Attributes Needed to Excel as a Keynote Speaker

As a keynote speaker based out of Atlanta, Georgia I have the distinct honor of choosing a career path more people would rather die than attempt. This choice either makes me unique or nuts. I’m going with unique. So what attributes does a keynote speaker have to have? Well if snips and snails, and puppy dogs’ tails is what little boys are made of. And little girls of sugar and spice and all things nice, then keynote speakers are made of moxie, persuasion, thick skin, and servant leadership.

My path has been a subtle slow reveal over the years. If someone had said, “One day you will stand in front of large crowds and speak.” I wouldn’t have believed them. However, there were signs early in my life…for instance my Geography teacher in high school kicked me out of class nearly every day for talking too much.

When I decided to get intentional about speaking I looked for events that would be a great fit. I approached eWomen Network in Dallas, Texas to speak. This organization is dedicated to serving female entrepreneurs. I am one so figured, “Great place to start.” I called multiple times ultimately reaching one of the managing principals pitching him on a Millionaire Moms panel.

My book had just come out. He agreed and I ended up leading a panel of women from my book and it was a huge hit. Someone asked me, “How in the world did you get in there?” My reply, “I picked up the phone and asked.” In life you have to ask for what you want. No one is willingly going to do for you what you should be doing for yourself.

I was also the top Krispy Kreme doughnut salesperson for the Roswell High School Latin Club with more than 60 boxes sold. This caused me great embarrassment as the other students sold on average zero and the real “go-getters” selling an anemic one box each. Naively, I did as I was told, “Go sell doughnuts.”

As the teacher announced the results to the entire class I silently sent him urgent, telepathic messages begging him to not to announce my sales! Of course he did, with great flourish, “And let’s have a BIG round of applause for Joyce who sold SIXTY BOXES! Way to carpe diem it Joyce!! (Seize the day).”

Everyone laughed. I wanted to crawl under my desk. This is when it dawned on me (1) Never be so naïve again as to think a high school student would do as told outside the classroom. (2) I was actually pretty good at selling. The bus ride home with 60 boxes of doughnuts and a dozen hungry kids was brutal. I survived though, tougher and wiser from the experience.

Persuasion is a skill set a great keynote speaker needs to possess. Let’s face it, typically you are standing in front of an audience full of educated, sophisticated,worldly adults. There is no room for error or anything less than full transparency combined with preparedness. If an audience doesn’t like you they will pull their phones out to ignore you faster than a Cheetah pouncing on dinner. They will happily spend the hour texting, checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, and SnapChat. Yes, we can see who is checking their phones and not paying attention.

If that doesn’t scare then try speaking for a group of tweens and/or teenagers-easily the toughest crowd around! Talk about getting humble in a hurry. However, when you get it right there is nothing more beautiful and satisfying then knowing you are impacting young lives.

Fear of Rejection
Thick skin is another attribute a keynote speaker needs. When on stage you know exactly where you stand with the audience. Some people will smile and pay rapt attention (Hello front row!). Others will scowl…yes, scowl. Now if I hadn’t taken Business Communications in college and learned about “resting face” this might have thrown me off the first time.

What is resting face? When people think they are not being observed they will let their facial muscles relax. Often it comes across as a severe look, as if a dark cloud has landed on their face. My Professor actually called one student out in class saying her resting face made her look angry and she did not like it at all. Her face went from resting face/angry to non-resting face of complete surprise and shock! She had no idea.

It may seem silly but since my career started in sales I decided on the spot in that class to always have a pleasant resting face, a hint of a smile at all times. However, not everyone had that class and on stage having a group of people scowling could prove disconcerting to an unknowing speaker. There is a lot happening in real time with the audience and a seasoned keynote speaker can adjust in order to keep the event exciting and upbeat.

First Impressions
Women keynote speakers particularly have to have thick skin. There must be complete attention to detail in what you wear, your make-up and hair choices, how you carry yourself because first impressions are lasting impressions. And let’s face it, women are just more interesting to look at. There is more going on there than the male “uniform” of a pair of khaki’s and the ubiquitous polo shirt.

For a woman, business casual can strike fear in the heart! That seemingly effortless thrown together look is actually an afternoon of shopping at the mall dropping $500.00. It’s time consuming and expensive being a put together female. Yes, it is a double standard. People are more critical of female’s appearances. It is what it is. Realize to succeed it takes more effort but keynote speakers who keep the focus off themselves and where it should be-in delivering massive value-don’t sweat the small stuff.

Servant Leadership
Keynote speakers talk about what is nearest and dearest to their hearts. This is necessary in order to serve at the highest level bringing authenticity and passion to the conversation. If asked to discuss 18th century literature I would pass. If asked to speak on overcoming obstacles, a winning mindset, sales, marketing, leadership, or productivity hacks I would say, “Yes!” in a heartbeat. I know I can really help others gain confidence and belief in their abilities through business.

Speaking and doing deals is my creative outlet. I cannot sing, paint or any other artistic expression but I can negotiate, sell, take a calculated risk, and persist. I have found in life that most people cave in and give up way too easily. That if they just had a smidgen more confidence they could get to where they want to be. Sadly, too often they quit often just inches from victory.

My true desire in life is to act as a beacon of light in the dark for others. In that by hearing my story they believe, “If she can do that then I can do ____ (insert individual dream).” Servant leadership is my role in life.

There is no greater thrill then watching an individual’s face light up as they begin to believe in their inherent worth and ability. No scowling resting face there! If I can help each audience member gain enough confidence to effect change in their life then the ripple effect into their work, families and communities can be amazing. And that is why I made the unique decision to become a keynote speaker-to change the world one stage at a time.

If you are interested in booking Joyce Bone she can be reached at or visit If you liked this article please consider forwarding to a friend!