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Speaking Terminology: Keynotes,Seminars or Workshops

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As a speaker, you need to understand some basic terminology in the industry. 

A keynote speech (when the term is properly used) refers to a relatively short speech running from between 30 to 90 minutes. 

Keynote speakers are usually showmen (and women). They are more motivational than informational. 

A keynote is also a one way street. The speaker talks directly to the audience with little or NO interaction. 

A seminar is a term used for a more substantive presentation which is usually longer in length than a keynote, usually anywhere from 2 to 6 hours or more in length. The seminar is characterized by a certain degree of interaction between the speaker and participants. 

A workshop is similar to a seminar, but much more interactive. 

The problem is there is no universal agreement on the terms. These are my rough definition of these terms. You may find others who disagree. You are also apt to find additional terms other than these cropping up all the time. 

Trainer or Speaker? 

Can a speaker also be a trainer? Absolutely! Are they the same thing? Not at all. A trainer is someone whose primary mission is to transfer information to a group of people effectively. This is very different from a speaker whose primary mission is to entertain. The secondary mission of a speaker is to educate. 

If you are more of a performer and a motivator, you are more likely to be a speaker. Speaking is more show business and performance. 

Training is more geared to information transfer and is therefore often found in a different type of person than a speaker. 

If you are more of a trainer type, does this mean you can’t legitimately call yourself a speaker?  Not these days. The lines have become blurry. 


Keynotes, as I described earlier, are a short form presentation, ranging from 30 – 90 minutes. 

The key to your success as a keynote speaker is to do your homework. This should be done before your event through your pre-program questionnaire. 

Customization will show your audience that you have done your homework. They will be much more open to your message and to you as a speaker. 

How you dress for your keynote will be an issue. I like to look as good as the best dressed person in the audience. I don’t like to overdress, however. If everyone in the group is dressed casually, I don’t want to have on a suit and tie. 

Find this out ahead of time so as not to embarrass yourself or alienate your audience. 

The two most important elements of your keynote will be your opening and your closing. You have very little time with your group so you need to grab them immediately. Don’t go for a slow build, grab them from the very start. If you want to see how a great opening works, go to your local video store and rent the “The French Connection.” 

Your opening might be a great story, a shocking statistic or a powerful quotation. Whatever you use, make it something that will make them want to sit up and take notice. 

Give them something they’ll want to remember and take notes on within the first three minutes of your speech. This will show them you can deliver true value. Finally, you’ll want to close with something memorable and useful. 

In the limited time you have, don’t try to give your audience more than three key points. Many a keynote speaker makes this mistake. It is deadly. Your outline should be your three points sandwiched between a great opening and a great closing. If the group you are speaking to has a theme for their meeting, do everything you can to tie that theme into your speech. 

Filed under: Speaking for Millions

Consult With Fred Gleeck

Want to get some advice DIRECTLY from me? Find out how I can help you (one-on-one) with YOUR business. The rates are surprisingly affordable!

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