Tips for hiring the best keynote speaker for your next event

keynote speaker

Hiring the right keynote speaker for your corporate event or conference isn’t getting any easier. There seems to be more speakers than ever, on just about any topic. If you Google the term “keynote speaker,” there are over 19.2 million results. So what are some tips that will help you find the best possible speakers for your events?

I asked a few of my colleagues at Speakers’ Spotlight who are dedicated to helping our clients do just this. Each of them have at least 10 years’ experience in the meetings industry, and several (myself included) have been doing this for over two decades. Here are the top 10 keynote speaker hiring tips we came up with:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Rather than focusing purely on the topic or theme of the meeting, ask yourself this question: What behaviour change do you want to see in your audience? Put another way, when the speaker is finished, and your delegates or attendees leave the event, what do you want them to have heard, learned and felt, and most importantly, what do you want them to do differently?
  2. Understand your audience.  We’ve yet to see a keynote speaker who is right for every audience, and the only way to find the right speaker for your event is to know your audience. This includes demographics and psychographics. What’s the age range? What’s the gender balance? What are their roles or job functions? What level of education do they have? Are they culturally diverse? All of these questions will help identify the speakers who will best relate to, and connect with the audience.
  3. Plan early, if possible.  The best speakers get booked a year or more in advance, so the earlier you start planning, the great likelihood your first choice will be available.
  4. Know your budget. As with most things, fees vary quite widely, so knowing your budget will help you narrow down the list of potential candidates. Keep in mind that in general, celebrities and high-profile speakers will be more expensive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better speakers.
  5. Look for ways to add value. Most speakers are willing to do more than just show up, speak and leave. Whether it’s a Meet & Greet with VIPs or sponsors, a book signing, an extended Q&A, or a Twitter chat, there are many ways to add value to your speaker’s participation at your event. Be creative, and don’t be afraid to ask what’s possible.
  6. Communicate your expectations in advance. Whether it’s pre-event preparation, onsite participation, or post-event follow up, some speakers are willing to do more than others. To avoid disappointment, communicate all your expectations in advance, and ensure that they are captured in your agreement.
  7. Understand your responsibilities. Most speakers have fairly standard contractual obligations, however, it’s critical that you understand the full scope of your responsibilities. In particular, ensure that the travel and A/V requirements are clear, as well as the cancellation terms.
  8. Do your homework. It’s important to do your due diligence. This may include asking for references or testimonials from previous clients, reviewing video clips, or attending another event they’re speaking at in order to preview the speaker in person.
  9. But don’t overthink it. While it’s important to consider various options, and ensure you’re confident in your selection, don’t be struck by decision paralysis. Selecting a keynote speaker is both an art and a science, and there is almost always more than one speaker who will do a great job for you.
  10. Set your speaker up for success. Finally, once you’ve made your selection, provide your speaker with the tools to help them succeed. This can include background information on your organization and event, a briefing call or meeting to assist in their preparation, and a personalized introduction at the event.

I hope these tips help you select the speakers that will best achieve the objectives for your meetings, and more importantly effect positive change in the personal and professional lives of your attendees.

About the author:

Martin Perelmuter is President and Co-Founder of Speakers’ Spotlight, one of the world’s largest and most respected speakers’ agencies. Speakers’ Spotlight has arranged more than 20,000 speaking engagements in over 30 countries worldwide, and has received many industry awards and accolades along the way. For more information visit www.speakers.ca.

About the author:

Martin is an unapologetic idealist. He’s passionate about people and ideas, and after 20 years in the speaking industry believes more than ever that a great speech can provide the impetus for action and be a catalyst for change. Prior to co-founding Speakers’ Spotlight, Martin was a corporate lawyer at a prestigious international law firm. While he realized early on in his career that he needed to do something more entrepreneurial, he learned some incredibly valuable best practices that have shaped his approach to client service and business management. Martin’s views on the speaking industry have been reported in various television and print media, and have been published in over 60 countries. He’s been a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities, and was a keynote speaker at the Public Words Speaker Forum at The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School in Cambridge. Martin is a graduate of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Western Ontario, and the Faculty of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He lives in Toronto with his wife and business partner Farah, and their children Jade and Cole. He is an avid reader and music lover.

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