How to Book a Last-Minute Keynote Speaker

So you need a last-minute speaker? Don’t worry—we got this.

Not too long ago, a keynote speaker scheduled to speak for a Fortune 1000 company in Texas was unexpectedly hospitalized on a Sunday afternoon. The conference was taking place early Monday morning and we had less than 24 hours to find a replacement.  

Fortunately, our knowledgeable sales agent knew of a reliable and great speaker who lived within driving distance of the event, who immediately jumped in the car and started driving once he agreed to speak. The keynote went off without a hitch and the Fortune 1000 company gave glowing reviews of the speaker. True story. (And don’t worry, the original speaker’s surgery went well and is back on his feet and speaking again).

Fortunately, emergency illnesses are a rare event. More often, we have corporations who realize a few short weeks before their event that they have extra funds to hire a keynote speaker.

So whether you need to hire a keynote speaker for an event in two weeks or replace one in two days, it’s possible to get a last-minute speaker—if you keep the following in mind.

Use a speakers bureau

While this may seem like a shameless plug, the reality is that speakers bureaus are the experts on keynote speakers. They have a large network of keynote speakers to draw from at the last minute and sales agents who are quick and reliable.

When you book with a speakers bureau, you’re giving yourself a safety net (and if you have a celebrity or big name in mind, this can really come in handy).

Prepare the facts

To make it easier to find the best keynote speaker for your event on short notice, you should know all the details. What is the theme, agenda, location, and time of the event? How long is the talk? Do you have hotel rooms blocked out for a speaker? The more specific you are, the easier it will be able to find the right speaker for your event (and for a speakers bureau to handle the logistics).

Have a shortlist

When booking on short notice, it helps to have a few ideas for speakers. Make a list of your top three, knowing full well that on short notice you might have to pick a fourth choice.

Be realistic

When it’s a last-minute event, the likelihood of getting a celebrity or headliner speaker is small to none. Famous speakers are usually booked up to six-to-eight months in advance. While our bureau has replaced a celebrity speaker in a short time span before, it’s better to choose a thought leader whose talk focuses on issues relevant to your industry. There are more of them and they have more flexible schedules.

Align your team

Finally, when there is less time to choose a speaker, you should have all your decision makers aligned. Make sure every decision maker is ready to approve the details so a contract can be expedited.