What a wonderful surprise it is to attend an event with a keynote speaker who takes us on a journey, makes us look at something in a new way, and whose speech stays with us long after the event is over!  It’s safe to say that most of us have grudgingly attended events that turned out to have a powerful and affecting keynote speaker. And many of us have had the opposite experience too: expecting an amazing keynote speech and being underwhelmed by it. Understanding the role of the keynote speaker is critical to discovering and booking the best one. Here’s what you should know about what a great keynote speaker can and cannot do, how to choose and book the right one, and why the exceptional keynote speaker can be responsible for sparking real change in an organization.

Keynote speaker

An exceptional speaker affects people beyond the formal event.

Motivation, Education, Entertainment, Leadership

Should a keynote speaker motivate? Educate? Entertain? Provide leadership? Yes, assuming you understand all these functions in the context of your audience and needs. A keynote speaker does not necessarily have to impart something on the audience that they didn’t already know, though a technical keynote speaker who delivers astounding new scientific information will definitely leave an impression. The keynote speaker who causes the audience to think about some existing concept, but in a new way, can be equally affecting.

The “entertainment” factor has less to do with spectacle and more to do with connection. An outstanding speaker with just her voice can outshine a mediocre performer who includes all sorts of bells and whistles. As for leadership, during the keynote speech, it is the job of the speaker to lead the audience somewhere they’ve not been before. A speaker’s ability to do this is quite individual, and may involve anything from a startling, rousing oratory to a simple story told with profound meaning.

What to Expect from Your Keynote Speaker

Expect your keynote speaker to learn about your event, and who the audience will be. A speaker’s repertoire should include speeches that can be adapted to a range of settings or occasions. And as its name suggests, you should expect your speaker to set the tone and key for the event, much as concert pitch is used to tune an orchestra, so that everyone is in tune with each other. The keynote speaker should have a delivery, tempo, and energy that works well with the mood and flow of your event, and should be warm, personable, and most of all, human. Extras that keynote speakers sometimes provide include social media question and answer sessions, providing an exclusive interview, or writing a guest blog post for the event website. Most keynote speakers want to be involved with the occasion to some extent so they can add as much value as they can to it.

What To Expect From Keynote Speaker

Work with your speaker in advance. Most want to understand the event and audience.

Don’t Ask the Impossible of Your Keynote Speaker

Keynote speakers can be expensive, and you should certainly expect your money’s worth from them. A keynote speaker who doesn’t deliver value for his fee won’t remain a keynote speaker for long. At the same time, however, you shouldn’t expect the impossible from your speaker. An organization that is mired in infighting and rock-bottom morale won’t be “saved” by even the best keynote speech. Don’t expect your keynote speaker to show up to your company retreat or annual meeting with detailed strategies you can use to heal organizational problems. While you may come away with ideas, it’s not the job of the keynote speaker to provide a how-to on fixing broken organizations.

A Great Keynote Speaker Proves to Be a Worthy Investment

It’s not easy to conceptualize “return on investment” when it comes to motivational speakers. But you will find that taking time to locate a speaker with enthusiasm for your event, who works with you before, during, and sometimes even after the event, and who is genuinely invested in making the most of that hour or so of time can have significant, long-term payoff. For one thing, your team will realize you made an effort to bring in someone worthwhile. For another, you and your team will spend the time during the speech being taken on an enthralling mental adventure, looking at things in a new light, and coming away changed to some degree. Ask any leader or journeyman professional, and she’ll tell you that an outstanding keynote speech can stick with a person for years, if not decades.

Back to blog