What to Look for in Your Next Keynote Speaker

May 17, 2015

Much like the headliner at a major music festival, the keynote speaker at a trade show may influence many attendees and exhibitors as they make the final decision on whether to make the trip at all.

When narrowing down the list of qualified applicants to dazzle an exhibition, here are some standard practices a trade show manager should abide by.

When searching for a keynote speaker, it's not just the credentials of the speaker you're looking for – it's their raw appeal and charisma that will make them memorable for attendees.

Event organizers should meet with any potential keynote speaker prior to confirming their involvement with the trade show, and ensure that the keynote address will inspire, teach, and provide attendees with a positive outlook for the remainder of the exhibition.

• Credibility. Does the speaker work for Google or hold a position of high esteem? Have they had enormous success? Examples include: military, professional or Olympic athletes and coaches.

• Authority. What makes them an authority on the topic? Perhaps they have written a book on the topic, or been interviewed on TV, featured in the New York Times or even given a TED talk. These are all trust signals.

• Charisma, passion, humor, audience involvement and high ENERGY are all proven winners. Think Gary Vaynerchuk. He has an incredible personal story and audiences can feel his passion.

• Call to Action and a key message. What does the speaker want your audience to do next? Make sure there is a clear next step offered in the speech. The best speakers inspire their audience to make positive change.

Visit potential speakers’ websites to view video clips and testimonials. Check out their social media profiles -- a big following is a good sign. You might want to look into securing a guest speaker (ideally a big name within the industry) to break up the event calendar and draw more attention to the show.

Above all, trust your judgment and know your brand – a keynote speaker sets the tone for a trade show, and the power is in your hands!


Ever wish hiring a keynote speaker was easier? Download the Event Organizer's Guide to Keynote Presentations here.

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