Finding a Great Keynote Speaker

| By Will Hurd

Imagine an event that leaves attendees inspired, motivated, and buzzing with excitement. What’s the secret ingredient? The perfect keynote speaker! Choosing the right keynote speaker can make all the difference in the success of your event. He or she sets the tone, theme, and energy that captivates and energizes the audience.

I’m a former candidate for President, Member of Congress, CIA officer, and executive of cutting edge technology companies. I’ve been honored to be the keynote speaker on a number of occassions. I get asked all the time how does an organization find the perfect speaker. In this blog post, I try to explain how. After reading you will:

  • Discover the essential qualities of exceptional keynote speakers,
  • Learn how to find and evaluate potential candidates, and
  • Understand different strategies for promoting your chosen speaker to ensure a memorable and impactful event.

Understanding the Role of a Keynote Speaker

A keynote speaker is not merely an additional name on your event program. They are instrumental in defining the attendees’ overall experience. With a captivating keynote speech, they set the tone, theme, and energy of the event. Their goal is to inspire and motivate the audience through powerful words and insights. The right keynote speaker can truly elevate your event. The right person will make it a memorable and engaging experience that leaves a lasting impression on attendees.

The event’s success significantly depends on this influential figure, underlining the importance of selecting a keynote speaker who aligns with your event’s purpose, audience, and objectives. When I prepare for a keynote, I always work with sponsors of the event to understand the one thing we want the audience to take away from the talk.

A stellar keynote speaker showcases their public speaking skills, delivering an impactful, engaging, and informative keynote address that resonates with the audience and sets the stage for the rest of the event. Additionally, their social media engagement can help generate excitement prior to the event and maximize audience participation, making them an invaluable asset to any event.

Characteristics of an Exceptional Keynote Speaker

An extraordinary keynote speaker possesses a unique blend of qualities that sets them apart, making them an inspirational speaker and captivating presence on stage. Among these qualities, some stand out as inspirational speakers, which we will delve into in the subsequent sections, such as their expertise, communication skills, and charisma.


A keynote speaker’s expertise is the foundation of their ability to captivate and inspire an audience. Deep knowledge and understanding of the subject matter not only establish their credibility but also equip them to provide valuable insights and perspectives on the topic at hand. When a keynote speaker brings their wealth of experience and understanding of future trends in their field, their speech becomes much more than just a collection of words; it turns into a powerful and transformative experience for the attendees.

I always tell stories from being in the back alleys of dangerous places when I was serving overseas in the CIA. Or I share anecdotes about what happens behind the scenes in the halls of power, from my time in Congress.

One example of a true expert in their field is Rita Clifton, the undisputed thought leader on branding in the UK. Her deep understanding of the branding industry and ability to provide fresh perspectives and practical advice make her an invaluable asset to any event. Selecting a keynote speaker highly adept in their field guarantees a comprehensive, educational and motivating experience for your event attendees.

Communication Skills

Exceptional communication skills are the key to a successful keynote speaker. Clear, concise, and compelling communication enables them to engage their audience, ensuring that their message is not only heard but also felt on an emotional level. How can a keynote speaker effectively engage and connect with their audience? The answer lies in their ability to master various techniques that can make their communication skills shine.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou, American Poet

From practicing and preparing their keynote speeches to employing effective body language, incorporating storytelling and engaging anecdotes, utilizing visual aids, speaking with confidence and clarity, and tailoring their message to the audience, a great keynote speaker continually refines their communication skills to create a lasting impact and excel at engaging audiences.

Moreover, non-verbal communication skills such as:

  • eye contact
  • body language
  • posture
  • facial expressions
  • gestures
  • breathing

A best keynote speaker can significantly enhance the overall delivery and effectiveness of the speech. Opting for a good keynote speaker with exceptional communication skills guarantees a profound and enduring impact on your audience. As a great speaker, they will captivate and inspire everyone present.


Charisma is the secret sauce that makes a keynote speaker unforgettable. It’s the magical quality that enables them to:

  • Create an atmosphere of motivation and knowledge
  • Capture the audience’s attention
  • Stir up enthusiasm
  • Connect with their audience on a deep, emotional level
  • Share personal stories and anecdotes that resonate and inspire

When a keynote speaker has charisma, they can create a lasting impression on attendees by leaving them with an unforgettable message and an urge to take action. Selecting a charismatic keynote speaker ensures that your event attendees are not just entertained, but also driven and inspired to incorporate the learned lessons into their personal and professional lives. In this regard, motivational speakers can be an excellent choice for your event.

The Difference Between Guest Speakers and Keynote Speakers

Both guest speakers and keynote speakers have vital roles in events; however, comprehending their distinction is crucial. A keynote speaker is the main attraction of the event, responsible for setting the tone and atmosphere and delivering the primary speech or keynote address. In contrast, a guest speaker supports the keynote speaker by providing unique perspectives on specific topics and offering additional depth to the event program.

Guest speakers can bring valuable insights and experiences to the table, captivating the audience and providing a well-rounded experience alongside the headlining keynote speaker. By understanding the different roles and responsibilities of guest speakers and keynote speakers, you can better plan your event to ensure a diverse and engaging program that caters to the needs and interests of your audience.

Strategies for Finding the Ideal Keynote Speaker

Finding a perfect keynote speaker for your event might seem challenging, but don’t fret! We’ll delve into diverse strategies that can aid in identifying the perfect candidate in the subsequent sections, including online searches, recommendations from reliable sources, and speaking bureaus.

Online Searches

The internet is a treasure trove of information, making it a valuable resource in your search for the perfect keynote speaker. By using search engines and specific keywords related to your event topic, you can quickly pinpoint potential speakers who align with your event objectives and audience expectations. Additionally, watching videos of their past speeches can give you invaluable insight into their style and help you determine if they are the perfect fit for your event.

With the aid of online searches and event planners, you can simplify the process of identifying the perfect keynote speaker, thereby ensuring your event leaves an enduring impact on your audience.


Sometimes, the best way to find an exceptional keynote speaker is to ask for recommendations from colleagues, friends, and industry professionals. Their firsthand experience with a speaker can provide valuable insights into the speaker’s expertise, communication skills, and charisma, helping you make an informed decision.

However, it’s important to remember that every event is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. To ensure the speaker is the perfect fit for your event, gather multiple recommendations and take the time to research each potential candidate before making your final decision. Seeking recommendations from reliable sources can enhance your chances of discovering an experienced and reputable keynote speaker who will engage and inspire your audience.

Speaking Bureaus

Partnering with a speaking bureau can be a game-changer in your search for the perfect keynote speaker. These agencies have access to a wide range of speakers, covering various topics and industries. They can also assist you with understanding the fees, availability, and other logistics for specific individuals. Collaborating with a speaking bureau can simplify your quest for the ideal keynote speaker, guaranteeing a seamless and stress-free experience.

Harry Walker, for example, is a renowned speaking bureau that offers an impressive selection of keynote speakers. Each of their speakers have a unique expertise in different fields, industries, and topics. By utilizing their advanced search filters, you can easily pinpoint the speaker that best fits your event’s location, topic, budget, and desired characteristics.

With the help of a speaking bureau, you can save time and effort. A speakers bureau can ensure your event features an outstanding keynote speaker. For example, you can go here if you want someone like me for your next event.

Evaluating Potential Keynote Speakers

After assembling a list of potential keynote speakers, the next step is to assess each candidate’s suitability for your event. In the following sections, we’ll discuss how to research a speaker’s background, credentials, and past performances, as well as conduct interviews to assess their suitability for your event.

Researching Background and Credentials

Investigating a speaker’s background, credentials, and past speeches is crucial to understanding their style and expertise. For example, I give speeches about foreign policy, national security, the threats and opportunities of technologies like artificial intelligence, and the future of our country.

By checking a speaker’s website, social media, and videos of their past speeches, you can gain valuable insights into their qualifications, accomplishments, and speaking style. Additionally, looking for testimonials or reviews from previous clients or event attendees can provide further evidence of their credibility and effectiveness as a keynote speaker.

When researching a speaker’s background and credentials, don’t be afraid to dig deep and verify their claims. Here are some steps you can take to ensure you are selecting the best fit for your event:

  1. Reach out to the speaker directly and ask for more information about their experience and expertise.
  2. Ask for references from previous clients or event organizers who have worked with the speaker.
  3. Seek additional examples of their work, such as videos of past presentations or articles they have written.
  4. Conduct online research to gather more information about the speaker’s reputation and credibility. By thoroughly researching each potential keynote speaker, you can make an informed decision and select the perfect candidate to engage and inspire your audience.

Conducting Interviews

Scheduling interviews with potential keynote speakers is an essential step in assessing their fit for your event. To connect with someone like me, you can reach out to a speakers bureua here. During the interview, discuss their approach, presentation style, and how they can tailor their speech to your event’s objectives. Pay close attention to their communication skills and presentation style. These are key elements that can make or break a successful keynote speech.

Be aware of potential red flags during the interview, such as:

  • Constant rescheduling
  • Disorganization
  • Disrespecting others
  • Values conflict
  • Lack of transparency
  • Vague answers to valid questions

Conducting interviews and asking comprehensive questions guarantees that your chosen keynote speaker fits perfectly with your event. Ultimately, your work will ensure your speaker leaves an enduring impact on your audience.

Promoting Your Keynote Speaker to Boost Event Success

Effective promotion of your keynote speaker is vital to optimize your event’s success. By including their biography, credentials, and reviews in marketing materials, you can generate excitement and interest among potential attendees. This ultimately leads to more registrations and greater event attendance. Additionally, leveraging social media platforms and event websites can help increase visibility and reach a wider audience.

To craft an engaging biography for your keynote speaker, focus on summarizing their professional experience. Next, highlight their achievements and emphasizing their unique insights and perspectives. Promoting your keynote speaker compellingly and informatively ensures your event stands out. It will attract the right attention, and contribute to its overall success.


Choosing the perfect keynote speaker is a critical component in ensuring the success of your event. By understanding the role of a keynote speaker, identifying the characteristics of exceptional speakers, and exploring various strategies for finding and evaluating potential candidates, you can create a memorable and impactful event that leaves attendees inspired and motivated. Remember, the right keynote speaker can set the tone, theme, and energy of your event. So, take the time to find the perfect match. If you want your event to soar to new heights go here and lock in a speaker today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is keynote speaker vs guest speaker?

The keynote speaker is the headliner of your event. He or she sets the tone and introduces the main topic. A guest speaker expands on specific points in more detail. They form a powerful team, creating an engaging atmosphere for your event.

Is it keynote speaker or speaker?

Either one is the short answer. In your marketing materials, It is clear that the speaker in question is a keynote speaker – someone who addresses a group or audience to provide insight and share an important central idea.

What are the criteria for a keynote speaker?

A good keynote speaker should have strong public speaking and communication skills, relevant expertise and knowledge on their topic. They need to have the ability to relate to their audience, and the charisma to keep their listeners engaged.

What is the main responsibility of a keynote speaker?

A keynote speaker’s main responsibility is to captivate and energize an audience. They set the tone, theme, and energy of the event.

How can I find the perfect keynote speaker for my event?

Research and utilize available resources to uncover the perfect keynote speaker for your event. Take advantage of online searches, recommendations from trusted sources, and speaking bureaus to ensure you find the right person.