When planning your conference, you want to find ways to ensure that everything on your agenda is amazing.  Finding the “Best Keynote Speaker” is not always as easy as the planning committee might think, and it is vital to remember that a keynote speaker is NOT a commodity item you plug into your general session.

The best keynote speakers become partners with your meeting planner and the committee.  They are available for calls in advance.  They host a discovery call with some attendees, and they never deliver the same talk to the Associated Locksmiths of America and the American Marketing Association.

Best Keynote Speaker - Thom SingerHow To Begin A Search for The Best Keynote Speaker

If you are committed to going beyond the average keynote speech, you have to get the idea of celebrity speakers and begin hunting for a world class inspirational speaker who leave attendees thinking, talking and taking action. A good place to start might be a speakers bureau, as these organizations are there to help you vet speakers.  But sometimes they have their favorite “flavors of the month” and even with their wide range of options, they might not have exactly what you need.  Most speakers are booked directly, so this could make your hunt more complicated.

My advice is think about who are the speakers you have used in the past that were awesome, and reach out to them for suggestions.  Great speakers usually have developed friendships with other great speakers.  Check out this page for my ideas of professional speakers who you may not find on your own, but who are amazing motivational speakers that will “WOW” your audience.

Recipe For Finding A Speaker

Like baking an amazing cake, there is no one ingredient that will alone deliver all the layers you need for success.  Two cups of flour alone is not a cake.  To ensure you event is the best conference ever, you have to know exactly what you want and need from your speaker.  Below is my recipe for a great speaker, but everyone has different taste.  I love spice cake, but others prefer chocolate.  My wife likes a good bread pudding, but to get that you need a very different recipe.

1 Cup Experience.  The best keynote speakers are not new to the business.  Most have been presenting for years.  I suggest that all planners ask the speakers they are looking to hire about their longevity in the business and how many professional level talks they have given.  It is good to see their client list and understand the make up of the audiences where they have presented.

2 Cups Content. The topic matters. Not all information is ideal for every audience. The information that was amazing at the Association of Corporate Council is not going to grip the people at the National Association of Truck Stop Operators. The same speaker might be ideal for both groups, but not necessarily.  Look closely at the data and decide if it fits your event.

3 Cups Speaking Style.  Some speakers have the right energy and delivery style for your group, others will not.  A high energy speaker that is there to motivate the crowd will not resonate with an audience full of people who are not there for anything but pure data.  You have to know your crowd and decided if they want someone out of the box or squarely anchored in their box.  There is no shame in admitting that you participants are just not ready from anyone who will push them.  But the reverse is true, too.  Some group are seeking to be pushed and the speakers style in how they engage can be just what they need.

2 Table Spoons “Before, During, and After”.  The best speakers will engage with you and your participants before, during, and after your conference.  This might mean social media, or webinars, etc… To some groups it is important that they speaker stay after the keynote and particpate in networking.  While some will do this, others run out the door. If you want a speaker to do more than speak for one hour, you need to work this into your initial conversations. The best keynote speaker is willing to be your partner for a successful event.

A Pinch of Fun and Funny.  While you are not looking for an hour of stand-up comedy from your business speakers and leadership speakers, you do want them to be fun.  Not all speakers add to the culture of your event. Some can actually distract from it. Find speakers who your people will enjoy watching. An hour is a long time to sit there, and while some subjects do not lend themselves to humor, the best keynote speakers make people lean in and enjoy the talk.  Some even get real laughter to emerge.  This is a good thing.

What else would you add to this recipe for finding the best keynote speaker?  I welcome your thoughts on this and if you email me at thom@thomsinger.com I will add more ingredients to this article as they are shared.


Thom Singer is a motivational speaker and professional master of ceremonies / EmCee.