100 Scope Notes
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It’s Not About What You Think It’s About: Blow People’s Minds with Your Next Keynote Speech

Looking for some cheap applause during your next keynote speech?

Want to have the crowd quote-tweeting your talk?

Do you want to give the air of someone who knows more than everyone else?

It’s not about what you think it’s about.

I’ve noticed a keynote speaker trend that I find endlessly entertaining. Here’s how it works.

Up on stage, the speaker mentions a buzzworthy word or phrase. They then tell the audience that “it’s not about” said buzzworthy word or phrase, and lists three (very vague and general) things that are important, man.


“Folks, it’s not about Accelerated Reader.”

*Dramatic Pause*

“It’s about literacy, excitement, and connection.”

I can see the audience’s thumbs tapping that into a tweet right now.

So how do you do it?

Think of some jargon that everyone is talking about right now. *NOTE* The more beloved the buzzworthy word or phrase, the bigger the impact. Accelerated Reader was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Let’s try it with genrefication. Pretend you’re the keynote speaker. Say the following into the mirror, maintaining a holier-than-thou face:


“Folks, it’s not about genrefication.”

*Imagine a crowd of librarians quietly gasping*

“It’s about engagement, curation, and connection.”

You called out a thing that lots of people approve of and said, “You’re thinking about it all wrong.” You will now be considered a genius.

Oh, and always end with “connection”. No one can argue with “connection”.

“Folks, it’s not about books.”

*Mild panic fills the room*

“It’s about commitment, community, and connection.”

Ooh – bonus points for the alliteration.

It’s not about what you think it’s about. Give this technique a shot and watch the keynote invites roll in, my friends.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I love this. It reminds me of Eddie Izzard explaining how to fake singing The National Anthem. “Keep confirming and denying things.”

    Now off to add this to all my speeches. Even the ones to my kids.

    “Kids, it’s not about homework.”


    “It’s about commitment, community, and connection.”

    And the crowd goes wild!

  2. Sharon Verbeten says

    This post blew my mind! Loved it; can’t wait to hear another speaker!

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