Much like everything else, the event industry had to adapt to a lot of changes after the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world in early 2020. One of these industry-wide shifts was the pivot to hosting virtual meetings, conferences, trade shows, and other events. Keynote speakers updated their portfolios to include virtual pricing which, in most cases, drastically reduced the overall cost of hiring talent. Without the added cost of travel and lodging, speakers could deliver their motivational messages and powerful presentations to audiences around the country (or beyond) for a budget-friendly rate.
As an event professional, you know that every speaker you hire, regardless of budget, needs to check off a combination of four main boxes:
Using these four pillars as a guideline, let’s take a look at some of our most requested and booked speakers who (with the inclusion of lower virtual fees) can fit your budget while still delivering the high-quality content expected of a keynote speaker.
Speakers Who Educate
These budget-friendly speakers are respected experts in their given fields and can deliver messages that give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to audiences.
At only 20 years old, Alyssa Carson is the youngest ever astronaut-in-training in U.S. history. When she was only three, Carson was inspired by the Nickelodeon show “The Backyardigans” to investigate the vast world of space travel. She spent the next 17 years obtaining her rocket license, advanced scuba certification, pilot license, skydiving license, applied astronauts certification, and aquanaut certification.
Rachel Tobac is the CEO of SocialProof Security, where she helps individuals and companies keep their data safe by training and pentesting them on social engineering risks. Tobac is also the Chair of the Board for the nonprofit Women in Security and Privacy (WISP), where she works to advance women to lead in these fields.
To be a nationally recognized, award-winning scientist is quite the feat — especially considering Gitanjali Rao is only 15 years old! In addition to an already impressive resume, Rao was TIME Magazine’s first-ever “Kid of the Year” in 2020 and has claimed the U.S. EPA President’s Environmental Youth Award, and it’s easy to see how she influences and educates her audiences.
If you’ve tuned into “Jimmy Kimmel Live” or “The Dr. Oz Show,” you might have seen the man they call “Science Bob” demonstrating his passion and excitement for science. At his roots, Bob Pflugfelder is a science teacher, but if you pull back the curtains, you will find he is also an author, inventor, and advocate for the uses of science in our everyday lives. Pflugfelder also encourages “Random Acts of Science” by providing instructions and videos for interactive science experiments.
When it comes to education, many people attempt to think of ways to better our students, but only a few have dedicated time and research on how to better our teachers. That’s precisely what Doug Lemov is aiming to accomplish with his international best-selling book “Teach Like A Champion.” Lemov’s mission is to help schools create classrooms that are radically better for children, especially in communities where systemic inequities and discrimination have left students with limited access to a high-quality education.
Speakers Who Entertain
These gifted speakers often have remarkable stories to share that captivate crowds and amaze audiences
If laughter is the best medicine, then consider Alonzo Bodden an expert physician. After winning NBC’s hit reality show “Last Comic Standing” in 2004, Bodden has starred in multiple comedy specials and had guest roles and appearances on several network television and late-night talk shows. Bodden still entertains audiences around the world to this day through live comedy, taped specials, and even his own podcast “Who’s Paying Attention?”
Looking for a speaker to provide an unforgettable, interactive experience? Look no further. Phil Hansen is an internationally recognized multimedia artist who has a unique talent of combining traditional art with electronic media, offbeat materials, and conjunctive experiences. Hansen’s talents have been broadcast on PBS, BBC, CCTV, and on the TED stage — wowing audiences each time. In addition to his art, Hansen is also an author and advocate for art education, helping to advance the future of artists like himself.
Lenny Clarke has been making audiences laugh for nearly four decades after being discovered by the legendary comedy icon Rodney Dangerfield. Clarke might best be known for his work on the hit TV show “Rescue Me,” or his multitude of movie credits on films such as “Me, Myself and Irene,” “Rounders,” “There’s Something About Mary,” “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and “Fever Pitch.”
How many people would love to have the ability to read minds? Christopher Grace is regarded by many as “The Sherlock Holmes of Mind Reading” and has entertained and amazed audiences around the globe for nearly 30 years. Grace began his career in telepathy when he was only 10 years old and has grown into a world-renowned talent that has performed for clients such as Steve Jobs, Johnny Depp, Avril Lavigne, and Steve Martin. He’s even tried out his work on Penn & Teller.
Fans of Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy will recognize Sean Astin as the loyal sidekick Samwise Gamgee — but his work expands far beyond that iconic role. Astin has graced the silver screen in the 1985 cult classic “The Goonies” as well as inspiring millions as the title character in the movie “Rudy.” Recently, Astin battled Demogorgons in Netflix’s “Stranger Things 2” as the lovable Bob Newby. Beyond acting, Astin has served on the board of several non-profit organizations and is a vocal advocate on many issues including climate activism, literacy, mental health awareness, and civic engagement.
Speakers Who Engage
Connect with speakers who have the ability to encourage and energize others to participate or become involved in various charities, causes, and benefits.
Aiko Bethea is a leader, builder, and connector. As the founder of RARE Coaching & Consulting, she leads a consulting practice focusing on coaching leaders and organizations to remove barriers to inclusion. Bethea has been involved in numerous charitable organizations, including serving as the Deputy Director of the Gates Foundation. She is a Certified Diversity Professional and is a highly sought-after speaker and consultant.
As the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Dolores Huerta is truly an iconic figure. She has worked for labor rights and social justice issues for over 50 years, including founding the United Farm Workers Union with Cesar Chavez. She is credited with originating the phrase “Sí, Se Puede” or “Yes, we can” and is a well-respected role model and figurehead in the Latino community.
Katrina Jones works as the Diversity and Inclusion Leader at Amazon Web Services and is a champion for the DEI community. She works with organizations to create strategic and process-driven solutions to disrupt bias and foster more equitable and inclusive workplaces. The foundation of her passion for this work is an unyielding belief in justice and transformation and a desire to lift up people whose voices and experiences have been denied or silenced.
Nikki Giovanni is one of the country’s most highly regarded and respected poets, having used the power of the spoken and written word to unite and inspire since the 1960s. Her most prominent work, “Knoxville, Tennessee,” a nostalgic look at her childhood hometown in 1968, has been studied in classrooms across the country for decades and has even been adapted into an illustrated children’s book. Giovanni received numerous awards over the course of her career including Image Awards from the NAACP, the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, the Langston Hughes Medal for Poetry, and the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.
If you have seen the Netflix documentary “The Pharmacist,” then you are well aware of Dan Schneider’s story. Schneider is a long-time opioid crisis advocate whose purpose is to avenge the death of his son, the victim of a drug deal gone awry. Frustrated by the slow progress of the investigation, Schneider felt compelled to peacefully track down and find his son’s killer. Schneider promised himself that if he was able to get his son’s killer off the street with no one harmed, he would make it his mission to try to inform parents, educate the public, and do all he could to reduce the drug addiction problem being faced in this country.
Speakers Who Inspire
Motivational speakers who use the power of the spoken word to empower others to create positive change in the world and their communities.
Along with being an internationally acclaimed social entrepreneur, Amanda Nguyen is also a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Nguyen earned this honor by penning her own civil rights into existence and unanimously passing the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. She has trained hundreds of aspiring activists using her theory of “Hopeanomics” to pass 34 laws protecting more than 85 million sexual assault victims.
Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer and inspiration to millions. The subject of the 2011 film “Soul Surfer,” Hamilton was only 13 when she lost her left arm to a shark attack. While this would be enough to deter most from continuing to pursue their dreams of professional surfing, Hamilton returned to the water a mere one month after the attack. Within two years, she had a national title under her belt as well. Hamilton is involved in numerous charitable efforts, including her own foundation, Friends of Bethany, which reaches out to amputees and youth, encouraging and offering hope through Christianity. She has also published books and documentaries about overcoming adversities and promoting faith in everyday life.
We mentioned earlier that Sean Astin played the title role in the film “Rudy,” but what about hearing the story from the man himself? Rudy Ruettiger serves as an inspiration to many due to the accomplishments he achieved at the University of Notre Dame. Despite having a small stature and lacking the athletic ability found in most college football athletes, Ruettiger carved out a spot on the Fighting Irish squad through determination and pure persistence. On the final play of a game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, he got a chance to line up and play – where he recorded a game-ending sack and forever cemented his legacy in South Bend, Indiana. Today, Ruettiger is an award-winning motivational keynote speaker with over 25 years of experience broadcasting his “NEVER QUIT” and “YES I CAN” mantras to corporations, universities, sports teams, and special events.
Shane Ortega is the first openly serving transgender military service member. He is most commonly known for his work repealing the transgender military ban and co-founding the non-profit organization SPARTA, an LGBTQ+ military support group. Ortega has a record of championing human rights legislation and policy. He is an advocate, consultant, author, speaker, and educator on topics such as LGBTQ+ equity, indigenous rights, disabled veterans’ rights, MMIW, two-spirit education, land sovereignty, and colonial/tribal law relationship.
Tamika D. Mallory is a groundbreaking, award-winning social justice leader and movement strategist. She is an extremely sought-after and influential activist through her work, advocacy, frontline bravery, and heroic servitude. Mallory continues to fight for racial and social equality through the impact and gravity of her voice. Mallory has been honored as one of Time 100’s Most Influential People and was featured on Fortune’s list of the World’s Greatest Leaders. Her focused vision and focused intentionality have deeply moved and motivated a new generation of spirited, engaged activists.
When you’re ready to get started, AAE is here to help – no matter the budget. With our vast experience in virtual events and unparalleled service, we can help you to quickly book a top expert virtually.
This list was compiled in September 2021. All fee ranges are reflective of that time and subject to change.