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The A-Z of Hiring a Keynote Speaker: Who is a Keynote Speaker & How Do You Find One?

Updated: Feb 20

Are you looking to hire a keynote speaker for your upcoming event? Do you know what qualities make for a good keynote speaker? Not to worry!

In this blog, we run you through everything you need to know about keynote speakers and how you can go about finding the right one for your event. We will detail, among others, the role of keynote speakers in events, the qualities to look for in potential candidates

and how to go about finding the right speaker for your event.

But first things first.

Keynote speaker meaning: Who is a keynote speaker?

A keynote speaker is a speaker who is an expert in a given field and is able to share their knowledge, experiences and stories in an engaging way.

According to the textbook definition, a keynote speaker is meant to be the headline act of an event or conference, often setting the tone or theme of the event or gathering. A keynote speaker may be flanked by supporting acts whose message aligns with the theme of the event or as set by the keynote speaker, together culminating in a harmonious whole.

However, a keynote speaker doesn’t necessarily have to speak in the company of other speakers. Oftentimes, organisations do bring in a speaker to share insights with an in-house audience – that is, employees, including supervisors and senior executives. In such cases, the speaker still shares a keynote address, but could be referred to by another name such as guest speaker, which many tend to use interchangeably.

For example, Jillian is a female keynote speaker who majors on the topic of adversity and resilience, but depending on the occasion, she might also go by the title of guest speaker. She mostly caters to corporates looking to hire a motivational speaker in the field of resilience, but will also appear as a conference speaker at events around the globe as a keynote or guest speaker, either in-person or by giving virtual keynotes.

At the end of the day, though, a keynote speaker needs to be knowledgeable or experienced in a respective field as a prerequisite. This not only distinguishes keynote speakers from other professional speakers, but also this grasp of the topic ensures the speaker’s talks (known as keynotes) carry some weight. Otherwise, it’s hard to take them seriously.

What is the purpose of a keynote speech?

The whole point of keynote speaking is to convey a key idea or message meant to educate, motivate, inspire or inform the audience. A good keynote speech is one that gives listeners unique take-homes that either spur action, stimulate discussion or help individuals find solutions. It should leave a lasting impression.

As mentioned, keynote speakers tap into their personal experiences, expertise or insights that they have gained along the way to come up with keynotes that add real value to their listeners, whether the audience is an in-house corporate gathering or more public event.

Why is it crucial to find the right keynote speaker?

Regardless of the type or scale of the event you need a speaker for, it is important to find the right keynote speaker if you want the event to be successful.

Not only do meeting planners consider keynote speakers a central aspect of their event, but event speakers and conference speakers can add some oomph to a gathering.

Sure, celebrity speakers like Oprah Winfrey, David Beckham or Barack Obama will always stir a buzz whenever they are speaking at an event; but even lesser known names can create a memorable experience through their keynote speech.

This is why choosing a speaker with a good story to tell or insights to share is important – provided their message resonates with the audience of the day, the speaker can create lasting memories for the audience members.

The cost of hiring a speaker can be difficult to quantify in many cases. The primary objective of hiring a keynote speaker is to leave the audience inspired, entertained, educated or motivated to take action. If the speaker can help you achieve that goal, then you can consider the event a success.

For these reasons, you want to hire the right event speakers, whether it’s a business speaker for a small corporate gathering or conference speakers for a large summit.

Embark on a speaker search once you have determined the theme of the event, which should be the guiding light upon which all other pieces of the puzzle revolve around. Keep the audience in mind as well, and assuming you have your goals defined, proceed to evaluate the speaker and the qualities they bring.

Things to look for in a keynote speaker

When evaluating potential keynote speakers to invite, there are certain boxes you want them to tick as far as their qualities and qualifications go.

These include:

• Experience and expertise A good keynote speaker is someone who is well-versed in the subject matter or topic you’re bringing them in to present on. They should be able to share a unique perspective on the subject and provide eye-opening insights that benefit the audience. More than that, the speaker should also ideally have first-hand experience in their niche. You want someone that can share more than theoretical knowledge since keynote speeches based on personal experiences tend to carry more weight. That’s the whole idea: for the audience to glean lessons that will encourage them to take action.

• Delivery A good keynote speaker should be an excellent communicator, first and foremost. Obviously, the assumption is that given the line of work they are in, this is a box they automatically tick. However, you can always check videos of their past events (which should be available on their website) to confirm whether they can articulate their ideas in a clear and concise manner. As well, the keynote speaker should be charismatic. Their delivery style should be able to keep the audience hooked to their speech, and the speaker should have that natural ability to motivate and inspire people.

• Speaking style Communication and delivery aside, something else to consider before hiring a keynote speaker is their style of speaking – that is, the way they talk and engage with the audience. For example, some professional speakers present like they would when delivering a TED talk, while others rely on audience participation more than others. There are speakers who are more inspirational in a way that appeals to the emotions of the audience, while there are those who give talks along the lines of a fireside chat. Depending on the nature and goal of the event, that’s something you should consider when looking for keynote speakers for hire. However, it’s also worth keeping in mind that some professional speakers are quite versatile and can adapt to different audiences. For instance, you could find business speakers who double up as motivational speakers or inspirational speakers. The same speaker could be an experienced corporate after dinner speaker and every so often, they also get invited to speak at summits as either guest speakers or the leading keynote speaker. It’s a broad field, and most times the determining factor can be the theme or topic of the event. This is where experience with regard to handling a diverse range of audiences comes in. However, there are also niche speakers who specialise in certain areas – diversity and inclusivity speakers, for example, leadership speakers, artificial intelligence speakers and so on.

• Industry knowhow and relevance When hiring a keynote speaker, and this particularly applies to corporate speakers – business motivational speakers, leadership speakers, inspirational speakers et al – it’s important to prioritise speakers who are either familiar with your industry or have experience speaking to organisations within your industry. Check the speaker’s portfolio to assess their range with regard to industries served.

Steps involved in finding and hiring a keynote speaker

The speaker hiring process may sound like a cinch, but it’s important to get it right as the success of your event depends on it. Obviously, that’s not to mean you should pin all your hopes of making the event a success on the speaker; but they are a vital cog in the wheel.

You certainly won’t be short of options to consider looking at how big the pool of professional speakers out there is. However, by narrowing down your options based on the criteria we have outlined in the above section, you can follow this simplified guide for hiring a keynote speaker to boost your chances of landing the right fit.

1. Define the objective of the event

What do you wish to accomplish by holding the event? What message do you intend to convey through the speaker? Some common objectives include informing, motivating, educating, inspiring change and entertaining.

2. Understand the demographics of your audience

Figure out whether a keynote speaker that appeals to a general audience is suited to the occasion or whether it might be better to invite a speaker more suited to a certain demographic – for example, a female keynote speaker to address an all-women’s group.

3. Establish a budget for the speaker

You need to know beforehand how much you are willing to spend on a keynote speaker. The rate for professional speakers varies widely, so having a figure to work with can help you narrow down the options. However, as much as you will be enquiring on individual speaker rates from potential candidates, it’s important to have an idea of the industry standard or market going rate.

4. Do a search

With the objective, theme, demographics and budget set, proceed to do a search on keynote speakers who are in your area of interest. The speaker should ideally fall within your industry or have experience speaking at similar events or tackling similar topics or themes.

5. Do your due diligence

Finding keynote speakers for hire is not just about digging up names and getting on the phone with them. You need to do your research on each individual name, which should start by reviewing their public profile. You can approach this by visiting their websites and social pages and reading articles they have written, as well as checking what their keynotes entail (every keynote speaker will have a set of keynote presentation topics they focus on). As well, you should watch interviews they have been featured in or videos they have done. Speaking is a professional speaker’s bread and butter, so they should have plenty of these.

6. Check out reviews and testimonials

This is an extension of the previous point. Due diligence also involves reading reviews of the speaker’s past clients. This could be featured on their websites or on online directories, and while most – particularly those published on their website – are likely to be rosy, reviews and testimonials should roughly give you an idea of what the keynote speaker is about.

7. Reach out to the speaker

If you like what you find, contact the speaker or their representative to discuss their availability and logistics, including costs.

8. Negotiate the contract

Once everything is agreed and everyone is happy, negotiate the terms of the contract, sign the agreement, and voila!


Whether you’re looking to find a keynote speaker for an in-house corporate function or event speaker to grace your conference or gathering, it’s important to go out of your

way to ensure you find the right fit.

By sharing the tips outlined in this guide, the hope is that it simplifies the job for you so you can increase your chances of hiring the perfect keynote speaker for your event.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does a keynote speaker cost?

If you’re wondering how much you should be a keynote speaker, it’s worth noting that keynote speaking as a profession has some of the broadest rates out there, ranging anywhere between £1,500 and £150,000 per speech.

It’s a bit like legal practice – the price brackets will depend on a variety of factors, including expertise, experience and reputation. The scale of the event will also have a bearing on cost, as will other factors like travel, accommodation, or whether the keynote will be a virtual keynote or delivered in-person.

The best way to determine the cost of a keynote speaker is to enquire directly from your potential list of candidates. Then, you can juxtapose it against their expertise, topic area, experience, and ability to deliver based on similar engagements they’ve had in the past. You can also compare their rates against industry peers before making your final decision.

What kind of questions should I ask a potential keynote speaker?


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