Finding Keynote Speaker Ideas
If you are planning an event, or planning on planning an event, then you could use some keynote speaker ideas.
A good keynote speaker can absolutely make your event. A bad keynote speaker, on the other hand, can destroy your event before it’s even gotten started.
Here are six places for finding great keynote speaker ideas, and some advice on how to make the most of them.
(For more info on different types of keynote speakers and a few thoughts on keynote speaker fees, check out my keynote speaker ideas page)
Finding a Keynote Speaker Idea #1 – Your Personal Experience
This should be obvious, but the best place for finding a keynote speaker is from among the speakers you’ve already seen. I have served as the programming chair for an association, and 90% of the speakers I brought in were people I had either seen or heard a good quality recording of. That is the best way to know exactly how that speaker is going to perform for you. However, you may have forgotten many of the speakers you’ve seen over the years, simply because you weren’t actively looking for one.
So, in addition to the speakers that come to mind, go back through your notes, your calendar, your e-mails, and look at the agendas of the conferences you have attended over the past few years. This can jog your memory and give you new keynote speaker ideas. You might be surprised how you may have forgotten about some of them, but they would be the perfect speaker for your event.
Finding a Keynote Speaker Idea #2 – Referrals
A personal recommendation from someone you know and trust, who has seen a speaker, is the next best place for finding a keynote speaker idea. Reach out to your colleagues and friends, but most importantly reach out to people who have booked speakers, not just seen them. You can get some great keynote speaker ideas from people who have attended conferences, but there’s a lot more to a speaker than just how well they speak. There’s how easy they are to work with, their level of flexibility, the scheduling, and the fees. Look for people who are on association boards, who plan conferences, and who have worked in meeting planning. Sometimes you can find forums online using LinkedIn, Google, or Facebook, where you can find these types of people to use as resources.
Also, be clear in your request when asking for a keynote speaker referral. Don’t just say, “hey, does anybody have any ideas for a great keynote speaker?” The more specifics you can give, the better recommendations you will get. When asking, let people know the size of your event, the topics you’re focusing on, and the type of feeling you want to convey (motivational, incisive, thoughtful, or humorous) because someone may know a great keynote speaker but they may not be a great fit for your event.
Finding a Keynote Speaker Idea #3 – The National Speaker’s Association
The National Speakers Association is a phenomenal organization consisting of thousands of people who speak professionally. I, myself, have been a member of this organization for almost 15 years. You can search for speakers on the National Speaker’s Association website (nsaspeaker.org). You can also visit a chapter website to search for speakers. For example, I am a member of the Philadelphia chapter (nsaphiladelphia.org). So, if you know you’re going to be doing an event in the Philadelphia area, you can go to the Philadelphia website and search for local speakers. This is a great way to find lesser-known speakers who would be a great fit for you event, and could potentially be more in your budget because they won’t have to travel.
Finding a Keynote Speaker Idea #4 – The Bookstore
If you are looking for a speaker to draw attendees, go to a local bookstore to see whose books are best sellers and what new business books are out there. See what topics resonate with you for having the author as a speaker for your conference. Keep in mind, if the speaker has reached a level where the book is prominently displayed at a Barnes and Noble or other bookstore, chances are they will have a relatively high fee. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue them. Just be prepared.
On the other hand, you can get great keynote speaker ideas on Amazon.com. The Amazon.com best-seller authors may also charge high fees. However, because of the lower barrier to entry at Amazon (author’s cost for being there), you may be able to find speakers who don’t charge as much. You can search on your topic, and maybe look for some that aren’t in the top 10 or 20 best-sellers. You might still find some great books that resonate with you, and those speakers, those authors, might be perfect for your event – and they won’t be as expensive as a New York Time’s best-seller author.
Finding a Keynote Speaker Idea #5 – LinkedIn
Many speakers are now optimizing LinkedIn because they know people are looking there. To find a speaker, just type in your topic and ‘speaker’. For example, if you’re looking for someone who speaks on change, type in ‘change speaker’ and you will get a list of people who speak on that topic. The one nice thing about a LinkedIn search is, when you find the speaker, you will also see who is connected to that speaker. So, before you reach out to the speaker, you can ask your mutual connections their thoughts on them.
Finding a Keynote Speaker Idea #6 – Searching Online
You can search online using Google, YouTube, or even the TED website. Obviously, this can be the weakest place to find speaker ideas, simply because you have no idea what you’re going to get. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. I have been booked by people who just found me by online search, and they were thrilled with my performance. On the other hand, I know people who’ve searched online and found a speaker who wasn’t as good as they thought.
Just type in your topic and the word ‘speaker’, or ‘motivational speaker’, or ‘keynote speaker’, and you’ll get a large list of presenters. Google is a great place to start. YouTube is as good, if not better than Google, because you can watch a video of the speaker, which is the most important thing.
You can also go to TED.com and look for TED speakers. If you’re not familiar with TED, it is a short-form speaking format, and a tremendous amount of interesting and great presentations are on there. Unfortunately, the speakers who speak at TED are probably very expensive. If they fit in your budget, that’s great. There’s also TEDx, which are smaller events. They have a wide range of speakers, from those who speak for high fees, to those who are just doing it to get their message out there.
Finding a Keynote Speaker Idea #7 – Avish Parashar
Hey, I had to get in a little self-promotion, right? If your event could use a high-energy, interactive, funny, and relevant keynote that shows attendees how to improvise, adapt, and innovate in an ever-changing world, then you are already in the right place!
Check out my videos, keynote descriptions, and testimonials. Or skip all that and contact me now!
Finding a Keynote Speaker Idea – Summary
Those are six (seven!) places I recommend for finding keynote speaker ideas. I would suggest prioritizing them in the order I presented. A word of warning – make sure you vet your speakers. Once you’ve found them, even if they sound great, even if their book looks great, even if you’ve read their book and think it’s awesome, the only way to know how good a speaker they’re going to be is to watch them in action. Look at their videos or talk to someone you trust who’s seen them live, because that is the most important thing. Even if you get a referral, or know someone through The National Speaker’s Association, or it’s a best-selling author, they need to be vetted. I have seen people get burned, and I, myself, have gotten burned simply because I went off of someone’s reputation, or their content, without fully vetting them as a speaker.
The next time you need to find keynote speaker ideas, use these six suggestions and make your life a little simpler, and a little easier.
(Don’t forget, for more info on different types of keynote speakers and a few thoughts on keynote speaker fees, check out my keynote speaker ideas page)
By Avish Parashar. As the world's only Motivational Improviser, Avish uses techniques from the world of improv comedy to engage, entertain, and educate audiences on ideas around change, creativity, and motivation.
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