How to Choose the Right Event Speaker

How To Choose The Right Event Speaker

7 min read
Nine strategic decisions for event excellence.
Selecting the right speaker is important. As in make-or-break-the-event important. Take out the guesswork and make your event a success with this easy, planned approach to deciding on keynote speakers.


9 strategic decisions for event excellence - a planned approach to selecting the right keynote speakers. Click To Tweet

1. We Love a Good Story

Eyes focused, heads nodding, big smiles, hanging off the speaker’s every word. Even if the beef is tough as an old boot and the venue nothing special, it’s the power of story and human connection that ultimately draws people in:

“Great night, so glad I went,” they’ll say. “Just loved the speaker!”

Selecting the right speaker is important. As in make-or-break-the-event important. Take out the guesswork. Click To Tweet

On the flip side, we humans have low tolerance for a dull speaker. In the hands of a poorly pitched presenter – who might have been brilliant for a different event – see how quickly we switch off, start yawning and fidgeting, fighting the urge for a sneaky peek at Facebook, wishing the event would end already: #eventfail

2. Choices, Choices, Choices…

It might be tempting to dive straight in and start googling speakers. The interwebs will serve up an overwhelming feast of speakers to choose from:

TV stars
Film actors
Media personalities
Sports heroes
Inspiring people who’ve beaten the odds

Overwhelming is the operative word. How to filter through the gazillion possibilities if you aren’t clear on desired event outcomes? If you haven’t thought about your audience?

Before you get your event planning wheels into a spin, take a step back and put on your strategic hat.

3. Put on Your Strategic Hat

With strategic hat on, you’ll:

  1. Identify the overall event goals
  2. Make decisions to best achieve the goals

It’s the opposite to flying by the seat of your pants and picking a speaker because of their high profile. A TV celeb might be an absolute hoot on screen – it doesn’t mean they’re the right match for your specific audience.

Failing to plan carries a high risk of mismatched speaker and event flop (ouch). Smart Event Managers never leave it to chance. They always clarify:

Event objectives
Audience preferences

Event budget

Only then do they start searching for a speaker who fits the bill.

4. Event Goals

It’s important to be clear from the start about why your organisation is holding the event and what they hope to achieve. Accordingly, you’ll select a speaker with the right profile, personality, expertise or wit to help achieve these objectives.

Examples of how event goals can guide speaker selection:

Industry Conference Professional development, share research, debate, discuss Industry experts, thought leaders
Gala Ball Raise money for charity Celebrity, motivating, polished delivery
Product launch Brand awareness Industry expert, influencer
End-of-year company celebration Thank staff, reduce turnover, boost productivity Celebrity, humorous, upbeat

Companies don’t put on events without a purpose. There are always underlying corporate goals, the attainment of which is a measure of return on investment in the event.

5. Audience Tastes

As the saying goes: “One person’s trash is another’s treasure.”

It certainly rings true for events. A speaker who thrills one audience might bore the socks off another. That’s why it’s mission-critical to identify the group characteristics:

Taste in food
Preferred music
Sense of humour

Keep these firmly in mind as you look for a speaker whose tone, style, language and content are a good fit.

The Wrong Fit

You can imagine a group of plumbers at an annual dinner, nonplussed by the Shakespeare-quoting, classical-music-referencing keynote speaker. Just as an ocker celebrity gardener probably won’t engage a conference hall of art-appreciating judges and barristers.

6. Money Talks

Keynote speakers usually cut a sizeable chunk out of your budget. Generally speaking, fees increase in proportion with the speaker’s profile.

While you don’t want to skimp on this, it’s important to know your total event budget and how much you can allocate to the speaker. Otherwise, there’s a risk of:

Underspending and not getting the best speaker you could have afforded
Overspending and not leaving enough budget for other event elements

Check out this genius event budget tool created specifically to make financials a breeze for Event Managers.

Companies don't put on events without a purpose. Support goals and increase ROI with the right keynote speakers. Click To Tweet

7. If The Shoe Fits

Now you’ve done due diligence on event goals, audience tastes and the budget, it’s time to shortlist matching speakers.


Are they a drawcard for the audience?
Do their values fit those of the audience?
Does their personality/delivery style suit the audience?
Do they support company objectives?
Are they a good fit with corporate branding?
Will they set the right tone for your event – eg upbeat, funny, inspiring, informative, serious?
Do they fit the budget?

A speaker who thrills one audience might bore the socks off another. The right speaker for the audience is key. Click To Tweet

We suggest a shortlist of speakers, because invariably the one you want might not be available on the date or might be beyond the budget.

Read what to do when you can’t get the MC you want although this article is about MCs (Master of Ceremonies) the ideas apply to hiring event speakers too.

8. Want to Know the Real Secret to Sourcing Sensational Speakers?

It’s called a speaker bureau. Although you still need to understand the theory behind best practice, a professional speaker bureau (hint: like Enhance Entertainment) has insider knowledge about virtually all speakers from Australia and around the world, and specialises in matching talent to your audience, event goals and budget.

They do all the hard yards: checking availability, booking, briefing and managing the talent on the night.

9. Maximise Event Success With Strategic Decision-Making

Your choice of keynote speaker is important, so give it the time and thought it deserves. Following a strategic process is the surest path to a production that guests will love and will leave you beaming with pride.

Share this Post

Next steps

About the Author

Alison Clarke

Alison is the founder and director of Enhance. It turns out she has a flair for connecting talent with clients. A classical pianist graduating from the prestigious Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Alison spent a decade performing on the international stage, was twice awarded scholarships to the Chamber Music Residency Program in Canada, and was invited to International Musician’s Seminar Prussia Cove. She now manages talent and events worldwide.

Share this Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.