How to Book the Perfect Keynote Speaker

Imagine this scenario. You’ve been working on your event for 6+ months — you’ve put in countless hours getting the venue locked down, the schedule finalized, speakers scheduled, the production design perfect. The day comes around and you wait in anticipation for your keynote speaker to step on stage. And then they do… and it does not meet your expectations.

More often than not, your attendees will remember the start and end of your event, with a few sparing memories of the parts in between, which is why it’s incredibly important to book the right keynote for your event (and to prevent a potential catastrophe like in the example above). You want to make sure that your speaker sets the right tone for the whole event.

So how do you prevent a situation like the one above from happening?

Survey your audience

We can’t talk enough about the value of asking your prospective attendees for ideas about how the conference should be run. Long before you nail down the schedule and begin selling tickets, you can get insight into the key agenda elements that will be compelling, thought-provoking and timely. The last thing you want to do is throw a conference and find out that there’s no interest in the topic.

Send a survey to your email list. Include a multiple-choice question with a handful of keynote speaker topics. Give them the option to write in their own ideas as well!

You can take this opportunity to ask additional questions about your conference, like how much you should charge for tickets and where the event should be located. For best results, don’t ask more than 10 questions.

Research the keynote candidates

Watch videos of previous speaking engagements. It’s a tragedy when someone looks great on paper but delivers a boring or irrelevant talk.

A great keynote speaker doesn’t just speak, though. They engage with the audience online and offline. You’ll be able to get an idea of a speaker’s social influence by following them on Twitter and checking out their website. Look for sincere two-way interactions and recently-updated content.

The best keynote speakers are hustlers. They’re building a personal brand, too. They’ll find as much value in your audience as you do.

Showcase the benefits

When you have a shortlist of candidates, it’s time to put on your selling hat. Booking a keynote speaker is all about laying mutual benefits. Write a personalized proposal for each speaker.

  • Showcase the benefits. Will they be able to build their following, sell books, talk about something groundbreaking, make an announcement, or generate a well-produced speaker video?
  • Define your audience. Why are your attendees relevant?
  • Outline the perks. Are you offering full travel and hotel plus a per diem? Is there a speaker fee?
  • Incentivize engagement before and after the conference.

Define the agreement

Ready to make a commitment to your keynote speaker? Lay out your mutual expectations in writing.

  • Schedule a pre-event social media Q&A to help boost registrations.
  • As that they follow up with unanswered questions and session feedback from your mobile event app.
  • Get them to participate on a panel in addition to the keynote.
  • Ask them to contribute a blog post or interview for your pre-event marketing.
  • If you use a mobile event app like Guidebook, you can have your keynote speaker complete a contact card to swap information with attendees who want to continue the conversation.

To learn more about booking a keynote speaker, download our free 70-page professional conference planning guide!

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