Your keynote speaker: Get it right and the audience is motivated, delighted, informed, in awe. Get it wrong and everyone is bored or worse. Either way, don’t be surprised if the audience is tweeting about it.
Whether your goal is to educate, entertain, or attract attendees, the pressure is on pick the right speaker—and to do so within budget. Here are some dos and don’ts to consider as you jump into the selection process. Some of this advice is quite basic, but you’d be surprised at how many planners don’t think through their goals, needs, and budgets.
1. Focus on objectives and demographics.
Since there are so many potential speakers to choose from, the process can feel overwhelming. The first step is to determine what kind of speaker is needed. After a long day of breakout sessions, you may want someone to entertain or motivate. Conversely, if your goal is to inform, then someone with expertise on a specific topic is what you’re after. The second step is to review audience demographics. What’s more important than landing “who’s hot” is finding a speaker who will genuinely connect with your audience. As such, the demographics of the audience are key. Will the audience be, say, men ages 25–45 or a mixed group of all ages? Are they from a particular region of the country or is the group international?
Our firm recently secured actress Fran Drescher for a hospital fundraising event in Savannah, Ga., and her selection is a great illustration of these two steps. This annual luncheon draws 1,500 women who enjoy stories of courage and life lessons. Drescher was a spot-on, as her personal experience as an ovarian cancer survivor captivated the audience with the message of perseverance and hope.
2. Outline all the services needed.
In addition to the actual speech, determine if you need the speaker to participate in other activities. For instance, do you need the speaker to attend a VIP reception? If so, for how long? It makes a difference if it’s a 15-minute private reception versus an hour-long event opened to the public.
Also, do you want the speaker to provide social posts? A speaker who has a large social following may help generate excitement for an internal event or increase ticket sales.
3. Be realistic about what your budget will buy.
Do you have $15,000 or $150,000 in the speaker budget? Obviously, that makes a big difference in terms of what you can expect in terms of your speaker’s notoriety and accomplishments. Top-tier speakers like best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell and Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, fresh off her amazing performance in Rio, will command six-figures for a speech. When a speaker procurement firm tells you that Bono can’t be secured for $50,000, please believe them. The good news is that there are speakers to fit every budget, but before you promise the world to your client or boss, make sure you understand the market value of the speakers you have your eye on.
4. Include travel and other expenses in your calculations.
Your speaker budget will need to include the cost of airfare (often first-class), hotel accommodations, ground transportation to and from the airport and venue, and frequently, a per diem to cover meals and incidentals. In addition, many top Hollywood speakers require hair and make-up expenses. (We recommend you cap this amount to ensure you don’t receive an inflated and unexpected invoice.)
5. Understand your commitment.
Once a formal offer is extended and accepted, a legal binding agreement is established with the speaker. If you cancel or change the elements of the event, you will be responsible for the speaker fee. This is standard in the industry and essential to understand before making a commitment.
Darcy Bouzeos is founder and CEO of DLB, a consulting firm specializing in procuring celebrities, athletes, influencers, and speakers.