When planning a business or corporate event, no matter what the size or audience, there is one decision that will have a profound impact on its success: choosing the ideal keynote speaker. Many fall into the trap of choosing a speaker based on a recommendation, or because he or she is prominently featured on the nightly news, only to discover that all of the flash, notoriety and well-intended suggestions do not equal an engaging and informative speaker. Instead of wasting precious time, and your already strained budget, on an exhaustive search, follow these tips, tricks and helpful suggestions to land an enthralling keynote speaker.

Where to Begin

You could spend your weekends crashing corporate events and executive brunches to sneak a peek at their hiring choices, or you could save yourself a heavy amount of aggravation by beginning your search with a speaker’s bureau. Instead of scouring the internet, or asking anyone and everyone you know for a reference, these agencies provide you access to a number of speakers, and their agents.

This middle step might seem unnecessary, especially if you’re short on time and resources, but seeking this helpful service is an amazing time saver, and many times is offered at no additional cost.

Consider the Logistical Aspects

Ideally, the best candidate will engage and inspire their audience, or at least keep everyone off their cell phones and laptop for the duration of the speech. Beyond this, your keynote speaker must be available, within your budget and willing to travel to the event. When determining the logistical aspects of hiring a keynote speaker, here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Cost-You can’t have a world-renowned author/lecturer with a homegrown, local hero’s budget. Don’t discount the services of a lesser-known speaker. Also, don’ be afraid to negotiate, as many speakers are lowering their fees in reaction to the recent economic downturn.
  • Location-You’re planning an event in Atlanta, but your speaker will be in London during this week. This is an unfortunate, all too common occurrence, especially if you’re seeking the services of an in-demand personality. When choosing a speaker, keep in mind that the commitment’s convenience and location will often have an impact on his or her willingness to participate.
  • Finer Details-Depending on the speaker, he or she might demand certain amenities and extras. For instance, your speaker may insist on lodging at a hotel far outside of your budget, or expect a meal allowance you cannot afford. Don’t forget to work out these deals, and attempt to save money whenever possible.

Narrowing the Field

The speaker’s contract and fees are one crucial aspect of your decision, but he or she must also possess the skills required to motivate, engage, or inform the audience. By far, the most effective way to narrow down the candidates is to view each of the speakers in action, but this isn’t always feasible. The next best course of action is to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the potential keynote speakers. Take this opportunity to gauge the speaker’s abilities, charisma and enthusiasm for the event. Inform the speaker of the event’s goals, and ask if he or she is willing to commit to the meeting’s purpose. As a last resort, ask for a video of your event’s potential elocutionist at work. Beyond watching his performance, pay attention to the audience’s reaction. Were they engaged and enjoying themselves, or yawning and sneaking peeks at their cell phone?

Tips for Saving Money


Once again, the recent buckled economy has prompted many keynote speakers to lower their prices, especially over the last one or two years. If the speaker’s initial rate seems extravagant, there are a few ways to save money on his services:

  • Think Local-A local celebrity or personality is not only more relatable to your employees; he might also charge a smaller speaker’s fee and requires less money for travel and lodging expenses.
  • Offer an incentive-Offer a potential speaker an added bonus for lowering his fees. This could be anything from allowing the speaker to sell his books and products at the event, to providing a great reference and advertising his services on the company’s website.
  • Opportunity for additional services-Many speakers will lower their fees if you guarantee to hire him or her for a future event.


Never discount your initial impression of the speaker, or his enthusiasm for the event. If you meet the speaker and he or she seems indifferent, disinterested or you simply don’t feel his speaking style fits with your event’s purpose and goal, continue looking until you do find the right person for the job.

Author

This guest post was written by Nelson Hosler. Nelson was a motivational speaker for many years. 

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