Keynote speakers are more often than not the main reason for a delegate attending an event, whether it is a conference, gala dinner, expo or charity event. They are therefore fundamental to the overall success of the event
First and foremost the speaker has to be appropriate to the event and to the audience. The temptation can be to book the most famous name the budget will allow. However this is quite often detrimental, all because a person is famous, it doesn’t always make them a great speaker and definitely doesn’t make them relevant.
The best speakers will really resonate with the audience, back up and cement any key messages the event is aimed at delivering.
“Compelling material, delivered by a compelling individual, is so much more memorable and useful than the same material presented in a dry or rote way, by a canned or trite or disengaged speaker.” – Katrina Smith, Speaker’s Bureau President
My personal experience with guest speakers has focused on the corporate side of events, including high level politicians, past and present; Forbes top 3; entrepreneurs and celebrities. Each can come with different challenges. Of course the negotiation process and contracting of the speaker is the first obstacle. From my experience the more ‘important’ the speaker, the focus on the fee is greatly reduced. It becomes a question of who you know, who can open up the first lines of communication and what, other than money, can we offer that person – i.e. who is the audience, what is the event, give them a reason to want to attend.
Politicians tend to come with a security detail, which can add an additional level to your event, which perhaps you weren’t expecting. I’ve had occasions where the CIA had to do a security sweep of our ballroom, clearing the room during our limited allotted rehearsal time.
Different speakers will have different ways of working both onsite and pre event. The likely hood is that the speaker has been booked through their agent and this is the person you will probably have the most amount of contact with pre event.
In these cases you are normally able to provide the speaker with a brief and be privy to the outline if not the whole of their speech. Most communication will be through the agent and likely just a quick call with the ‘talent’ before arriving on site.
On the occasion that the speaker has been booked through a favour or a direct contact, you are more likely to have time with the speaker themselves. However also on these occasions you can have less sway with the final content of the talk. If the speaker is working on the basis of a favour the content tends to be mutually beneficial, this can work well as long as both parties are in full agreement and all expectations are correctly managed.
Ultimately, will a keynote speaker enhance your event? The answer is yes more times than not. So long as the speaker has been chosen for the right reasons and has been briefed effectively.
A good keynote speaker will be able to change perceptions, enforce messages and inspire an audience to make a change.
“One keynote speaker can’t change the world. But one speaker, with the right message, the right tools, and the right delivery, can make an audience understand why their world needs to change, and then not only show them how to do it, but how to get inspired to do it well.” Katrina Smith, Speaker’s Bureau President
To summarise here are my top 3 pointers when thinking about using a keynote speaker:
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