How to Pick the Right Keynote Speaker for Your Event

Jim Cathcart

Written by Tim Grable

January 29, 2019

We understand that hiring a keynote speaker for an event may be a difficult task. However, putting effort into it is well worth it because a good speaker can have a significant positive impact on your whole event.

Picking the perfect convention speaker for an event isn’t just about browsing for known industry influencers. It’s more about finding a performer who can match the theme of the event and can connect with the audience on a deeper level.

If this has caught your attention, then the information provided in the following lines will come in handy. Read on to discover a few tips which will help you pick a speaker who is just right for your event.

1) Decide What You Are Looking for

Take some time to lay what you’re looking for in a keynote speaker on the table. Highlight what kind of qualities you would want that speaker to exhibit at your event.

This bit of brainstorming is essential because you avoid falling in the trap of getting a well-reputed speaker who may not fit your event at all.

How to Pick the Right Keynote Speaker for Your Event

However, once you have a clear picture of what you want, you are going to have an easier time finding it.

You may be interested in a professional speaker who is specialized within a specific topic or maybe a speaker who is good at being spontaneous when interacting with the audience.

Whatever your must-haves may be, it’s essential to have a clear picture of what you’re looking from the get-go.

2) Don’t Forget to Take into Account a Few Essential Factors

When you’re deciding on what speaker to hire, there are some factors which contribute to this decision which may not always be entirely in your control.

To get a ball-park estimate of which speaker could be the right choice, you need to consider these general aspects:

  • What is the event’s objective? Is the event’s purpose of raising awareness of a certain topic? Is it to promote a product? Alternatively, to train a team?
  • What does your audience want? Perhaps the audience is interested in hearing an uplifting speech or a light-hearted comedic skit. Whatever their desire might be, make sure you get a speaker who is most likely to fit their preferences.
  • What is your budget? Booking a speaker can cost anywhere between $1000 and $50.000. With this money, you can afford any speaker from those who are barely starting in the industry to major celebrities. However, it all depends on how much of your budget you want to allocate.

3) Consider Our Suggestions for Your Event

To make the job of finding the right convention speaker for your event more manageable, we have two speakers who might interest you. First off, we suggest booking Jim Cathcart for your event. He is a motivational expert who can instill passion in every listener.

He tells very compelling stories from his years working as a government clerk and draws anecdotes from this experience to inspire people to overcome their daily struggles.

With his expertise, he knows the ins-and-outs of how to get everyone engaged in his talks.

How to Pick the Right Keynote Speaker for Your Event


If you perhaps are interested in another event speaker, then we can suggest booking Bill StaintonHe is a business speaker who helps business leaders and their teams to overcome the hurdles of the corporate world.

He is an excellent addition for your event, and you can be sure the attendants will be all ears to what he has to say.

 Bill Stainton

Qualities to Look for in a Keynote Speaker for a Successful Event

The right convention speaker for an event is that person who steps on the stage and immediately – and effortlessly – commands respect.

Then, these people will both inspire and educate.

So much so your guests will be grateful to you for having brought them on stage.

But not all keynote speakers are made from the same mold, so here are 4 qualities which will indicate excellence.

1) Stage Presence

This trait comes from achieving a high level of comfort with themselves.

You will be able to spot a real professional from the way they walk, to the way they use their gestures or to the way they know when to drop a hilarious facial expression.

All these while not overdoing it in the least. They are what you would call ‘naturals,’ but they are also hard workers and usually very well trained in the art of public speaking.

2) Relatability

This quality is best illustrated with TEDx speakers because they craft their discourse in such a way attendees get value while also getting to know more about the speaker’s life.

This makes the talks incredibly relatable. After all, what can be more inspiring than someone being full-front honest about their struggles or experiences?

In fact, this is a common trait among TEDx speeches: they abound in deeply personal stories which are more relevant than any other crash course or personal growth program.

4 Qualities to Look for in a Keynote Speaker for a Successful Event

For instance, a speaker like Richard Lui can make any topic approachable by a broad range of guests.

Despite his impressive career in political reporting and despite being an Emmy and Peabody award recipient, Richard knows how to single out the relatable elements and focus the speech only on them, not on achievements and outcomes.

3) Balance

Regardless of whether you are a professional event planner or you organize company events occasionally, you will encounter many types of keynote speakers. Each with their approach and style.

The best ones, however, will impress with the perfect balance and structure of their content.

The best event speakers are not those who overstuff the speech with stats and figures for 2 hours straight. Sure, these are impressive and useful, but attendees are highly unlikely to keep them all in mind.

The best speakers are well aware of their audience’s cognitive processes, so they have learned to master the art of balance. If the speech is rich in technical content, it has to be balanced with analogies or content of various other types.

ipad, meeting, office, convention speaker

They also know they do not need to overdo the ‘funny’ part. A bit of self-reference here, a joke there, an industry-specific reference later on.

This is an art not many masters, so you would want to make thorough research keeping this particular aspect in mind.

Rich Experience – A Keynote Speaker’s Best Friend

Last but not least, the convention speaker should be a professional with a proven track record in the industry.

It sounds a bit commonsensical, but you would be surprised upon hearing many speakers venture into giving keynotes without the necessary professional background.

A genuinely successful keynote  (like Meridith Elliott Powell or Chuck Gallagher) will not advertise themselves in boastful language and flashy pictures.

Instead, their websites or social media profiles will be full of rave reviews, enthusiastic recommendations or warm words of gratitude (preferably from CEOs or executives). Also, a professional ‘about me’ page with online references is a good indicator of a motivational speaker’s professional acumen.

Alternatively, you could specifically ask for their background when you book them via an entertainment booking agency like The Grable Group.

This way, chances are you will find that event speaker who possesses the exact qualities you are looking for.

The Most Important Qualities of A Successful Keynote Speaker

It is said that if you want to get something done, then you better do it yourself. This is entirely true because tangible results require you “to get your hands dirty.”

Often, the best corporate speakers are those who practice what they preach. While many may only read about topics from presentation slides, often, the most genuine are the ones who can speak based on real experience.

One such speaker is Kit Welchlin, who is an expert on employee morale, and his presentations cover a wide array of topics related to leadership, responsibility, and motivation.

Kit Welchlin, Important Qualities of A Successful Keynote Speaker

What gives him a lot of authority in his field is the fact he has been the CEO of 3 manufacturing companies, from the tender age of 26.

He grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and ever since he was little, he had a penchant for being a leader. He made his way up the ladder through personal determination and hard work.

Also, as a public speaker, his knowledge is invaluable for anyone who is in a position of leadership or who are looking to take risks in the world of entrepreneurship.

1) The Ability to Tell a Story

Everyone loves a good story, and people look up to those who can tell one. However, it’s not just the sheer audacity of a story which manages to captivate an audience, but also how good of a narrator the speaker is.

A keynote speaker with unbelievable stories is Robin Dreeke. He has studied at the United States Naval Academy, he has served as part of the U.S. Marine Corps and has worked as a Special Agent for the FBI.

During his keynotes, he shares some of his stories with the audiences, which are always curious to hear about his exploits and whatever interesting information he can share.

 Robin Dreeke, keynote speaker

His stories about catching spies and working with cyber defense seem as if they were ripped from a Sci-fi Thriller, yet they’re 100% true. He can retell moments in striking detail and delivers them with significant effect.

So what truly makes him shine as a speaker is his ability to weave a very informative lesson in each one of his stories. Not only he manages to entertain his listeners, but he also does a lot to educate them.

2) An Attitude Which Captivates the Public

While the content of a presentation is crucial, it’s essential to realize the delivery also plays a vital role in how the presentation pans out.

It’s important for speakers to be able to exude energy and to inspire people not only through what they say but through their actions, as well.

It’s a shame to have a good chunk of quality information be ignored only because “the packaging” was lackluster, which is why, often, the best keynote speakers are the ones who manage to deliver a genuinely fiery presentation.

Want to Hire a Convention Speaker?

We hope the tips featured in this article will make it easier for you to find a speaker who will be an exact match for your event.

In this article, we highlighted just a couple of the essential aspects which make a good speaker, but they can be more than that. You only need to work with the best of them – and we can help you with that.

If you’re interested in hiring the keynote speakers for your event, then you can do so by browsing our online database.  

Alternatively, if you’re interested in booking the speakers featured in this article, then give us a call at (615) 283-0039, and we will gladly assist you.

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