A strong keynote speaker has the ability to energize, captivate, and empower an audience. Their presentation has the potential to make or break an event’s success. But what exactly is a keynote speaker and how do event planners find the right one?

What is a Keynote Speaker?

A keynote speaker is the main speaker at an event and often the primary reason why attendees come. The keynote speaker could be considered the headliner or the “star” of an event.

Though most people are familiar with keynote speeches or keynote addresses from graduations and awards ceremonies, event planners typically use these speeches to headline conferences, company retreats, wellness retreats, and other large events.


The Role of a Keynote Speaker

A keynote speaker may be responsible for:

  • Setting the tone of an event
  • Generating excitement around the theme of the event
  • Giving attendees a glimpse into the spirit and overall structure of the event

Keynote speakers are usually hired by an event planner or coordinator and may receive talking points to cover in their speech. In some instances, event managers have some control over the contents of the speech and carefully select speakers who meet the requirements of their event.

Depending on the event’s objectives, planners may hire a speaker who:

  • Specializes in motivating an audience
  • Promotes mindfulness
  • Is qualified to share industry- or topic-specific insights


Importance of Finding The Right Keynote Speaker

It can be difficult to keep attendees engaged over the entirety of a conference — especially if it’s a multi-day event. Some planners schedule the keynote speaker to open the event and set the tone, energy levels, and expectations for the rest of the event. Others rely on a keynote speaker’s notoriety to attract a particular audience to an event; their influence as a speaker can take the attendees’ energy and expectations to a whole new level.

Finding the right speaker to headline an event requires skill and experience. Event planners want a speaker who can seamlessly blend motivation with education while maintaining attendee engagement. The hallmark of a great speaker is their ability to meet the expectations of the event, the event planner, and the audience.

Characteristics of a Good Keynote Speaker

Every keynote speaker has a unique style and approach. When searching for an outstanding keynote speaker, event planners look for someone with a personal style and philosophy that serves the event’s objectives. Competent speakers should also have a strong professional background.

While individual traits may vary, a good keynote speaker may:

  • Be an expert in their field
  • Be a credible source of information
  • Speak in a clear, engaging, and well-paced manner
  • Easily connect with audiences of varying levels of expertise
  • Have extensive public speaking experience
  • Have strong professional references
  • Have a reliable and respectable public image
  • Be an innovator in their field
  • Utilize various methods of learning and delivery styles in their speech
  • Respect the boundaries set by event managers
  • Sense disengagement and know how to drive energy
  • Have the ability to go off-script if necessary, and then return to their script
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