Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

January 26 2016

3 Questions To Ask Before You Choose Your Next Keynote Speaker

Carolyn Clark



Your keynote speakers play a crucial role in shaping attendee perceptions of your meeting. Sure, the concurrent sessions and networking opportunities are important, but the general session speakers are the prime opportunities to inspire everyone in the audience. When they take the stage, it’s a chance to make everyone in the crowd laugh, cry and remember why they count on your meeting as the once-a-year experience that will send them back to the office with a renewed sense of purpose.

At Convening Leaders 2016, Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster, No More Boring Meetings, offered meeting planners some helpful tips for the process of choosing keynotes. If you’re trying to determine who the big names will be on your next program, be sure to answer these three questions before making offers and signing contracts.

1) If you could invite any speaker in the world to your event, who would you choose?

Don’t worry — you will not have to figure out how to pay for your dream speaker. While your organization probably cannot afford Bill Gates or Mark Cuban, it’s okay to add an expensive name to the top of the list. “You don’t go after your dream speaker unless your organization has loads of money,” Driessen said. “This is your possibility question, so you can come up with a list of the qualities of the person you want to go after.”

“Let’s say that, in a dream world, you would have Oprah,” Driessen said. “She has a great social media following. She’s empathetic, and she has great interview abilities. Now, you should aim to find other speakers who fit those qualities.”

SEE ALSO: 4 Lessons To Make Your Investment In A Keynote Speaker Pay Off

2) What do you want the audience to think, feel, do or believe as a result of the program?

It’s easy to fall into a trap of selecting a speaker because his or her name seems like it may have some pre-meeting pull. If the name is famous, perhaps it will pay off with increased registration numbers. However, speaker selection should not be rooted in a celebrity name with promotional power. Instead, it should be about the impression the speaker will leave with attendees after the meeting is over. “You want to start with the end of the meeting in mind, so that you can walk backward from the end goal,” Driessen said.

SEE ALSO: Are You Finding The Best Speakers For Your Events?

3) What do you want to overhear as attendees depart the meeting?

This is the heard-it-in-the-high-school-hallway question: what kind of buzz do you want to stir up among everyone in the meeting? Do you want them to discuss a controversial stance on a certain topic that matters to everyone in your industry? Do you want them to second guess their own personal decisions about how they use their time? Do you want them to laugh and be able to take a break from the typical frantic pace of their jobs? Be a fly on the wall, and determine what you want your audience to be talking about when the lights go up and they share their opinions of the speaker.

Looking for more help to make each of your speakers a success? Check out “The Rule You Need To Make Every One Of Your Speakers Follow.”

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