gratitude fills me for the opportunity to be around people who really inspire me.

What was the last great keynote you heard? What made it awesome? Please share

This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher Blog in October 2015


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