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Eight Common Mistakes Made When Hiring a Keynote Speaker

Posted by WWSG Staff on Feb 12, 2015 4:00:00 PM


A keynote speaker is often an essential part of a conference or event.  Since the session featuring the speaker is bound to be one of the most attended of the entire event, getting the most out of the speaker’s time can be a game changer.  The added pressure of wanting to leave a lasting impression can lead to mistakes and confusion. Although avoidable with communication and timeliness, take a look at these 8 common mistakes that are made when hiring a keynote speaker:

Not Defining a Successful Event

Instead of placing all the emphasis on the speaker, the keynote is really all about the audience.  Defining the success of the speaker starts and ends with the overall impact he or she has on the audience.  Will there be a call to action or direction?  What will be the definition of a successful experience for both the speaker and audience?  Setting expectations early enough in meetings between the speaker and company will allow the vision and direction to flow nicely through the speech itself.

Unclear Connection Between the Speaker and Overall Presentation

No one is perfect, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and speakers are no different.  The company inquiring about a speaker has a specific setting and tone envisioned regarding the message they want conveyed. There is certainly a right and wrong time for certain speeches to happen, for example; speakers that tend to have a humorous or entertaining mindset might not be a great placement at an “after breakfast” setting.  In short, although sometimes overshadowed, it is extremely important to consider the desired role and voice you’d like the speaker to take, as well as the setting and timing in which the speech will take place.  Matching your speaker to your audience takes more than a quick surface look, it’s crucial to dive into the fine-points to truly find a great match for speaker, tone, topic, and audience.

Room Set Up

The actual method used to set up the room for the keynote needs to be taken into consideration.  One example regarding aesthetics, round tables are generally a turn off for a speaker and the impact they are trying to instill because of the general disconnect between the stage and the audience.  There should be great effort put into location and overall setup, make it comfortable for the audience and speaker alike, all while offering the best possible chance for lasting impact post-speech.

Timing of the Speech

This is very much a common mistake to correct, yet shouldn’t be overshadowed from initial planning.  Timing keynotes to take place during meals can be a big mistake.  Competing for attention with food is usually a distraction for any speaker, because in the end the food always wins. Remember, this is about taking setting, timing, and audience into consideration. The timing aspect must flow with the setting and tone, as well as the specific speaker and his topic.

Forgetting to Ask For References

Odds are the speaker delivering the keynote has done so before, therefore; asking for references to do a little research can reveal a lot of pertinent information.  Remember, you are hiring someone to send a message, no matter the topic or audience, so doing a little background check is important to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward. Other clients will have opinions about the effectiveness of the address and the overall experience, and this information will reveal just how much impact can be expected.

Hiring a Speaker Without Ample Lead Time

Many keynote speakers use the time from when they are booked to when the event takes place to prepare, which means six months lead-time is far better than two.  The actual presentations are often tailored to a specific company or event, and the more time a speaker has to prepare the better the presentation will be.  Odds are you aren’t the only dot on their calendar, these speakers are busy people. The more time they have to consult with you and your team, as well as overall preparation time helps give the best outlook that the keynote speech will leave a lasting impression.

Not Incorporating the Speaker Into the Event

Too often a speaker is rushed into the presentation and then ushered out.  Engagement should never be overshadowed; this is about letting the speaker and audience interact.  In addition, most speakers enjoy talking to the audience to gauge how effective they were and make a few tweaks going forward.  

Wanting to See the Presentation Beforehand

Since every presentation is being finalized and perfected until the deadline, asking the speaker to show the entire presentation in advance is usually a practice to avoid.  While asking for a thirty or sixty second video of a prior event is not out of the ordinary, remember that most speakers are looking at company values and goals in order to deliver the best experience they can.  Speakers are always usually more than happy to give a short clip, or biography that can be posted by you at your desire.  In fact, the importance of promoting the keynote speaker can help boost pre-speech interaction and excitement, which always helps make for a great atmosphere once the day of the speech arrives.

In short, avoiding these mistakes requires a bit of extra planning, but nothing terribly strenuous.  The focus needs to be on the event, and the speaker needs to be regarded as a method of giving attendees the experiences and memories to align with the goal of the event.  Once a plan and goal are determined, hiring a great speaker can enhance a conference or help a company achieve those goals. 

To learn more or to plan for your next event, please contact us. Also, To download our Best Practices document The Speaker Booking Top 10 Checklist on a related topic, simply click here.

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Topics: how to hire keynote speaker, WWSG's Top Speakers

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