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5 top tips to landing the keynote speaker of your dreams

It’s undeniable keynote speakers can make or break your conference. Here are our top 5 tips to ensuring your speakers meet expectations, drive registrations and delight delegates.

A quality program is a centrepiece for a conference and the jewel in the crown is undoubtedly the conference keynote speakers.

The ability to hear industry and thought leaders that otherwise would be inaccessible provides a key motivation for an individual
to attend a conference.

In effect, the right headliner not only helps sell tickets but builds a dynamic event your delegates can’t stop raving about.

Yet, while finding the right mix of keynote speakers that both expand learning opportunities and drives registrations is essential, it’s not
always easy.

Regardless of your industry, it can be assumed your top picks are well sought after.

We recommend committee discussing preferences as early as possible – with the aim to book speakers at least 1 year in advance if possible.

So, here are our top tips for finding the keynote speaker of your delegates dreams:

1. Understand your conference program and set your theme

The first step is to get an overview of your conference program needs and start brainstorming your program theme.  This way you can create a list of speaker options and topics that fit best your requirements.

So take time to investigate:

  • What current and future industry trends are you wanting to address?
  • What do you want to achieve with your program?
  • What topics need to be discussed?
  • What type of sessions are you looking to fill?
  • What worked and didn’t work in the previous conference?


2. Understand your audience

Of course, this process of understanding your program and setting your theme also corresponds with the need to understand your target audience.    So yet again time for research – ask:

  • What are the demographics of my audience?
  • Are there any knowledge gaps that need to be filled?
  • Does my audience need motivating rather than industry knowledge?
  • What was the delegate feedback from our previous conferences?

Finding the perfect keynote speaker is all about forward planning, proper research and the right approach.

3.  Draft a keynote speaker preference list

Now you have an understanding of your program, your theme and your audience, you can start creating a list of preferences for
speakers that fit the brief.    Ways to look for ideal speakers include:

  • Asking your members and target audience for recommendations
  • Investigating any key influencers that have a strong following within your industry (you may be able to seek these out on social media platforms such as LinkedIn or YouTube
  • Asking your PCO for recommendations on speakers outside of your industry
  • Investigating any international options that were well received at relevant industry events

We recommend you also create a ‘plan b’ list in the instance your first preferences are unavailable.

4.  Know your budget

Now you have a list of possible speakers, it’s time to look at your budget.

What entitlements are included with your invitation?

The usual for industry speakers is flights, accommodation, free registration and possibly a speaker’s fee to cover costs.  For
‘celebrity’ speakers expect the fee to be higher.

Remember to get the most out of your investment, you can extend your speaker’s participation in the program with a
number of different types of sessions.

For example, one speaker can deliver a keynote presentation, participate in a panel session, run a dedicated workshop and
offer a mentoring session to student members.   It delivers a strong return on investment.

5.  Invite your keynote speakers

Now you’ve got your top list of speaker preferences, it’s time to send out invitations.

For industry connected speakers, we recommend the committee invite the speaker personally to participate in the program.


Once you have initial acceptance, t it’s time to get your PCO involved to manage the process – from sending an official
invitation,  managing entitlements and speaker obligations and any logistical requirements.

For those corporate or celebrity speakers with an agent, you can get your PCO to make contact.

By following these five simple – yet essential – steps in a timely and well-considered manner you will be assured
satisfaction from the committee, delegates and even the speakers themselves.

Need help planning your conference program?

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