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  • Writer's pictureBurk Moreland

3 Tips For Picking Your Next Keynote Speaker

The room is buzzing, filled with 400 managers from a multi-million dollar company.  The lights are up and the host is introducing the speaker.  Intro music blasts as he walks up to the stage, shakes hands with the host and greets the crowd.  For the next hour, they go on a roller-coaster journey of emotions.  The room shakes as the crowd cheers and laughs, the room goes deathly silent as emotions are touched and people are forced to look inside themselves for answers and ideas.  Near the end of the hour the energy climbs as the group is whipped into a frenzy until the height of the experience occurs, and what is left: Commitment, Dedication, Vigor, Determination and Belief.

That is the keynote speaker most of us want.  It should be the high point of a conference.  A keynote speaker should inspire you to take action and connect you to your emotions, having you look within, leaving with a new perspective, commitment and fire in your belly.  This is why it is imperative that you do your research, ask the right questions, and invest time in choosing the right keynote speaker for your next event.  Here are three tips to help you in your search.

1.  Look for aligning values.  The best speakers are the ones that are genuine.  It comes from the heart.  It is real.  It is not an act.  A crowd can feel it when it is not authentic.  In your interviews, talk not just about your company, the meeting and the team, also ask the speaker about themselves and their beliefs.  If it is a sales conference, what are their philosophies?  What kinds of sales people to they like?  If you are in a relationship style selling organization, don’t hire a hard-charging, “take no prisoners” type of speaker.  If it is a management conference and you want inspiration, do you feel inspired in the interview?   Do you want to hear more or are you ready to get off of the phone?  Did you learn something useful in the 5 minutes you were talking with them?  Make sure the values of the speaker align with your company.  Don’t allow them to try and align themselves.  A natural fit is always the best.

2.  Talk to their references.  Any reputable speaker should be able to give you references.  Ask their reference not only if they were a good speaker, but what was it like working with them? Working with a good speaker that is difficult behind the scenes can ruin an otherwise working relationship.  A good speaker should be flexible and fun to work with, but most of all, they should be appreciative of the fact that they get to invest time with you and your team.  It’s an honor and privilege to be allowed to have an impact on that many people.  They should treat it as such.

3.  Check their preparation.  What does prepared mean to them?  What does on time mean?  Do they have backup plans in case of technical difficulty, unforeseen circumstances, etc.?  All of this can make a difficult and stressful moment much easier.  Here are some examples of things to review with them to see how much preparation you can count on them putting in.

  • When do they arrive at the venue?  Do they allow time in their travel for delays and problems?

  • If they are using things like PowerPoint, do they have multiple copies of the presentation in case of computer issues?

  • Are they willing to test the equipment ahead of time to be sure it all is in working order?

  • Do they ask questions about what you really want in the presentation versus just telling you what they present?

  • Will they carry your company’s message or their own?

There are a myriad of other questions to address, but these are three tips that will definitely get you started.  The main idea is for your speaker to connect to your audience and deliver a powerful message that meets the overall goal of your event.  The wrong keynote speaker can ruin an otherwise wonderful event.  As I said, it truly can be the highpoint, the pinnacle, the apex.  Treat it as such as you screen your candidates, and you will have a tremendous result. 

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