The half-life of a keynote

keynote by James Clay

I have been to many different conferences and events, some years I would attend a range of events and would get a feeling of déjà vu listening to some keynotes. I had heard what was been said before, sometimes it was virtually identical, other times it was a variation, but essentially the same.

During my professional life I have delivered many keynotes at conferences and events, most recently at LILAC 16 in Dublin. These keynotes have been on many different subjects, mobile learning, the future of learning and more recently digital capabilities.

I was often asked to deliver keynotes as a result of someone watching a keynote I had delivered and asking for something similar for their event or conference. This was fine with me as I could re-use the content, tailored (slightly) obviously for the audience, but in most respects the same presentation I had delivered previously. The audiences were usually very different and so it didn’t matter to me if the content was virtually identical, as the new audience wouldn’t have seen it before.

With watching other people’s presentations I realised that I wasn’t their typical audience, I was attending lots of conferences and events, probably more than most.

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Thinking about this recently having delivered a fair few sessions on digital capability about how long you could keep delivering the same keynote before it either ran out of steam (as in topicality) or the audience came around again and had seen it before. Was there a keynote that you could use and then leave in the cupboard for a while and then bring it out again and hopefully it will have freshened up enough to be fresh for even the same audience.

I know of one individual who delivered forty eight virtually identical keynotes over a four year period across different events, I never even came close to that!

It was nice now and again to deliver something completely fresh and different. The ULCC FOTE events were often the kind of event where I would create a new keynote. Though I would often use those presentation again at another event. Looking over my slideshares I realise that there are lots of similar presentations, but there is also variety too.

One of the reasons why I always created a new presentation for FOTE was that the audience usually was made up of the same people. They wouldn’t want to see the same keynote I had delivered the previous year.

James Clay talking at ALT-C

Reflecting on all of this, I did wonder if I should feel guilty or bad about doing basically the same keynote more than once? One way of looking at this, is am I just being lazy? Or am I more like the Dad’s Army repeats on BBC2, content been repeated for a new audience, who will get something from it as much as the original audience did.

I delivered a session at FOTE 2009 in October called The Future of Learning. In December of the same year I delivered a similar keynote at ASCILITE 2009 also called the Future of Learning. The following May at EdTech 2010 in Athlone in Ireland I did a keynote called Cultural Shifts, but was a version of the Future of Learning keynote. The keynotes were all very similar, but to be honest I believe that I was asked to keynote because of what people had seen before.

This is the version I delivered at the MIMAS Mobile Learning event.

There is something about repeating yourself, and there are some people who will still come and listen again, more so, if they enjoyed it the first time. I know that if someone like Dave White is on the conference programme I will go and listen to his session, not saying he repeats himself, but I know he has delivered many keynotes on Visitors and Residents.

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Sometimes I feel that I have a back catalogue of keynotes and that though I may want to deliver the new album, people would rather hear the classic hits from the past!

So if you deliver at conferences, have you delivered the same presentation at different events and why did you do it?

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