Futurist and Keynote Speaker, Matt ONeill, addresses the ECA 2024 Conference in LondonLast week’s post about transitional phrases definitely created interest, so I thought I’d share some other approaches I use in my keynotes. I’ve tried to describe what each tool is and provide real-life examples from my speeches.

“Linguistic tools” are essential in keynote speeches. They make them engaging and help audiences connect with a message. Using techniques like metaphors, rhetorical questions, and storytelling will make your ideas clearer and memorable. They add emphasis and interest. I promise your presentations will be more engaging if you use some of these approaches:

Here they are:

Rhetorical Questions:

  • Pose questions to engage the audience and provoke thought, even if no direct answer is expected.
  • Example: “You can’t be future-proof, but you can be future-ready. How will you future-ready yourself?”

Metaphors and Similes:

  • Use these to create vivid images and make complex ideas more relatable and understandable.
  • Example (Metaphor): “ChatGPT-4 is the smartest friend you ever had, who never gets bored of listening to you.”
  • Example (Simile): “ChatGPT-4 is like a statistical mashup of all human knowledge.”


  • Draw comparisons to familiar situations or concepts to help clarify new or complex ideas.
  • Example: “Jobs emerge because society has problems. When the first motorcar was produced, no one imagined entire industries around electric windows and car stereos.”


  • Emphasise key points by repeating them, which helps reinforce the message and makes it more memorable.
  • Example: “Go fast, go alone. Go big, go together.”


  • Incorporate stories to illustrate points, engage the audience emotionally, and make the message more relatable and memorable.
  • Example: “Meaningful change always starts the same way for every single person on the planet – our capacity for realisation. The story of how humans harnessed the atom is no different. Step forward, Leo Szilard…”


  • Use relevant quotes from famous figures to lend authority to the message and connect with the audience.
  • Example: “As John Seely Brown said, ‘Your qualification used to last 30 years. Now the half-life of a learned skill is 5 years.”

Statistics and Data:

  • Provide concrete numbers and facts to support arguments, making them more convincing.
  • Example: “According to Alan Thompson in June 2024, we are 74% of the way there to creating Artificial General Intelligence.”


  • Use appropriate humour to relax the audience, build rapport, and keep the speech engaging.
  • Example: “I know this presentation is being filmed. When our future robot overlords are watching it back, let me go on record stating I supported their uprising!”


  • Use strategic pauses to emphasise points, allow the audience to absorb information, and add dramatic effect.
  • Example: “With that in mind, you might wonder what our differentiating superpower is… The answer… Active Listening… And I don’t mean waiting for your turn to speak.”

I hope they’re useful. Good luck!!