How long should a speech be?

Today in the PepTalk journal, we’re exploring the perfect balance between brevity and depth when speaking keynotes. In the world of motivational pep talks, corporate events, meetings and conferences, the role of keynote speakers is paramount in setting the tone, inspiring the audience, and delivering valuable insights. One of the critical questions that often arises in event planning is the perfect duration for a keynote speaker's address. While you could retort, how long is a piece of string, there are some general standards we see.

The impact of keynote speeches

First of all, why book a keynote speaker? At PepTalk, matching experts to people and organisations that need help accelerating their team’s knowledge is an everyday occurrence. Keynote speakers provide valuable insights and inspiration to businesses and teams on various subjects, from strategic decision-making to data science to stress management and even fitness; these speeches can help motivate employees, spark creativity, and drive positive change within an organisation. We also regularly book speakers for cultural dates and international observances such as Pride, International Women’s Day or Black History Month.

The role of a keynote speaker

Keynote speakers are responsible for capturing the audience's attention, delivering a powerful message, and leaving a lasting impact. The duration of a keynote address plays a crucial role in achieving these objectives. While some speakers may believe that shorter is sweeter, delivering a concise and impactful speech quickly, others may prefer a longer format to delve deeper into complex topics and engage the audience.

How long is a keynote?

So, how long do keynote speakers typically speak for? Unfortunately, there's no typical time frame for keynote presentations. The answer may vary depending on the nature of the event (think sales conference versus an intimate fireside chat), the audience demographics or psychographics, and the objective of the presentation. However, a general industry pulse check with our speakers and clients suggests that keynote speeches usually take 30 to 90 minutes. This time frame allows speakers to cover their key points effectively, engage the audience, and leave a lasting impression.

Shorter keynote speeches, typically lasting around 30 minutes, are ideal for events with limited time, and the audience may have a shorter attention span. In these cases, keynote speakers must deliver their message concisely, focusing on the most important points and leaving a strong impact quickly. This format is particularly effective for events such as corporate meetings, product or brand launches, or TED-style talks where brevity and clarity are essential.

This format is particularly effective for events such as corporate meetings, product or brand launches, or TED-style talks where brevity and clarity are essential.

On the other hand, longer keynote speeches, lasting up to 90 minutes or more, allow speakers to wade deeper into complex topics (think cybersecurity, emotional intelligence, team-building), share personal anecdotes, and engage the audience in a more interactive and immersive experience. This format is well-suited for conferences, seminars, and workshops where the audience needs in-depth knowledge, a boost of inspiration, or a few of the practical insights illustrated.

A panel discussion is suitable for a longer session

A great talk is what matters most

Regardless of the talk duration, successful keynote speakers share common traits that set them apart. They possess excellent communication skills, a strong stage presence, and the ability to connect with the audience on an emotional level. They understand the importance of storytelling, humour, and authenticity in engaging and captivating their listeners.

Wouldn't you rather have a brilliant short speech that left your attendees wanting more, than a dry talk that left everyone bored to tears?

In conclusion, the ideal length of time for a keynote speaker's address ultimately depends on the nature of the event, the audience's preferences, and the speaker's style and objectives. Whether delivering a short and impactful speech or a longer and immersive presentation, keynote speakers have the power to unlock success, inspire change, and leave a lasting impression on their audience. The next time you plan an event or conference, remember the importance of finding the perfect balance between brevity and depth in keynote speaking.

💡 Are you curious how a PepTalk Live session with an expert speaker can help your business? If you're facing change and need a fresh perspective on your next event challenge, drop us an email at to set up a free strategy call.

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