5 Things to Consider Before Booking a Keynote Speaker

There are dozens of phenomenal keynote speakers you could hire for a keynote address, but being a great speaker doesn’t mean they are the best fit for your audience and event… When searching for the best keynote speaker, you need to consider multiple factors to make your event a grand slam.

We love roaring applause erupting as our chosen keynote speaker sets down the mic and their speech was knocked clear out of the park. If only it were so easy. While many speakers have the verbal prowess to make a keynote speech a home run, only a few will truly connect with your audience. In other words, Babe Ruth can’t swing for the fences wearing hockey skates. Your job is to find the right slugger for your specific event.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind when selecting the best keynote speaker:

  1. What Type of Keynote Speaker Does the Event Need?

Does the shoe fit? Will the audience connect better with a motivational speaker, or perhaps a celebrity speaker or a famous athlete speaker? What keynote presentation style will best suit the event? For example, TED-like talks on the power of transformative personal change are inspiring, but they’re a poor match for conferences about orthopedic medicine.

Consider first, what the speech needs to accomplish. Should it speak to broad, high-level themes (like effective team-building methods or secrets to good management), entertain and get some laughs, or offer industry-specific knowledge (like startup advice). What is the purpose of your event? Your speaker should understand all these factors and create a unique keynote speech custom tailored to your audience.

  1. Who’s Your Audience?

Are your guests attending a fundraising gala? A shareholder meeting? A motivational sales conference? If the purpose of the event is business, your audience will want a speaker that delivers insight into their own business practices, making the trip worthwhile. A speaker that makes the audience laugh but is light on powerful insights might seem “fluffy,” for example.

Conversely, at a fundraiser paid-plate dinner, or awards ceremony, an entertainer might be just the ticket. Anticipate the wants, needs, and expectations of your audience.

  1. What Is the Keynote Speaker’s Expertise?

Keynote speakers like Aaron Ross are masters of company growth, while speakers like Leon Logothetis inspire us to be kind and do amazing things. Some are brash and unapologetic, some are witty and aloof, and some are soft-spoken and wise. Every keynote speaker has a niche that they’ve honed to perfection, which works best with a certain audience.

Which expertise does this keynote require? Number-crunching, investment guru-type expertise or one that inspires women to grow their own companies?

  1. The Keynote Speaker’s Experience

There’s a difference between a billionaire venture capitalist and a billionaire tech CEO, and they’ll each offer different perspectives on business, growth, and relationship-building. Of course, a speaker’s experience with the keynote topic at hand is essential for lending real-world insight, but it also grants credibility from the audience’s perspective.

Kevin O’Leary would talk entrepreneurship, not medical advice, just as John Oliver would talk comedy politics, not bootstrapping startups (actually, John Oliver could talk about anything).

  1. The Takeaway

In many ways, a keynote speech delivers on the “promise” of the event, as it’s often the main draw for attendance. As such, the choice of speaker should follow logically from the event and its participants, never tacked on at the end, even for the sake of celebrity (celebrity never hurts, though).

World-class keynote speakers have events where they thrive, and others where they fall flat. Only a few will be the right fit to deliver a true coup de gråce at yours. To receive a standing ovation, it takes a careful consideration of the needs of your audience. Find the right speaker to match, however, and your audience will be on their feet.

Ken Sterling is the Chief Marketing Officer at BigSpeak Speakers’ bureau – the leading keynote and business speakers bureau in the world.  He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and an MBA from Babson College. Ken teaches Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Strategy at UC Santa Barbara.  He is a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, business consultant and sales & marketing expert.  For press interviews, contact marketing@bigspeak.com.