Finding The Right Key Note Speakers For Your Event – An Ultimate Guide

by | Nov 10, 2021 | Business Growth

Finding the right key note speaker for your event - an ultimate guide

What is a key note speaker?

A key note speaker will kick-off your event with an opening address.
They will set the tone of the event, captivating, and building the audience up while driving key messaging through a speech. The speech will demonstrate the purpose and the importance of the event, touching on any relevant ideas and concepts. Ultimately the key note speakers will engage and unify your audience around the key event theme.

Key notes are typically based around the speaker’s own experiences and knowledge and they often invite the audience to think about a specific topic in a way they have never encountered before.

The key note speaker is THE speaker at the event, so careful selection is vital. This guide will show you what you need to consider to find the right speaker.

What is the purpose of the key note speech?

Typically, you will find key note speakers opening conferences, meetings, summits, conventions, congresses, expos, fundraisers, galas, award events and more.
The purpose of key note speeches varies depending on the purpose of the event. For example:

  • Educational key notes – an industry expert will be invited to deliver an educational keynote at a seminar, workshop or convention to give the audience a particular insight or learning.
  • Motivational key notes – Motivational speakers will often be used at a business convention or conference or at a launch event. The idea of a motivational speaker is to excite and inspire the audience.
  • Information Key notes – Sometimes the audience need to know the latest information, trends, financial results and statistics.
  • Entertaining key notes: Occasionally, the only purpose of the keynote speaker is to entertain the audience. This could be either to create a lively environment before a business event starts, alternatively, the keynote address could be intended to finish on a high or lighter note.

With so many options it’s important for event planners to have a clearly defined purpose so you can find the right keynote speaker. A brief that says, ‘Find an inspirational or motivational speaker’ is not sufficiently defined, because surely all speakers are somewhat inspirational and motivational!

The success of your event depends largely on your choice of the key note speaker. That speaker will need to meet the audience’s expectations to be educated, motivated, informed or entertained.

What makes great key note speakers?

Exceptional key note speakers are comfortable people. They will come across as credible, being both grounded and unflustered and speaking with ease and pose. A great key note speaker will manage their own nerves and tension, and that of the audience. They will be present and see people reacting and adjust their delivery.

Storytelling is an important part of the key note address, as is humour. It’s important for the key note speaker to have the presence and ability to speak to people as though they are friends or family, so everyone feels connected and engaged.

If you get a chance to see a speaker before you book them, check out their body language. This article will help: What can body language tell you when it comes to finding the right keynote speaker

If you are unable to see a speaker live before you book them, check out our article 6 Clues In A Speaker Bio That Lead You To Booking The Right Keynote Speaker this will help you rule out many speakers who are not yet ready for your event.

What should you not expect from your key note speakers?

A key note speech isn’t going to deliver detailed strategies or plans. That’s the job of other speakers at an AGM who have a technical knowledge
Also, you shouldn’t expect key note speakers to come into an organization and heal serious problems. While many speakers have a magical quality about them, they are not miracle workers! An organisation suffering serious problems, such as values or culture conflict after a merger, would be well advised to hire in an experienced facilitator such as Roy Sheppard to draw out the issues and get them discussed. At a later date, after the issues are dealt with a key note speech can be a powerful vehicle for galvanising people around the new ideas and direction.

Deciding what kind of speaker you need for your event…

There are many different types of speakers you can hire and you need to be clear on the type you most need. Here are some examples:

Inspiration and motivation – When you want to inspire people or raise morale or you know there is a tough period ahead you may want to learn something new or take some inspiration with you on the journey. Key note speakers can transport people from the monotony of their day-to-day grind, or fear of change and give them new understandings and a fresh perspective. It can also give a team a joint method or reference point to rally around when things get tough. Former West-End lead, Richard Tyler inspires organisations, and the individuals within them, to see their possibilities and strive for consistent improvement together.

Business speakers – A business speaker may be hired in to bring outside inspiration to a business challenge. For example, you may want your teams to think bigger, see a bigger picture or communicate more clearly. Steve Sims, shows his audiences what’s possible through his stories – sharing how a London-bricklayer went on to work with the likes of Sir Elton John and the Pope and have some of the world’s top business executives on speed dial.

Alignment of your TWO teams – It’s not uncommon for people in an organisation to feel everything in the business is pulling in different directions. These days, with more people working from home, life requires not just one team (the office team) to be on board, it also requires a second team (the home too) to be on board too. Caspar Craven knows all about this, and shares his stories about managing and subsequently selling his business while simultaneously sailing his family around the world.

Mental health and performance – While organisations have always been and may always be performance-driven, the recent history of the planet tells us we need to take more care of employee’s well-being, especially their mental well-being. Penny Power understands the emotional roller coaster of being a high achiever, growing Ecademy to 650,000 members, before the market crashed in 2008, losing practically everything.

The above examples are just a few examples of the different topics and expertise key note speakers can bring to your event. You can find more key note speakers and topics here:

How to find your key note speakers

At this point you might be asking yourself, “How do I find key note speakers?” So, here are 5 ways to find a key speaker:

  1. Ask a speaker agency to help – Agents shortcut the legwork. They cut to the chase, get to requirements and are realistic about budgets. Agents are a great option when you want the assurance of a professional speaker and a professional service. They get the job done quickly and effectively and save you more than their fee!
  2. Use Google – This is a DIY option and almost the opposite of using an agent. Here you scroll through websites and social media profiles and watch hours of video. It’s a good strategy if you have all day, have a small budget and are prepared to gamble somewhat on the speaker.
  3. Get referrals from your network – your peers and contacts may likely suggest a name you hadn’t thought about, didn’t know about or forgot about. It will shortcut option 2, in that you can focus your search to some extent on the ideas of your network.
  4. Ask in a group – If you are in a social media group that has an events focus, then ask the group who they would recommend. Occasionally this strategy will come up trumps, but expect a deluge of ideas and pitches and be prepared to do the research on each speaker as in option 2.
  5. Ask your audience – Email or ask your audience who they would like to see at the next event. This may give you suggestions, but again like option 4, you may find yourself with a long list and still have to revert to the long-winded option 2.

The best option, if you are investing £5000 or more on your speaker, is to use a speaker agency. They will save you time and money searching for the speaker.
If you have no budget or a limited budget, use options 2-5. You may also send an enquiry via our website, as we have a number of Rising Stars on our books (great speakers but less well-known and lower fees).

Does the speaker’s content match your event’s goals?

Before the event, and preferably before booking the speaker, you will want to meet the speaker, in what we call a ‘Discovery call’ to discuss the topic and brief. You will want to tell the speaker the intended outcomes of the event and you will want to hear their ideas on how they can deliver on those outcomes based on their knowledge and experience.

The Discovery Call should be attended by the event manager, key decision-maker and speaker. If you are working with a speaker agency you will also want the agent present. The agent knows the speaker’s content too may have ideas about the speaker. In the past, where we’ve not been the agent, we’ve heard stories where a speaker didn’t fit the bill, because the brief changed during the discussions and because it was fluid the brief moved beyond the speaker’s scope and the organisation still booked the speaker. The vent wasn’t great. Having the agent present would stop that from happening because a good agent notices when the brief changes and highlights this to the speaker and booker.

As a booker, you will want to make sure the speaker has the knowledge and expertise that can give your audience something relevant, new and unique. You will also want to make sure they have the necessary ability as a speaker. Again, booking via an agency eradicates this issue, because an agent will only represent a talented and professional speaker.

How much do you pay a keynote speaker?

Key note speakers’ fees will vary depending on several factors. You would expect to pay more for a celebrity, a renowned industry expert or a professional speaker than you would a good speaker, who isn’t yet known.

Here is a general budget guide:

£500 – £1,500 – This kind of budget buys you a newbie. Speakers at this level will be trying to break into the circuit. They are trying out new material and honing their presentation skills. They will not have all their assets professionally developed, so they may not have a showreel or video evidence or a professionally written bio. This level of speaker is best suited to a small gathering.

£1,500 – £5,000 – Speakers at this level are usually taking public speaking seriously and looking to make headway as a professional, though speaking won’t be their only income stream at this point. In this category, you will likely find industry professionals and non-celebrity speakers with an average amount of experience. A speaker at this level will suit a modest-sized event.

£5,000 – £10,000 – Once you invest in excess of £5,000 per key note you can expect to be booking professional speakers. These speakers are accomplished and seasoned speakers who are regularly part of their profession. You can expect to find sports figures and athletes in this price band. You will also find published authors and business professionals at this level too. These speakers will be comfortable with audiences of any size and can adapt their key notes to a more conversational style for smaller gatherings, or manage many thousands.

£10,000 – £50,000 – Speakers at this level are well-known. They may be household names and you can expect their name to draw a crowd and add more value to an event. Whereas the previous category would get you an author, this category would get you a bonafide best-selling author. You would book this type of speaker for a high-level/ high class events or major corporate conferences.

£50,000 – £100,000 – At this level, you enter the upper tier of speaking. When you book a speaker at this level you are booking A-list speakers, most likely of celebrity status. At the £100,000+ level you are looking at famous politicians, extraordinary business leaders or sporting hero’s or icons. This category of speaker usually speaks at sponsored events or events that are held to honour someone or something.

What are the typical expenses and additional costs?

Expenses to consider in addition to the speaker include:

  • Travel – Speakers have to travel to get to a venue. In most cases, speakers don’t pay out of pocket for travel, and clients are expected to cover the speaker’s expenses. Costs incurred may include domestic travel by car or rail or international flights, hotels, and additional costs like food. Speakers in the higher fee brackets will also expect first-class travel.
  • At Stellar Speakers, we introduce our event bookers to other services that the speaker can offer to increase ROI. Contact us through our website for more information.
  • Event expenses – Your event will also require some level of production including AV, video, live streaming, venue, photography. Again, contact us for help regarding this. We will put you in touch with professionals who can help.

Can key note speakers be free?

The most likely circumstance that a speaker will speak for free is when they are a new speaker at the beginning of their speaking carer and want the experience or exposure. In these circumstances, they may be willing to wave their fee in return for their key note being recorded by the host and made available to them for a showreel, or the opportunity to sell some of their books.

Occasionally, a more experienced speaker may agree to waive their fee if they are invited to speak at a charity function or fundraising function for a cause they align to.

In both of the above scenarios, it’s fair to expect the event host to reimburse the speaker for their travel expenses.

Another circumstance where a speaker may wave their fee is when they are being put in front of decision-makers who may book them in the future. The speaker may view this as a marketing opportunity.

Are keynote speakers worth the effort and cost?

In many organisations the CEO or Managing Director might decide to open an event with a key note address. In some cases, they may feel obligated to take this role.

The challenge with this is that not every CEO or managing director has the training, personality or charism for this role.

A key note speaker is not only trained and experienced, they are professionals who speak for a living. They have a gift for storytelling and taking the audience on a journey. They have a forceful energy and they naturally inspire and when they are finished people naturally feel more motivated.

The key note speaker you bring in to your event or conference will add value and often remove the worry of other pressures that surround the event by the atmosphere they create.

What does a key note speaker need to know about your audience?

It’s important to match the interests of the group to the key note speaker. For example, you may not want a man to address a women’s network or empowerment group.

In order to help the key note speaker prepare for your event they will need to know some key facts about your audience:

  • In general, terms who are they? Are they all in a certain industry or job role? Are they mostly male or female?
  • What does the audience already know about this topic?
  • What knowledge do they need to gain?
  • What would most interest them?
  • What are the no-go ideas and content themes?
  • What would be the best outcome for the audience?
  • Who will be attending this event?

What will key note speakers need to know about your event?  

The keynote speaker needs to know the purpose of your event. Is it to inspire, motivate, educate, change behaviour, entertain, raise funds etc.

Beyond the purpose, they will want to understand the theme of the event. The theme of the event often requires more thought because the best events have a disputable purpose. For example, the end of year conference purpose might be to celebrate success. This is a given and not disputable. What may be disputable is to highlight the philosophy of individuals who supported that success and understand what they went through this year.

To understand more about how to set up successful events, including more about purpose and disputable events download our guide:

The keynote speaker will also need to know the date of your event, as well as the time they are expected to begin their address. You will also want to agree a time they need to arrive by so they can do a soundcheck and check their presentation with the AV team and run through the relevant event information.

It’s worth noting if you want to book a keynote speaker who is in high demand, that you may need to be flexible on the date or time of the key note or event. Celebrities have other jobs (doing what makes them famous) as well as other bookings and speeches. Before speaking to their agent have some possible dates available and be ready to move quickly to secure both the venue and celebrity.

Prior to the event you will have agreed if there are any additional services required after their key note speech. For example, do they need to be available for Q&A. Will you interview them for a podcast? Do they need to stay and mingle with the audience?

Also, prior to the event you will have discussed any agreed promotional activities and how they will be handled.

When you book your speaker through Stellar Speakers, we’ll supply you with our event organisers handbook, so you have all the critical information about your event in one place.

Using key note speakers to build buzz

One of the challenges many event organisers have is ‘Developing buy-in’ to an event. In an organisation some events are optional and because people are busy, some may choose not to attend.

To build buzz around the key note internally you may want to tell people what’s coming by email, record a podcast or blog about it to raise awareness. Externally, you may want to talk about the event on social media, to raise the profile of the company and what it is doing for it’s people or community.

Strategic social media posts about the key note speech and the speaker can be very effective, not just before the event, but also after. After the event you can post pictures of the event and the speaker.

How to introduce your key note speaker in style

Here are some quick tips for introducing your key note speaker:

  • Know how to pronounce their name. Don’t embarrass yourself or them. If you are unsure ask them and practice their name.
  • Explain to your audience what made you choose this speaker. Mention their credibility including any award wins or status as a best-selling author and build anticipation in the audience about why they should listen to this speaker.
  • If you know the speaker or have heard them speak before or have seen them perform as a sports star or theatre star or on TV, mention that and make it personal.
  • Confidently hand over the stage and microphone to the speaker. After your introduction walk to meet the speaker and give them a firm handshake.

What can you expect when you work with a speaker agency?

Putting together an event is quite a daunting task. There are a number of different pieces to juggle so that everything comes together on the day. Part of putting the event together is hiring your professional key note speaker.

On the face of it, booking a key note speaker looks simple. You just hire a key note speaker! But most event managers will tell you, it takes a lot longer than anticipated and there are more steps in the process than they imagined.

A speaker agency simplifies the process, giving you options, advice and assistance, as well as handling the contracts for you. This gives the event organiser peace of mind and the time to focus on other parts of the event.

Here are some of the other benefits of using a speaker agency:

  • Speaker expertise – Because agents know their speakers, we can rule speakers in or out very quickly, based on industry, topics, values, objectives, budget and availability. An agency can then give you several, unbiased ideas in a matter of minutes and help you narrow down the choices. At Stellar Speakers we’ll also talk to you about added-value experiences with our speakers that can add return on investment when it’s appropriate to point them out.
  • Speaker selection calls– At Stellar Speakers we call these discovery calls. Here we facilitate pre-event calls between the speaker and event organiser so they can discuss the brief in more detail. We do this prior to the booking taking place so the event organiser can run ideas by the speaker and so the speaker can suggest ideas. This helps the event organiser feel confident in their decision, that the speaker can deliver and everyone walks away knowing they are on the same page. It’s also an opportunity to fine-tune any logistical details. We attend these briefings as an agency to protect the speaker and the client, should the scope slip, but also to suggest ideas we know our speaker can deliver on, that might enhance the event.
  • Negotiations & Contracts – Because a speaker agent is a professional, and has negotiated and delivered many contracts, we know the right questions to ask and can deliver agreements and contracts quickly and accurately, saving event organisers time and effort, putting together agreements.
  • Marketing– We work with our speakers to provide you with their marketing information so that as hosts you have their bio and presentation outline. Also, depending on your event and depending on what is agreed in the negotiation phase, we will work with the speaker to help them deliver on the agreed promotional aspects.
  • No hidden fees– speaker agents fees are included in the speaker fee, so we’ll quote you one price. The only additional costs will be any speaker expenses, but these will be spoken about and managed contractually and discussed up front, so there will be no surprises.
  • Logistical know-how – At Stellar Speakers, when you book via us, we’ll give you access to our Event Booker Handbook, a guide to help you with the process of booking your speaker.
  • Partners network – as an agency we are connected with event industry experts and can easily make referrals for you, to help you find your venue (venue finders fees are generally paid by the hotel you book with), production companies, videographers or photographers.
  • Future education about events – we keep all our clients up to date with trending topics and speakers as well as helping our clients get better at running events with insider tips and secrets
  • Reassurance – You don’t want to take risks with your event and a speaker agency can help you remove the risks. This happens because we know our speakers and we want to provide you with the best fit for your event. The fact that a speaker is listed with an agency gives assurances as to their ability to deliver.

Stellar speakers are a unique speaker agency representing change-making keynote speakers. We provide expertise to help you manage your budgetary expectations and provide realistic options. We provide a preferred partner’s service base, so that partner clients get everything they need, lowering your risk as a booker of speakers, so you can make your choice about your next speaker with confidence.

For more information contact us here. 


If your next conference is around the corner it’s time to book a consultation with Stellar Speakers.

Let us help you find the right keynote speaker to deliver timely messages, fresh themes and introduce the latest methodology and thinking.

Because our speakers are thought-leaders, industry expert and change-agents we help bring out the best in your organisation. Our passion is developing your people.

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