What Is a Keynote Speaker and How to Find the Best One (2023)

Derick Omondi 25 Aug 2021 7 min reads



Average: 5 (1 vote)

Finding a keynote speaker for your event can be challenging.

There are many types of speakers out there, and it's essential to find someone qualified and experienced enough, someone, whose background, presentation style, and expertise align with your goals and meet your expectations.

In this post, we've compiled the ultimate guide to finding and booking the perfect keynote speaker for your next conference, meeting, or any other event.

What is a Keynote Speaker and Why Do They Matter?

A keynote speaker is someone who is given ample time to speak at an event. They're often the ones who open the main session and have the most impact on the audience.

Having the right keynote speaker will help build anticipation for your event. They will need to have an interesting topic for their presentation or discussion because they get the spotlight, and the audience will be paying close attention.

Below are the types of events that would benefit from having a keynote speaker:

  • Conferences where people with similar interests come together to discuss and share new ideas. This type of event usually has one or more keynote speakers who are experts in the field, and also an assortment of sessions and workshops for attendees to choose from.

  • Trade shows taking place alongside expositions or conferences. These events allow businesses to showcase their products and services through demonstrations, presentations, and other activities designed to attract customers.

  • Award ceremonies will have at least one person giving out awards during the evening (usually called "the honoree"), but may also have other notable figures.

  • Webinars. Thanks to technology, keynote speeches are not just limited to the physical stage. For instance, it’s now normal to hold events online and have the opening keynote speaker deliver their speech using webinar platforms for the attendees.

What Is the Difference Between a Guest Speaker and a Keynote Speaker?

It’s easy to confuse a keynote speaker with a guest speaker or a plenary speaker, but neither one is like the other.

A guest speaker is someone who is invited to come speak at an event. Unlike keynote speakers, they may not have as much leeway in terms of the outline of their presentation.

On the other hand, plenary speakers are invited to speak at mini-plenary sessions or at an event hosted by their organization. A plenary speaker will usually provide inside information for the audience, while a keynote speaker is more likely to be presenting information based on expertise from outside or from a viewpoint not normally available to the audience.

What are the Types of Keynote Speakers?


An entertaining keynote speaker can bring joy and laughter to a room. They can lift the audience’s spirits up and set the tone for the rest of the event. They are also good at moderating when tensions need to be eased and stressful situations made more bearable.

These speakers are perfect for events that are intended to have a fun and informal agenda. However, this type of speaker could also be a great fit for more formal events. If experienced, an entertainer could help participants ease into the main topics on the agenda.

Motivational Speaker

A motivational keynote speaker can address a crowd and get them excited and energized. They can inspire their audience by sharing stories about overcoming obstacles or accomplishing great milestones and reminding listeners that they too are capable of making things happen.

(Video) How To Create A Keynote Speech - Public Speaking Tip

One of the goals of motivational speakers is to inspire their listeners to take action in some way, whether that’s changing something in their own lives or helping others.

Industry Expert Keynote Speaker

Industry keynote speakers are experts who usually have a lot of experience in the subject and have a firm grasp of industry trends and standards.

For instance, if your event is for students who wish to leverage educational tools like StuDocu and Genei in their study habits, hire someone who has experience using these and more as your opening keynote speaker.

As thought leaders, they have a unique perspective that allows them to stand out from the crowd and provide helpful information to attendees.

Celebrity Keynote Speaker

A celebrity keynote speaker is someone who has broad public recognition and is famous through the means of mass media. They should have plenty of experience and wisdom garnered from their personal and professional lives to share with your audience.

Hiring a celebrity keynote speaker for your event will certainly give you an advantage because they'll be able to gain attention to and generate buzz around your event.

What Makes a Good Keynote Speech?

A good keynote speaker needs to have a lot of charisma and be able to captivate the audience. They should be prepared to speak for an extended period of time. A good keynote speaker always has something interesting or entertaining to say to keep their listeners on the edge of their seats.

Also, a good keynote speaker has a firm grasp of the English language. It doesn’t matter if the speaker is a native or non-native English speaker, the most important thing is for the speech to be intelligible.

How to Find the Best Keynote Speaker for Your Event

Choosing a keynote speaker requires you to follow the step-by-step process described below.

Consider the Needs of Your Event and What You Want to Accomplish

Determining the goals and objectives of your event is integral to finding the right keynote speaker. Their experience must match your goals and expectations.

For example, if you want a closing keynote speaker for your event, find someone who can succinctly summarize key takeaways from previous presentations and wrap things up on a positive note. By choosing from the unique content voices appropriate for your event, you maintain your event’s distinguishing tone and theme.

After all, speakers are conduits for transmitting information and are central figures to an event. Having someone who can set the right tone for the event can make or break the entire experience for your audience. It’s the speakers who leave a lasting impression on your attendees and make them want to come back.

Research Local Keynote Speakers with Relevant Experience

Researching local speakers with relevant experience is essential because it will allow you to find someone who can connect with your audience. They'll be able to share useful content and make things interesting for the audience.

Additionally, working with someone from your area makes it easier to coordinate the logistics. It's easier to get them booked, and they won't cost as much as a world-renowned speaker. They also might be more willing to take on the role because they want to educate in their community.

Review Their Website to Learn About Their Reputation

Review the speaker’s website or social media feeds for any presentations they've done in the past. Try to find any testimonials or endorsements to validate their claims and get a better picture of their expertise.

Ensure their style and work principles align with your expectations for the target event. Check out their agenda, and topics they are involved with.

Make a List of Potential Speakers and Contact Them

To book the right candidate to speak at your event, reach out to those on your shortlist as early as possible so you can find someone who will work within your budget.

(Video) 2022 International Code Council Leadership Luncheon - Keynote Speaker Michael C. Anthony

Do your homework and validate the claims your potential speakers make online. Connect with your online network to see if anyone has worked with that speaker before. Candidates should be able to provide a professional resume that outlines their prior speaking engagements.

Interview as Many Candidates as is Feasible Before Making a Final Decision

The interview process will look different depending on the industry, your resources, and your requirements. Some event managers conduct more than one interview per person, and some can tell they’ve found their perfect fit after 15 minutes of informal conversation.

Your budget will, of course, determine many things, including the duration of a keynote speaker’s presentation. So plan in advance and plan carefully. For example, in the U.S., a newbie keynote speaker can cost between $500-1,500, not including additional costs like travel.


Finding professional speakers requires some digging. Skilled speakers know how to engage an audience and leave them feeling like they’ve learned a lot.

And just a quick recap, below are the things to do to find the right keynote speaker for your upcoming event:

  • List what you need from a keynote speaker who aligns with the goals and objectives of your event.

  • Search for local keynote speakers that possess the right experience level first, since you won't have to pay extra for travel and accommodation fees.

  • Do a background check of the speaker by viewing their previous speeches from online videos.

  • Create a shortlist of potential speakers for the event based on the factors above.

  • Interview your prospects to get to know them better. This allows you to make a more informed decision based on your interactions with them.

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What is a keynote speaker? ›

A keynote speaker is the primary speaker at an event. While many people may be most familiar with keynote speeches or keynote addresses from graduations or other similar ceremonies, event planners commonly employ these speeches to headline conferences, company retreats, wellness retreats, and other large events.

What makes a good keynote speaker? ›

An excellent keynote speaker will have the ability to enthrall their audience with their mellifluous speaking and sound stories. Additionally, a seasoned motivational keynote speaker will have a draft of their presentation at the ready for clients to look at and give feedback on.

How do I identify a keynote speaker? ›

Academic journals, news sites, bestseller lists, and blogs are great for discovering industry- and topic-specific speakers. You also want to look through LinkedIn profiles and Facebook Groups. Both can be invaluable resources when you want to find a keynote speaker.

What is the purpose of a keynote? ›

A keynote speech is the primary address at a public gathering that conveys the main theme and purpose of the event. It's typically the highlight of any major corporate or commercial gathering. Interestingly, the term keynote originates from the practice of a cappella—which is the most important note in a performance.

Why is it called a keynote speaker? ›

A keynote speaker's main purpose is to reiterate and drive home the meeting's main idea or theme. In public speaking, the word keynote refers to the principal and underlying theme of a larger idea, hence why a keynote speaker's address usually relates to the reason or purpose behind a meeting.

What is the difference between a speaker and a keynote speaker? ›

The keynote address typically differs from the usual talk given by guest speakers in several ways: it is longer, it is delivered by someone whose presence at the event is a drawcard for potential attendees, and the keynote address is usually a microcosm of the event's theme.

How do you give a good keynote speech? ›

Tips For Keynote Speakers - Deliver A Memorable Speech
  1. Know Your Audience. ...
  2. Research Your Topic. ...
  3. Engage Your Audience by Telling Stories. ...
  4. Make the Presentation Interactive. ...
  5. Practice Delivering Your Speech. ...
  6. Keep It Brief.
24 Jun 2021

How long should a keynote speaker speak? ›

TIP: How long should a keynote speech be? Keynotes rarely reach 60 minutes in length. The more common length is between 15 and 45 minutes (exceptions apply).

How do you start a keynote speech? ›

How To Open A Keynote Speech
  1. Start your speech by addressing the elephant in the room to address a negative bias your audience may be thinking. Perhaps you are quite young and your audience is an older demographic. ...
  2. Quote a startling statistic. ...
  3. Begin a story that you can weave and thread your presentation together.

How much do keynote speakers make? ›

Geographical location also accounts for some differences in keynote speakers' rates, as those in areas with a higher cost of living might charge more than others. Speakers experienced in their professions often command up to $4000 an engagement with highly qualified keynote speakers earning $10,000-$15,000 per speech.

How long does a keynote speaker speak? ›

Most speakers deliver presentations that are 60-90 minutes long and are fairly flexible if the agenda changes on the event day and they need to add or deduct 10-15 minutes to their speech.

How much does a keynote speaker cost? ›

Generally, fees for keynote speeches begin around $7,500, with the average national keynote fee being $10,000. For celebrity speakers and top business experts, fees can range from $20,000 to $40,000 and up. For well-known personalities, fees are usually over $50,000.

What is the main speaker at an event called? ›

Simply put, a keynote speaker is the lead speaker for an event or a conference. Although there may be two keynote speakers – one at the start of the event and a second at the end – most events opt for a single keynote speaker at the beginning.


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