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Event Planning

How To Find Keynote Speakers

MemberClicks Avatar MemberClicks February 2, 2024
Table of Contents
7 min read

Organizing a successful conference hinges not only on the quality of its content but also significantly on the caliber of its keynote speakers.

These speakers, with their insights and expertise, can set the tone and elevate the entire event. Securing the right keynote speaker requires a blend of strategic planning, careful negotiation, and effective communication.

This guide provides essential tips and strategies for finding, securing, and working with keynote speakers, ensuring they not only resonate with your audience but also contribute to the overall success of your conference.

Identify Your Conference Needs

Determine the type of keynote speaker you want based on your conference’s theme, audience, and goals. Do you need a motivational speaker, industry expert, celebrity, or someone else?

Figuring out the right type of keynote speaker to present to your conference attendees is important to ensuring they meet their interests. Here are some questions to consider:

Conference Theme Alignment

  • What is the main theme or focus area of your conference?
  • What specific topics need to be covered by the keynote?
  • Do you want the keynote to provide an overview/vision or dive deeper into a certain subject matter?

Attendee Interests

  • What are the backgrounds, roles, and interests of your expected attendees?
  • Do you need a speaker who can deliver technical, motivational, or big picture content?
  • Should the keynote have expertise speaking to a particular industry or profession?

Event Goals

  • Are you looking to educate, inspire, or entertain the audience primarily?
  • Do you want the keynote to challenge current thinking or convey a specific message?
  • Should they provide practical takeaways, a call-to-action, or more of a visionary talk?

Speaker Style

  • Do you prefer a more formal academic/expert style or a dynamic storytelling approach?
  • Is humor or multimedia an important component?
  • Does the speaker need to be able to handle audience interaction well?

Once you’ve dialed in on the key criteria around topic, audience, goals, and style preferences, you can start researching potential keynote speakers that best fit that profile. This targeted approach helps ensure the keynote aligns well with what your conference aims to deliver.

Set Your Speaker Budget

Keynote speakers’ fees can vary greatly depending on their level of expertise, popularity, and demand. When planning your budget for your conference, it’s important to consider keynote speaker fees. What type of fees can you expect? Here are some typical keynote speaker fee ranges to get an idea of your potential costs:

$5,000 – $20,000

  • This is a common range for professional speakers, authors, and subject matter experts without major celebrity status.
  • Local or regional speakers may be on the lower end of this range.

$20,000 – $50,000

  • Well-known national speakers, New York Times bestselling authors, former high-level executives can command fees in this range.
  • Famous personalities or pioneering thought leaders are usually at the higher end.


  • A-list celebrity speakers like movie stars, elite athletes, prominent politicians can cost $100,000 or much more.
  • The most in-demand motivational speakers and business icons can also reach into the six-figures.

Beyond just the speaking fee itself, your budget should account for additional speaker expenses like:

  • Travel costs (airfare, hotel, ground transportation) for the speaker
  • Costs for any personnel (PR staff, assistants) the speaker travels with
  • Equipment/AV needs the speaker requires
  • Per diem allowances or meals
  • Any fees for handouts, books or products the speaker sells

Many professional speakers are open to negotiating their fee, especially for non-profit clients or opportunities to sell books/products. Building in some flexibility in your budget is wise.

The most important factor is ensuring the speaker’s value, reputation and alignment with your audience matches what you are budgeting to invest. Properly allocating enough funds upfront prevents surprises.

Create a List of Potential Speakers

To create a well-rounded list of potential speakers, consider exploring various resources and utilizing different approaches.

Start by checking speaker bureaus, which represent a wide range of professional speakers. They offer online catalogs where you can filter speakers by different criteria such as expertise, fees, and location. These bureaus often provide recommendations based on your specific needs.

Another valuable source is your own experience and that of others. Reflect on past conferences, either ones you’ve attended or learned about, and identify speakers who left a lasting impression. Additionally, reach out to event organizers for their suggestions.

Networking can also uncover excellent speaker options. Engage with your colleagues, organization’s members, or sponsors, and ask about any impressive speakers they’ve encountered. Your organization’s leadership may also have some ideas. Furthermore, leverage social media to gather recommendations from a wider audience.

Publications and media are fertile grounds for potential speakers. Authors of well-regarded books on topics relevant to your event, media personalities, or influencers in your industry might be suitable. Listen to podcasts and follow industry thought leaders for more ideas.

Finally, use speaker-specific databases like SpeakerHub, SpeakerBase, or ConferenceSpeakers. These sites list thousands of speakers and allow you to filter your search based on various parameters. As you come across interesting profiles, maintain a spreadsheet to organize information such as their background, fees, availability, and contact details.

Confirm Speaker Availability

Securing the availability of your preferred keynote speakers, especially the in-demand ones, is a critical step in event planning. While it’s important to contact speakers well in advance, typically 9-12 months prior to your event, there are additional strategies to manage and confirm their availability effectively.

Firstly, when reaching out to speakers, communicate if there’s any flexibility in your event dates. This approach increases the chances of aligning with their schedule. Additionally, many speakers provide their upcoming event schedules on their websites or public calendars, which can be a quick way to check for potential date conflicts.

In cases where you’re booking through a speakers bureau or dealing with celebrity talent, their team, including agents or managers, will handle the scheduling. They can promptly verify the speaker’s availability for your desired dates.

Once you find an available speaker, ask if they can tentatively hold your event dates. As the contract signing approaches, reconfirm their availability to ensure everything is on track.

It’s also wise to have a few backup options. Keeping a list of 2-3 alternative speakers ensures that you have a plan B in case your top choice cannot make it. If your preferred speaker is already booked and changing your event dates isn’t feasible, quickly pivot to your next option.

Research Your Potential Keynote Speakers

Inviting a keynote speaker that doesn’t resonate with your audience can be become a PR disaster. To ensure a potential keynote speaker is a good fit for your conference, you need to conduct thorough research, with a focus on watching videos of their previous presentations.

These videos allow you to get a feel for their stage presence, audience engagement, and speaking style. You can look at how they connect with their audience, the clarity and relevance of their content, and their ability to deliver a message that aligns with your event’s theme.

Also, review the variety of settings and audiences they’ve addressed to gauge their adaptability. In addition to videos, read reviews or testimonials and consider reaching out to organizers who have previously worked with the speaker for firsthand insights.

Track down social media posts during and after the event. What did the people who were present at the presentation have to say? Was the speaker well received? Did they find the presentation valuable and engaging?

By combining video analysis with some social media sleuthing, you can determine if a keynote speaker will not only be engaging but also contribute significantly to the success of your conference.

Negotiate Speaker Fees

Negotiating fees with professional speakers can often be a daunting part of the keynote speaker recruitment process. You should remember that while many speakers have set rates, there is often room for negotiation. When preparing to discuss fees, prepare yourself with comprehensive details about your event that can give you an edge in the negotiation.

This includes the size of the expected audience, the event’s scope, and its overall goal. Also, be ready to talk about marketing opportunities for the speaker. Many speakers are more willing to adjust their rates if they see value in the exposure your conference offers.

For instance, if your event has a significant following or is part of a larger series that garners substantial attention, this could be enticing for the speaker. Be clear about what you can offer, but also understand the value the speaker brings and be prepared to meet their worth.

Review Speaker Contracts Closely

Thoroughly reviewing speaker contracts is mandatory before finalizing any keynote booking. These legal agreements outline more than just the speaking fee. They also cover additional expenses like:

  • Travel arrangements and fees
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Costs for audio/video recording rights
  • Dietary needs

Pay close attention to clauses about recording permissions, as they determine what event content you can repurpose later and may involve extra fees.

Speaker contracts often include rider requirements that must be met. Riders can range from technical specs like lighting and sound needs to personal requests regarding dietary accommodations or greenroom amenities. Scrutinizing these details beforehand prevents surprises and ensures you can fulfill the speaker’s requirements without issue.

A careful contract review allows both you and the speaker to verify their understanding of all expectations, responsibilities, and deliverables. Neglecting this due diligence risks misunderstandings, last-minute changes, or unbudgeted costs down the line. Taking the time to thoroughly vet speaker contracts protects your organization and sets the keynote up for success from a contractual standpoint.

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