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How Far in Advance Should I Start Working on Booking Our Keynote Speaker?

By Richard Gibbons | Feb. 7, 2017

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When you’re planning a big event for your organization, choosing a quality keynote speaker is one of the most important pieces of the planning puzzle. It can also be one of the most daunting. Whether you plan to contact potential speakers directly, or go through a speakers’ bureau, it’s important to start the process as early as possible to ensure the availability of the speaker you want for your event, and to make the whole process as smooth and as stress-free as possible.

Before You Choose a Keynote Speaker

For the best possible chances of securing a top speaker, begin thinking about who you want to have anywhere from six months to a year in advance. Waiting any longer than that means you run the risk of your top speaker choices not being available for your event, as speakers’ calendars fill up quickly.

Here are some initial steps to have on your planning checklist as you prepare for your speaker search: 

  1. Decide on event dates and logistics.
  2. Know your audience’s needs and interests.
  3. Solidify your desired outcomes for the event.
  4. Know what expectations you have for your keynote speaker.
  5. Set benchmarks for your event’s success.

Starting Your Search

After you have considered all of these items, you can start thinking about finding and selecting a keynote speaker. To start this process, you’ll want to ask yourself what kind of speaker you’re looking for – what speaker is right for your event? Keynote speakers can be motivational, corporate, educational, humorous, or any combination of these qualities. Think about the tone you’re trying to set for your event. You’ll want a speaker whose presentation reflects a similar tone.

Setting this type of vision for your event will provide you with some criteria to narrow down your speaker choices to the best candidates.

Research Keynote Candidates

As you start to look at potential speakers, start by visiting their websites, checking their social media presence, and reading over their public bios. Some of the best keynote speakers have a strong online presence that can give you a good sense of who they are and how they’ll fit with your vision for your event.

Don’t just rely on what you read on speakers’ websites, however. The best way to gauge how well a potential speaker fits with your needs is to actually watch him or her present. Fortunately, video technology makes this step very easy; most professional speakers will have some video of past presentations on their website, YouTube, or Facebook page.

A speakers bureau is a great asset to have - they can do most of the legwork for you here. You shouldn’t have to be an expert matchmaker or talent scout. It’s not your job to read all of the latest business books or be up to date on top speakers’ current topics. That’s your bureau partner’s job. They can work as your consultant and offer speaker suggestions that fit your event’s objectives.

Understand Speaker Fees and Your Budget

Many event planners get thrown off when they look at the fees for keynote speakers. The fees for an appearance differ widely among speakers and depend on a variety of factors, including how well-known the speaker is, the type of event he or she is attending, and what travel costs are associated with his or her appearance. Before you get excited about a particular speaker, it’s important to know exactly what your budget allows you to pay for a speaker’s fee. Lesser-known or less experienced speakers may cost $10,000 or less, while a big name speaker or celebrity can cost $50,000 or more.


Written by Richard Gibbons


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