What Makes the Best Keynote Speakers?

Your big annual sales kickoff is coming up in a couple of months. The CEO has allocated a $25,000 budget to bring in the best keynote speaker possible. The first thing you do is get online and start searching out “keynote speakers.” You’re flooded with high-end speakers bureaus who pay to get to the top of Google results. A speakers bureau is a great way to be introduced to top candidates but there is a big bias you should be aware of.

Speakers bureaus have what are called exclusive speakers, meaning the keynote speakers who are exclusive only get booked by that specific Bureau. The reason speakers do this is they know they’ll get more bookings working exclusively with someone who wants to book them and gets a higher percentage of their fee. Unfortunately, this creates a dilemma for customers like you. The Speakers Bureaus have sales agents who are motivated to sell their exclusive speakers, so they may not always suggest the best option for you.  Agents put exclusive speakers in every proposal, sometimes only exclusive speakers.

Independent speakers are often the best fit for a company, but more difficult to find; like many things in life sometimes the best results require a little extra work.  Whether you’re going to use a bureau or book an independent speaker you need to know what will make a great speaker for you. If  you’re the person in charge of the event, the first critical step is to create strong criteria for what makes the best keynote speaker for your purpose. There are five good categories of keynote speakers to consider. They are:

  • Motivational and inspirational
  • Comedic and Entertaining
  • Best-selling authors (usually in a self-improvement category)
  • Adventurers and survivors telling inspiring stories
  • Applicable expertise (from successful entrepreneurs, marketers or influencers)

If you are lucky, and you have the budget you can get a combination of three or four of those categories and really get an all-star talent for your event that literally will change the lives of many in your audience. A great keynote speaker can do just that. 

Top Keynote Speakers

The first thing you should do when you’re trying to find one of the top keynote speakers in your category is ask yourself what’s the goal of the meeting. Is it to help employees with mental health, build a culture of courage, ignite a sales team, reward or pay-back employees for good work, or something else altogether? 

Once you’ve defined the purpose of having a keynote speaker, then you can start to look for something that’s applicable to you: do they have experience in your industry, is their story compelling to your employees, have they done something no one else has and can they tell it in a very engaging way. After you’ve completed the criteria and started to delve into the background, you can search for the right speaker.

The Long Tail Search

Finding the perfect keynote speaker for your event can be done with Google but it just takes a little bit of work to get through the noise of the paid ads and flashy bureaus. The long tail is the key to finding the right fit. Long tail means adding more detail to your speaker search. Rather than searching “Great Keynote Speaker” you might try searching “Great Keynote Speaker Entrepreneur and CEO Who Survived Cancer and wrote a best-selling book.” That’s a long tail search and will yield many more specific results for you to consider. The more details you can put into a search, the more options you’ll get. You’ll find you soon have both independent speakers and bureau options available to you. Now you can create a short list.

Amazing Keynote Speakers

After you’ve done a little bit of your homework, you’ll have a pool of amazing keynote speakers that you can cut down to a short list of 8-10 possibilities. One way to segment them is by price, and the other is quality. Price is as simple as going to eSpeakers and looking up their rates. Quality is a bit more time-consuming. You should watch their speakers reels, get a sense for their style, their humor, their storytelling ability and their take-home value. The last step is to look for their references and see what other people have had to say about their presentation.

There are also several ways to make sure you’ve got someone who’s credible and experienced. One of the easiest is if they are bestselling author on the Wall Street Journal or New York Times bestseller list; this guarantees knowledge and credibility. However, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a good speaker as many authors are boring, flat, and lack energy. The best thing you can do is find some incredible who’s done a great Ted X talk, been invited to do a talk at Google, and/or has very highly rated content on YouTube or Vimeo.

Best Keynote Speaker for You

So, what makes the best keynote speakers? In a word it’s fit. Knowing your objectives, your budget, and your audience, you can triangulate in on the best choice for you. The way to do it is with just a little bit of research with long tail keyword searching combined with verifying credibility through past performances recommendations and awards or accomplishments.

The benefit of booking an independent speaker is that they are often more willing to be flexible in working with your company. Great keynote speakers are happy to autograph books, do a series of video follow-ups, or write a couple of blogs as well. If you try to do those additional value adds through a speakers bureau it will end up costing you significantly more money.

Good luck and if you are looking for a best-selling author who is also a top rated speaker check out my speaker’s reel and drop us a note now to see if Patrick is available for your next event. 

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