What is the Difference Between a Keynote Speech and a Seminar or Breakout Session?

The first President of the National Speakers Association Bill Gove. He said, “The seminar comes from the discipline of teaching and the keynote comes from the discipline of show business.”

Another Past NSA President Don Thoren said, “As a keynote speaker, you are the star; in training or a seminar, you have to make the audience the star.”

One more Past NSA President…me… Patricia Fripp says, “When you deliver a keynote speech, you must be committed to a higher caliber of performance.”Make sure you have great stories, edit out all redundancies, and ‘blah, blah, blah.’

Don Thoren
NSA Past President and Keynote Speaker – Don Thoren

In a keynote, you deliver information at a higher level of abstraction, with fewer nitty-gritty specifics. However, I recommend that you provide specific explanations, examples, applications for your audience, and a call to action. Your keynote needs to inspire, inform, entertain, and give hope of some change.

In a handout, seminar, breakout session, or workshop that follows you must go deeper with your content and deliver it at a lower level of abstraction. Otherwise, you could potentially leave your audience frustrated.

Understanding what makes a keynote speech different from a seminar or breakout session is critical to tailoring your content and delivery to the needs and expectations of your audience.  These distinctions are also important if you wish to deliver multiple offerings within a meeting or convention.

Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE - Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker
Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE – Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker

I have enjoyed a long-term, successful career as a keynote speaker and often deliver keynote speeches and breakout sessions focused on improving public speaking and sales presentation skills. As an executive speech coach my clients include corporate leaders, celebrity speakers, well-known sports and media personalities, and sales teams. You can learn many of the public speaking secrets I share with my speech coaching clients at my events or through my learning materials.

Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker, Patricia Fripp is hired by individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.