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Choosing a Keynote Speaker: 5-Step Guide and Best Practices

February 2, 2024

When choosing a keynote speaker for your event, it's crucial to avoid relying solely on popularity. It's important to thoughtfully evaluate and consider their suitability for your audience rather than simply chasing the latest hype. The speaker you choose should be able to connect with your attendees and leave an impression that lasts long after the event. 

If you are looking for a guide to choosing a keynote speaker for your event, you are in the right place. In this post, we concentrate on how you can choose the right keynote speaker and discuss best practices to help you establish a successful collaboration with them. Let’s jump right into it. 

What is a Keynote Speaker?

A keynote speaker is an individual who delivers the keynote or main speech at events, particularly conferences. Typically, they are experts or celebrities recognized for their outstanding achievements in their industry. Their purpose is to inspire and educate attendees through a speech and presentation as well as emphasize the central message or goal of the event. They may also communicate their unique philosophy and insights, providing audiences with fresh perspectives.  

How to Choose the Right Keynote Speaker for Your Event

With so many qualified keynote speakers out there, it can be overwhelming to make the right choice. If you are experiencing this dilemma right now, we got you. We developed a 5-step guide on how to choose the right keynote speaker for your event to ensure that you make the best decision possible. Keep reading below for the discussion. 

Step 1: Analyze and Understand Your Event’s Theme, Goal, and Target Audiences

When you have a clear understanding of your event's goal, theme, and target audiences, you can have an idea of the specific qualities you should look for in a keynote speaker. This will enable you to choose the speaker who can most effectively convey your event message, connect with your audience, and ultimately benefit your event. To help you in this task, here are two vital questions to ask: 

What Are Your Event’s Theme and Goal?

You can’t plan a successful event without fully grasping its theme and goal. The same thing goes with choosing the right keynote speaker. You have to analyze your event specifics and understand your goal and theme before making any decision. List down your goal and theme and use that information as the foundation of your selection process. 

Let us provide you with an example. Suppose you are planning a conference event with the aim to inspire and motivate your audience to incorporate technology in their work processes and the theme of your event is innovation and technology. In such a scenario, it is crucial to select a keynote speaker who has experience in technology integration and works in the tech industry.

Who Are Your Target Audiences? 

Besides analyzing your event goal and theme, taking the time to identify your target audiences and understand their characteristics on a deeper level can also pay off. Keep in mind that even if your speaker is highly knowledgeable if they fail to connect with your audience, their efforts may go unappreciated. Therefore, it's crucial to ensure that your speaker can effectively engage your target audiences to achieve a successful event. 

To provide you with a better understanding, let's elaborate on the event example we mentioned earlier. Let’s say your conference event’s target audiences are young business owners. The ideal speaker for this audience is someone who is dynamic, tech-savvy, and successful in the business world. They should deliver the presentation in an engaging manner by utilizing modern technology and providing real-life examples. It's also important that they can relate to the audience, perhaps by having started a business at a young age.

Step 2: Set a Budget

When you're searching for a keynote speaker, it's important to keep in mind that their services come at a price. Speaker fees can vary greatly depending on their experience, recognition, and the popularity of their topic. Generally speaking, professional keynote speakers charge between $5,000 and $50,000 for their services. 

Establishing a clear budget that you are willing to spend on a keynote speaker allows you to identify speakers within a realistic financial scope. It also provides a foundation for negotiations, enabling you to communicate your financial limitations. Moreover, setting a budget for the speaker enables you to manage the overall financial aspect of your event. This ensures a reasonable allocation of resources to prevent unexpected financial stress.

Step 3: Research and Make a List of Potential Speakers

At this point, you should have a concrete idea of the qualities of the speaker you need and the budget you’re willing to spend. The next step is to start looking for your keynote speaker through research.

To begin your research, you do a quick search on the internet by entering relevant information about the speaker you’re looking for. Additionally, you can explore other diverse resources, such as local and industry publications. Seeking referrals from industry professionals can also provide you with a wider range of perspectives and valuable insights on your event. Another way to find potential speakers is by collaborating with agencies that specialize in recommending them. If you want a more straightforward approach, conducting surveys among your audience can be an excellent option as well.

As you conduct your research for potential speakers, it's crucial to keep track of their names and create a list. Make sure to gather basic information about their experiences and expertise in their field. If you can, we also suggest finding out information about their fees in advance. 

Step 4: Select the Right Speaker

It's time to narrow down the list of potential speakers for your event. To help you in this task, here are the processes you need to keep in mind when selecting the right speaker.

Ensure That the Speaker Is a True Expert 

Your audiences expect to learn something new or gain valuable insights from a keynote speaker. Hence, conducting thorough research on the professional background of your potential speaker is crucial. Apart from conducting research, you can also reach out to their past clients or request a list of references. Having people who can testify to the quality of the speaker can give you more confidence in your choice. 

Observe the Speaker in Action

Observing your potential speaker in action can provide valuable insights into their communication skills and presentation style. This can help you make an informed decision about whether they are the right fit for your event or organization. You can monitor their performance by attending an event where they are speaking or watching their recorded speeches. 

When assessing the presentation style of your speaker, your first focus should be on how they start their presentation and make an impression. As many of us already know, first impressions are crucial as they can greatly influence the engagement and attentiveness of the audience. 

Princeton researchers have conducted experiments that suggest people can form impressions of others in just a tenth of a second, which is within the range of the time it takes to blink an eye. A speaker who can make a good impression within this short time can indicate their potential to effectively convey your event message and engage the audience more successfully. 

In addition to how your potential speaker makes first impressions, you should also pay careful attention to the flow of their presentations, the clarity of their message, and their time management. Another important factor to check is how they interact with their audiences. Last but never least, notice their authenticity and enthusiasm, as these may also affect audience engagement. 

Have a Conversation With Your Potential Keynote Speaker's

If possible, it's always a good idea to have a conversation with your potential keynote speaker before making a decision. By having a one-on-one conversation, you can get a sense of the speaker's personality and how they will perform at your event. You'll also have the opportunity to ask important questions that may not be readily available online. 

Step 5: Contact Your Selected Speaker and Negotiate the Terms and Agreement

After conducting a thorough evaluation, you should be able to select your desired speaker already. The only remaining step now is to reach out to your chosen speaker and make everything official. Create an invitation letter that outlines all the details of your event. Clearly state your expectations, discuss logistical information, and confirm the speaker's availability for the event date. 

When negotiating with a speaker, it's important to be prepared to address any of their additional requirements or preferences to ensure a positive collaboration. Once all event aspects have been agreed upon, it's important to formalize the arrangement with a signed contract. This provides both of you with a clear plan for the upcoming collaboration and protects everyone involved by clearly outlining the rights and responsibilities of each party. After the paperwork is complete, you can move forward with the project.

Best Practices When Inviting a Keynote Speaker

To establish a good relationship with your keynote speaker and ensure that you have seamless collaboration, here are five best practices to note. 

Plan Early 

When inviting a keynote speaker, it's crucial to plan well in advance, preferably 4 to 6 months before the event. This is because the most popular and sought-after speakers are often booked ahead of time, and starting the planning process early increases your chances of securing the speaker you want. Additionally, planning early gives the speaker ample time to prepare for the event.

Be Formal 

Inviting a keynote speaker requires a certain level of formality to maintain professionalism. By showing professionalism, you demonstrate that you take the speaker's time and expertise seriously. This, in turn, can make them feel more valued and respected. 

Even if you know your keynote speaker personally, it’s always best to send a formal invitation letter or email. It's also important to avoid casual language and informal words and to dress appropriately when meeting with them.

Maintain Open Communication Before, During, and After the Event

Maintaining open communication before, during, and after the event helps to establish a good working relationship with the speaker and ensures that both of you are always on the same page. Prior to the event, it's crucial to set clear expectations with your speaker. This involves having a discussion about the presentation topic, the time they're allocated, and any specific requests they might have. Once the event is in full swing, maintaining open communication remains crucial to ensure that the speaker feels comfortable and that everything is running smoothly. After the event, gathering feedback from your speaker can help make improvements for future events.

Check Your Presentation Equipment in Advance

Did you know that incorporating visual aids into your presentations can significantly improve retention rates? As a matter of fact, 60% of listeners are able to remember information that is presented in a visually enhanced format. Ensuring that your presentation equipment is conditioned to display visual aids that are clear can further enhance the effectiveness of the message. In addition to giving your attendees an enhanced event experience, preparing presentation equipment in advance is crucial to make your speaker feel at ease.

Ensure the Introduction of Your Keynote Speaker Is Accurate

Never forget to confirm with your speaker how they would like to be introduced and the correct pronunciation of their name to avoid any awkward moments. Additionally, gather relevant information about their professional background and achievements to provide enough context for the audience. Remember to keep the introduction brief, concise, and engaging, and emphasize notable awards or recognitions that the speaker has received. 

Be Sure to Extend Your Thanks to the Speaker

Showing gratitude to your speaker is an essential part of being a polite and respectful event host or organizer. In addition to thanking your keynote speaker during the event, there are more ways to express your appreciation. One way is to include them in your post-event communications, like newsletters or social media posts. Another way is to send them a personalized thank you email or a small gift after the event. Additionally, you may write a testimonial that they can use on their website or in their promotional materials. This will not only express your appreciation but also help them secure future speaking opportunities.

Stay in Touch With Your Keynote Speaker With StaffConnect 

Staying in touch with your keynote speaker can be a challenge, especially when you are organizing a large-scale event. Errors due to miscommunication can also arise inevitably. To avoid this, you need a tool that can offer seamless communication and coordination between your team and your keynote speaker. A tool that fits this description is StaffConnect. 

StaffConnect is an event management software designed with a dedicated communication platform to streamline and enhance the interaction between event organizers and speakers. Our app’s practical communication features include automatic reminders, a communications hub, SMS notifications, live chat, and more. With StaffConnect, you can ensure that your speakers are well-informed about every aspect of the event, creating a collaborative and efficient communication environment. 

If you want to learn more about StaffConnect, you may take advantage of our demo and explore our app’s other powerful features for staff and event management for free.