The Best Keynote Speakers Share This Purpose

The best keynote speakers do as Seth Godin describes: “to communicate emotion. To create tension. To bring change.”

This quote comes from a great interview in Forbes magazine by Michael Solomon: "Keynote Speaker Success Tips From Seth Godin, A Customer Keynote Service Speaker, A Speakers Bureau."

In the same article, Richard Schelp, co-owner and CEO of Executive Speakers’ Bureau writes that “the biggest success is when the keynote speech inspires the audience to leave different than they came in.”

It’s taken me 15 years to develop as a keynote speaker and turn it into an hour long transformative experience. 

Presenting my signature keynote, Think Like A Magician™

Presenting my signature keynote, Think Like A Magician™

My journey to create an ideal keynote speaker presentation started with wanting to “do something fun and different” for corporate audiences that had grown tired of the expected. Building on my background as an entertainer, I spent 5 years doing presentations for local businesses in Orlando until I discovered my topic: “perception.” Then I spent the next 10 years crafting the experience of my keynote. 

Today, I travel the world speaking at conferences, meetings, and conventions about how to Think Like A Magician™“perception,” and seeing the world through the eyes of your audience. To transform my audience at the end of my keynote speech, I must not only get them to understand the role of perception in their lives, but also give them the tools they need to take control of transforming perceptions. 

There’s a key balance for keynote speakers between creating an emotional understanding and giving them practical skills to act on the new ideas they’ve learned. I have to teach them methods of perception, while keeping them focused on the ultimate outcome: their effect. 

So I loved how in this interview, Seth Godin used my favorite word — the word that my signature keynote is actually all about — “effect.” 

Keynote speaker, Kostya Kimlat, speaks about “Methods, Results, Effects” for an audience of 700 hospital executives and board members.

When talking about using Powerpoint and avoiding bullet points, Seth encourages keynote speakers to ask: “Who is the slide for, what does it say, and what effect—for example, tension or resolution–does it create?”

The effect — in the world of magic — is the invisible, perceived impact of the method. While methods are real, effects are invisible. So it’s crucial for keynote speakers to think about not only the reality of their message, but the intended effect the message will have in the minds of the audience. 

Just like crafting a joke, a story or a play, keynote speakers must think about the entire process and the invisible feelings that are created throughout it. Creating a variety of effects — intrigue, discovery, fascination, surprise, delight, conflict, resolution, curiosity, astonishment — is integral to making the audience feel that they are being taken on a ride.

An audience wants to know that the keynote speaker/presenter/entertainer they are listening to has thought about everything they are hearing and seeing. They want to know the person on stage is in control. As the speech goes on and those “effects” happen, the audience gets more comfortable in giving over control to the keynote speaker and letting them be taken for a ride!

As a professional magician for 20 years, I use magic to make my content emotional and memorable.

But you don’t have to have magic to create emotion. As Richard Schelp says in the interview: “Keep it fresh, add stories and humor to the content, and the audience will remember the message.”

Focus on yourself and the audience and the human element that brings you two together. That’s keynote speakers’ real power of an emotional presentation and creating a transformational experience for any audience. 


Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker who teaches organizations and individuals how to Think Like A Magician™. Be the first to know when Kostya’s forthcoming book is available and sign-up here.