Home Thinking Aloud How To Find A Great Keynote Speaker For Your Event

How To Find A Great Keynote Speaker For Your Event


By Sarah Lang, Ticketleap

speaker on stage

Events are a valuable opportunity for businesses to expand awareness of their brand, position themselves in the market, and cultivate community around their product. However, it often feels like not a week goes by without an industry event of some sort. There is a lot of noise out there, and the fact is that today’s professional has a myriad of options for picking up tips, learning best practices, and networking in ways that are free and do not detract from their workday (i.e. online eBooks, happy hours).

As a result, attracting attendees can be a challenge. The key to making your event stand out is a great keynote speaker. A speaker with compelling expertise and experiences to share, who will deliver a presentation that can’t be found elsewhere, is the single-greatest draw to an event.

Here are five tips for finding a great keynote speaker.

1. Don’t book speakers solely on name recognition.

The most interesting speakers usually end up being those that people are not familiar with. These “hidden gems” can offer a unique perspective, and one that has not been heard before. By booking a speaker who is a little more off-the-radar, but has interesting things to say, you can surprise-and-delight your audience. They will feel the thrill of discovering someone or something new, and of being among the first exposed to a new idea or way of thinking. Plus, speakers with major name recognition tend to be exorbitantly expensive.

2. Think about how many conferences and events your audience attends.

Is the keynote speaker you have in mind a professional speaker? Do they give the same talk on a pretty regular basis? There’s nothing worse than hearing the exact same talk more than once. If your keynote speaker is well known in your industry and your audience is mostly made up of people that regularly attend events, you might want to reconsider. As mentioned above, the promise of something new and exciting is powerful way to get people in the door.

3. ALWAYS vet your speakers.

As the event planner, you are accountable for every part of your event. If the keynote sucks, it’s on you, not the speaker. Don’t just assume someone is a good speaker because of their internet presence, name, or even experience. Before committing a speaker to the keynote spot, go for coffee, hop on a call and/or watch previous videos of them speaking. Do your due diligence.

4. Don’t drive a hard bargain on speaker fees.

You want your keynote to be motivated and excited to speak at your event. Nothing kills excitement more than haggling. Too much hard bargaining can even cause resentment, and you want your speaker to feel valued.

The only exception to this is if the speaker is trying to sell copies of their book. They might be willing to waive fees if you buy a certain number of books.  If you aren’t interested in buying a copy of their book for each attendee, ask yourself if you are really interested in hearing them talk.

5. Be flexible and accommodating.

As an event planner, your goal is for the speaker to give their best possible performance. This means giving them a fair amount of control over how they’d like their talk to go. This might mean they do not want to adhere to a specific format or presentation template, and that’s OK. Certainly, event organizers want to be apprised of what to expect and make sure the content is relevant to the audience, but resist the urge to micromanage or impose restrictions. You should only select speakers you trust, and this means investing them with confidence and letting them be themselves.

Finding great keynote speakers can require thinking outside-of-the-box and taking full advantage of your professional network. This can take a lot of work, but ultimately it will be worth it when every seat is filled and the event attracts rave reviews.


Sarah Lang Photo

Sarah Lang works in marketing for Ticketleap, an online event and ticketing platform that helps brands build better relationships with people the old fashioned way, face-to-face.


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