Finding the right keynote speaker: what can body language tell you?

by | Oct 19, 2021 | Business Growth

Finding the right keynote speaker

Finding the right keynote speaker is essential for speaker bookers working in HR, L&D or Marcomms. You want to make sure you are making the right decision when you book the speaker for your next event. You may already be looking for ideas: attending live events or following suggestions from colleagues, even looking speakers up on YouTube. What we’re going to share with you in this article are some tell-tale signs to look for, so you can rule a speaker in or out, based on what you see in their body language.

As a booker, you have to keep in mind that people listen with their eyes as well as their ears. It is worth noting that sometimes a speaker’s presentation content may match your event brief, but you also want to make sure they are believable and credible for your audience. Once you’ve read this article you will be able to spot congruency (or incongruency) between their message and their belief in that message – something they will transmit to your audience non-verbally…

As speaker agents, we’ve assessed many speakers over the years. What we know is that: while many speakers have amazing content, their delivery may not yet be up to scratch. When a speaker’s body language is not up to scratch there can be an incongruency that impacts your audience negatively.

Speakers who have invested in speaker training will have a greater ability to deliver a non-verbal message that matches their verbal message. When this happens, the speaker will have the impact you want on your audience.

Finding the right keynote speaker: Subtle signals do not go unnoticed

Unrehearsed, inexperienced, or inauthentic speakers leave tell-tale signs. As a speaker booker, spending your organisations budget, you will likely want to rule out these speakers.

For example, let’s say you want a speaker who might talk about habits. As the speaker talks, he shrugs just one shoulder a few times. While the words coming out of the speaker’s mouth may sound great, the impact of the single shoulder shrug causes the audience to have doubts about what the speaker is saying. The audience doesn’t necessarily know why they have doubts, but they do, because the speaker’s body language signals that subconsciously, for some reason only known to the speaker, they didn’t believe in what they just said.

Speakers with a framework of keynotes, training, workshops, books and years of client studies behind them are unlikely to make this kind of error. This is because they have tried and tested their methodologies over a long period of time and they know with certainty that what they are saying is accurate.

Eye-Contact Evidence

Eye contact can be scary, even more so for a public speaker. On stage, hundreds or thousands of eyes can be on you all at once. A speaker that can look out at an audience and make eye contact with individuals, and see their judgment or emotion, and manage their own internal dialogue, and stick to their keynote without going blank, is likely a professional.

Professional speakers may not always be comfortable with eye contact, but they also know that looking someone straight in the eye is the best way to develop connections and make an impact.

The speaker that can make eye contact with the audience throughout the presentation will likely be a speaker who is also passionate about their topic. They’ll be judged more confident, believable, and likable. All of which is great feedback, especially when it comes from people above you in your organisation!

Posture Pointers

If you are looking for a speaker who has authority look at the speaker’s posture. A speaker with authority will stand straight. Their chin will be up and they will distribute weight pretty evenly between their feet when they standstill.

That said, it’s important that your speaker doesn’t come across as stiff, too authoritarian, or cold.  A professional speaker will also be able to demonstrate warmth and care through a well-placed open palm, smile as they deliver a well-placed anecdote.

A speaker who has authority, won’t be afraid to use gestures to add power to their presentation, but they won’t wave their arms around unnecessarily and detract from the overall performance. What they will do is use well-placed gestures to underscore important messages. Their rate of gestures will also increase when they want to show passion.

When people are passionate about what they are saying, their gestures become more animated. That’s why gestures are so critical and why getting them right in a presentation creates a greater connection with an audience. If a speaker doesn’t use their hands to gesticulate it will leave an audience thinking the speaker has no emotional connection to the issues.

You may find that a novice speaker won’t know what to do with their hands and they’ll either wave them around too much or put one or both in their pockets, creating a non-verbal barrier between themselves and the audience. Speakers who keep their hands in their pockets are also more likely to be distrusted by their audience because visible and open hand gestures promote honesty and trust.

Movement matters

Professional speakers will get out from behind the lectern. They will use the stage, walking towards the audience when they want to ensure attention, pausing as they make a key point, then they will move away as they move on and change the subject.

Movement on stage helps stimulate the audience, but too much pacing becomes distracting. You will find that less experienced speakers pace more. This may be because pacing moves nervous energy through the body. More experienced speakers suffer less from this, especially as they get into their presentation and any early nervous excitement evaporates quickly.

Being aware of subtle signals, eye contact, posture and movement will tell you a lot about the speaker you are evaluating before booking. Body language can be subtle, but deliberately watching the performance, and not just the words being said, will give you a more rounded impression of the speaker and their experience, passion and belief in their topic.

Finding the right keynote speakers with an agents help

Stellar speakers can help when it comes to finding the right keynote speaker. We 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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