How to select the perfect keynote speaker
Your company is planning to hold a conference or some sort of corporate event, and you need a speaker. Knowing how to select an ideal keynote speaker is key to a successful event. Someone who will set the tone of the event, energize and inspire your audience. A professional who speaks for a living: a keynote speaker – can make a massive difference to an event.
The mere fact that you are employing a professional speaker to address your staff (or audience) signals that you care. It is a symbolic act, so it’s important to get it right.
What is a keynote speaker?
A keynote speaker is someone who sets the tone (or keynote) of the event and establishes the theme. If you’ve selected well, the speaker can have a lasting impact. Even years after the event, employees should still hear that voice that reaffirms their position and purpose in the company.
A great speaker has the ability to change the direction of a company, or its culture, in a single event.
While there are similarities between a keynote speaker and a motivational speaker, such as that they both make their audience feel inspired, a motivational speaker seeks to evoke emotion. To get jolt people into long-lasting behavioral change. A keynote speaker mostly uses topical facts and focuses on the organization, its brand, ethos, vision, mission, etc. Your decision on which speaker to use depends entirely on the purpose of the event. If your staff needs to be inspired, use a motivational speaker; if they need to be informed, use a keynote speaker.
The best speakers are both informative and inspirational – able to achieve both outcomes in one performance – a motivational keynote speaker.
Steps to choosing the ideal keynote speaker
There are certain considerations to choosing a suitable speaker.
Firstly, you should plan well ahead. Many of the best keynote speakers are in high demand and are often booked 12 months in advance. Planning ahead allows your speaker time to prepare the most appropriate presentation – the one that has a material impact on your event.
Here are 6 practical steps to choosing the perfect speaker for your event:
- Define the purpose of the event
- Determine the event’s logistics and scheduling
- Establish your audience’s specific needs
- Determine what you want your audience to know and feel – the desired outcome
- Clarify your expectations of the speaker
- Select speaker
Don’t settle for the first speaker you find online. Be certain to get references, review videos of their previous performances, books, articles, and visit their website, blog, and social channels. You want legitimate evidence that they have the expertise and authority to speak to your group.
Ask speaker bureaus’ who they would recommend for your event. Any bureau worth its salt should engage in a robust due diligence effort.
To find a thought-leader for your topic, search for similar events or conferences online, to establish who others used as a keynote speaker for a similar event outcome. Preferably select someone who has published their work, and where peer review has been possible.
For open, public engagements, selecting a speaker with a large social media following can be helpful. Many speakers will advertise their presentation (and your event) on their social media without charging extra.
Ensure the speaker appeals to your audience’s demographics. For example, a younger audience may require an energetic speaker that understands that generation’s needs, trends, and interests.
Select a speaker that connects emotionally with your audience. People may not recall what they said during the presentation, but they will remember how they were made to feel. You want your speaker to challenge the audience, in a sensitive yet forthright manner. To ask them to think differently about important matters.
You want the speaker to be an agent for change. To challenge your organization to adapt to the changing times. The best speakers deliver a message that is innovative, practical, and emotional. You want your audience to leave saying, “I can do that”. Something attainable.
Keep your budget in mind. There are many outstanding and affordable upcoming speakers. You will pay more for celebrity speakers but make sure that you’re not paying a premium for their celebrity status, rather than their ability to deliver an important, inspiring message.
What to do once you have a shortlist
Once you have a shortlist of possible speakers, hold a meeting with them. An in-person meeting may not be possible, but don’t settle for a telephonic interview. You want to see the person conduct themselves using non-verbal language. Voice, eye contact – how engaging they are. This can be achieved at a virtual meeting. Don’t rush the meeting.
At your interview, it’s important to ask the right questions. According to Dr. Rick Goodman, a world-renowned executive coach, it is vital to know the following:
- How will the speaker ensure their presentation is memorable: what tactics and visuals do they use to keep the audience’s attention?
- What’s their process to engage meaningfully with the audience: is it a monologue or is there interaction and participation by the audience?
- Their professional and personal background: it’s important to know whether the speaker has any particular worldviews or prejudices that could make them a poor fit. Misplaced humor can totally destroy a great presentation.
- Other speakers, they admire: ask them if there are other similar speakers that they would recommend.
- Presentation length: the duration of the presentation is important. Audiences generally do not concentrate well towards the end of a day. Ask whether the speaker has the ability to adapt the talk to your time constraints, even at the last minute?
- Why they should be chosen as your keynote speaker: ask them to tell you why their presentation is perfect for your event. An elevator pitch of sorts. They should have done their homework on your organization. This may indicate if they’re persuasive and a good speaker. You want to know their unique selling point.
- Is the speaker able to integrate your company ethos and event theme: does the speaker have the wherewithal and flexibility to include your event’s desired outcomes into the keynote?
Once you have selected a speaker, sort out the logistics. For example, travel plans to the venue, accommodation, soundcheck logistics, MC introduction, exact arrival time, dress code, etc. The best speakers like to arrive early to test the technical equipment. Some speakers prefer to have an input in the seating arrangement.
It’s important to get the speaker’s equipment requirements list long before the event.
Take the time to introduce the speaker to the relevant sound and IT people. Presenter visual aids are vital for some speakers. And it can be disconcerting for a speaker if there are last-minute technical problems.
Give the speaker the best chance of success.