Keynote Speaker – How To Choose The Right One For Your Conference

Keynote Speaker Live On Stage

Choosing The Right Keynote Speaker

Most meeting planners book a keynote speaker for their annual convention yet they have no idea what a keynote speaker really is. Since your keynote speakers can make or break your meeting, I want to define keynote speaker for you here.

A keynote speaker is really what it says. Just like in music the keynote speaker is supposed to hit the right key so that everyone attending the conference can be in tune.

Many speakers actually confuse a mini-workshop on a stage with a keynote speech. They show up with a bunch of Power Points, facts, figures, researches, etc. Then they ask the audience to do some group exercises. That’s not a keynote presentation.

The primary reason a keynote speaker is invited is to set the tone of the conference. Usually the meeting planner or event coordinator will have one opening keynote speaker and one closing keynote speaker. Some conferences often will have several keynote speakers.

It doesn’t matter how many keynoters that are on the program. The main thing to keep in mind is that your keynote speakers are there to elevate the spirit of the conference by hitting the perfect key for the conference. It’s not something should take lightly. It’s not a task you can entrust to an amateur speaker.

Here Are 5 Requirements Your Keynote Speaker Should Meet:

1 – Research And Customize: Yes. They have to diligently research and study your company. You don’t want someone that shows up with a canned keynote to dump on the audience. Your keynote speaker must have enough experience to do some extensive research on the company or association. He or she must understand the challenges your attendees are facing in today’s tough economic times.

In my case I go to the extent of interviewing 3 or 4 attendees to hear their frustrations and challenges. I then sit down and think of all the stories I share on stage and decide where in a story I can inject a particular lesson that addresses my audience’s frustration and challenges.

I also think of what solutions I can share with them. To me, that is the secret to a high-impact keynote. The audience always leaves with something they can use to improve their lives. By the time I’m done with the topic, some of the attendees somehow think I work for the organization. In fact, lots of people in the past have asked me that question.

2- Your Keynote Speaker Must Be Engaging: People are busy. No matter how must they try to get done at the office before leaving for the conference, there are still more to be done. After all, this is the do-more-with-less world. There’s so much for one person to do that it’s impossible to get everything done. Plus, the attendees have their personal issues to handle. They have a lot on their plates.

Their mind is always preoccupied. Their co-workers are constantly bombarding them with text messages and emails about what going on. The point I’m making here is this:

The keynote speaker must instantly grab the audience and command their attention and hold it for the duration of the presentation. Something must change in the room—the energy level must go up. Needless to say that takes experience and specialized skills.

Basically, if members of the audience are checking their blackberries or iphone and walking in and out of the room, you don’t have a dynamic keynote speaker.

3- They Must Share Substance: Look, many keynote speakers show up to tell a powerful and moving story. But, what happens the next day when the keynote speaker is not there to retell the story? That’s right. The caffeine boost is gone and the audience is back to their defaulted tendencies.

The speaker must create the energy and share actionable content with the audience. They must know what steps they will take to change their current and undesirable condition.

4- They Must Know Your Desired Outcome: Your keynote speaker has to know and understand what outcome you are looking for. In other words, what would have to happen in order for you to be extremely happy? What condition you want to change.

That is why the title of my keynote is No Condition Is Permanent! I believe you can change the condition with the right levers. My job is to understand your metrics for measuring success for the event.

5- Leave Them On A High Note: Again, the keynote speaker is there to hit the right keynote. The closing of the speech must hit a powerful and memorable note that the audience members keep buzzing about.

It must uplift, inspire, and rekindle their spirit. But more importantly, the closing of the speech must send them with deep desire to take deliberate actions to change their condition.

The kind of keynote speaker I just described above is a high-fee speaker. I’m often dumfounded when some meeting planners try to negotiate my fee as if they are buying a commodity. Of course, it’s always great to negotiate, especially in this economy. But don’t budget $50,000 for meals and $1,500 for your keynote speaker.