The BEST Speakers & Shows for Conferences & Conventions | Toronto Corporate Events


Tips for Hiring the Best Keynote Speaker for Your Next Event

Not sure where to start when it comes to booking a keynote speaker? Thankfully, K&M Productions can help. With more than 26 years of experience in booking speakers, we share the top 10 keynote speaker hiring tips:

1. Begin with the end in mind. Rather than focusing purely on the topic or theme of the meeting, ask yourself this question: What behaviour change do you want to see in your audience? Put another way, when the speaker is finished, and your delegates or attendees leave the event, what do you want them to have heard, learned and felt, and most importantly, what do you want them to do differently?

2. Understand your audience. We’ve yet to see a keynote speaker who is right for every audience, and the only way to find the right speaker for your event is to know your audience. This includes demographics and psychographics. What’s the age range? What’s the gender balance? What are their roles or job functions? What level of education do they have? Are they culturally diverse? All of these questions will help identify the speakers who will best relate to, and connect with the audience.

3. Plan early, if possible. The best speakers get booked a year or more in advance, so the earlier you start planning, the great likelihood your first choice will be available.

4. Know your budget. As with most things, fees vary quite widely, so knowing your budget will help you narrow down the list of potential candidates. Keep in mind that in general, celebrities and high-profile speakers will be more expensive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better speakers.

5. Look for ways to add value. Most speakers are willing to do more than just show up, speak and leave. Whether it’s a Meet & Greet with VIPs or sponsors, a book signing, an extended Q&A, or a Twitter chat, there are many ways to add value to your speaker’s participation at your event. Be creative, and don’t be afraid to ask what’s possible.

6. Communicate your expectations in advance. Whether it’s pre-event preparation, onsite participation, or post-event follow up, some speakers are willing to do more than others. To avoid disappointment, communicate all your expectations in advance, and ensure that they are captured in your agreement.

7. Understand your responsibilities. Most speakers have fairly standard contractual obligations, however, it’s critical that you understand the full scope of your responsibilities. In particular, ensure that the travel and A/V requirements are clear, as well as the cancellation terms.

8. Do your homework. It’s important to do your due diligence. This may include asking for references or testimonials from previous clients, reviewing video clips, or attending another event they’re speaking at in order to preview the speaker in person.

9. But don’t overthink it. While it’s important to consider various options, and ensure you’re confident in your selection, don’t be struck by decision paralysis. Selecting a keynote speaker is both an art and a science, and there is almost always more than one speaker who will do a great job for you.

10. Set your speaker up for success. Finally, once you’ve made your selection, provide your speaker with the tools to help them succeed. This can include background information on your organization and event, a briefing call or meeting to assist in their preparation, and a personalized introduction at the event.

Tips for Hiring the Best Keynote Speaker for Your Next Event
FROM A CLIENT PERSPECTIVE (from one of our long standing clients):

Think it's better to go it alone rather than work with a speakers bureau in selecting a speaker? You might want to re-think that approach. You need a guest speaker for your upcoming event but you’ve never hired one before? “No problem-o!” you think as you open up Google, punch ‘speakers’ into the search bar and… 428,000,000 results materialize. “That’s okay,” you say to yourself,”just look for a recognizable name… Oh, there’s Kevin O’Leary! The Shark Tank guy. Yes!”

But no. Your event is a fundraiser for a local grassroots charity that supports underprivileged children, the unemployed and kittens. Not a good fit.

Our team has had the distinct pleasure of working with Michael  Kaye and K&M Productions for several years. Here are our collective insights regarding the potential pitfalls in searching for – and selecting - speakers, and how to avoid them:

Don’t rush it. Plan ahead as far in advance as possible, especially because approval for the speaker budget can be delayed, which means availability of your ideal candidate may not match your event dates.

Extreme Theme Focus. There is a danger in being too literal in matching your speaker to a theme. Step back from the kitchy slogan and ask yourself: what is the objective of the speaker? Are you looking to change the behaviour of your audience, to educate them, entertain or perhaps all of the above? Sure a successful mountaineer is a great match for your Peak Performance conference, but if your goal is to obtain peak performance by improving specific industry-related best practices, then possibly someone who has achieved success in your field is better to motivate your team.Tip: Combine two speakers: ramp up the adrenalin with the mountaineer and then draw direct comparisons with your industry expert.

What works for the Goose. Just because your friend’s uncle’s sister’s daughter’s BFF said that speaker so-and-so is sick (in Millennial talk that means really good), doesn’t mean he/she will be sick enough for you.  The audience decides who and what works, so know your audience. Share your goals with your agency of choice and describe to them the feeling you want to impart. Tip: Look for unedited videos of past performances because staged and seriously edited clips can fool you.

Ask, don’t wish. On occasion, after an event has ended, you might reflect and say, “I wish that…” This happens 99.999 per cent because expectations are not being fully communicated. Therefore, be sure to detail all of your expectations before selecting the speaker. If you want post-speaking photo ops or have the speaker break bread with the CEO, discuss this in advance. There are exceptions of course, but many speakers will happily add value and spend additional time with your team provided requests aren’t sprung on them at the zero-hour. Tip: If they can’t or won’t be there for the additional elements, then perhaps you need to select another speaker.

Don’t be a stranger. Depending on the home location of the speaker, a face-to-face meeting prior to the event is not always an option, although it is highly recommended. The next best thing? A pre-engagement phone conversation between the key personnel who will be introducing or interacting with your guest speaker and the speaker themselves. The more your speaker understands the message that’s being delivered by CEOs, CMOs etc., the easier it will be for them to tailor their remarks. Tip: On the flip side, mispronouncing a speaker’s name during the introduction doesn’t exactly get things off to a great start.

No secrets. When working with a speakers’ bureau, be transparent. Tip: Share your budget so that the right pool of speakers can be reviewed without wasting anyone’s time–including yours.

Don’t stand alone. Speakers bureaus are experts in matching speakers to audiences. Their days are filled with reviewing candidates, cutting through clutter and providing an impartial assessment.

The decision is ultimately yours, but by allowing the experts to narrow the field, you will save your time, money–and your sanity. Tip: On that last point (your sanity), remember the 428,000,000 Google results we mentioned at the beginning of this article?… nuff said.


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