How to Book a Keynote Speaker

Booking a professional keynote or celebrity speaker can often feel like a daunting logistical task; fortunately, this is our specialty. From first contact to signed contract, we know the ins-and-outs of finding and booking speakers for both in-person and virtual events. 

A great keynote speech or performance is often the culmination of an event, which is why finding a keynote speaker who will leave a lasting impact on our clients’ audience is our utmost priority. Here’s how to find and book the best keynote speaker for your event.

What is a Keynote Speaker?

A keynote speaker is a professional speaker who speaks at events – typically for a fee – and usually has a specific area of expertise that appeals to different types of audiences. Keynote speakers are often used interchangeably with public speakers, motivational speakers, or professional speakers. Many types of speakers broadly overlap, but can often be nuanced in their speaking topics and general atmosphere.

A keynote speaker is someone who usually establishes an underlying theme in their keynote address and highlights the main message or goal of the event (think TED Talks, university commencement ceremonies, or conferences). Motivational speakers are often synonymous with keynote speakers in terms of thematic talks, but are more focused on personal growth, resilience, and inspiration, and are popular options for corporate and university audiences.

Celebrity speakers include world-class athletes, actors, musicians, or award-winning authors. Celebrity speakers can attract a lot of excitement for an event and can talk on a wide variety of topics, including advocacy and motivation. 

Keynote speakers are typically promoted with more authority in an event agenda than speakers who participate in break-out sessions, fireside chats, or panel discussions. Keynote speaking sessions are typically reserved for the most qualified, well-known, or motivational speakers in a conference lineup.

Direct Contact Versus Speakers Bureaus

There are different ways event professionals like to book speakers for their events, depending on the nature of the event, the speaker in consideration, budget, and timeline. Some prefer to contact a speaker directly, through social media or an official website contact page, while others prefer to undertake the booking process through a speakers bureau.

Many professional speakers regularly work with speakers bureaus, both exclusively and non-exclusively, for the benefit of working with experienced agents during the booking and logistical process. Speakers bureaus also allow for a speaker to get exposure to as many potential event and meeting planners as possible. Speakers bureaus typically take their commission from a percentage of the speaker’s fee, so in most cases there is no financial advantage to approaching a speaker directly versus booking them through a bureau. 

Finding the Right Speaker

Decide what type of event you are hosting:

Whether you’re going direct or thinking about reaching out to a speakers bureau, it is important to have a solid idea of the type of event you plan to host. Ask yourself the who, what, when, where, how, and whys of your event. Consider the desired format, such as a keynote presentation, Q&A, workshop, or performance. Location, date, audience size, and the goal of the event are all important factors that can contribute to a speaker’s availability.

With the rising popularity of virtual events, it is also important to keep in mind that speaker availability may vary between virtual and in-person events, and that there are additional criteria (such as technological proficiency, on-screen charisma, and the virtual event timeline) to consider when booking a virtual speaker. 

It is also worth noting that about half of speakers surveyed in the past two months consider themselves ready to attend events in person. If you are planning an event in 2021 for example, it might be good to consider planning a hybrid event. Hybrid events combine the best of both worlds, bringing in-person events in a safe environment while also offering a virtual event option.

Establish your main goal and audience demographic:

Consider the main goal of your event – is it to educate, inspire, or raise awareness? What will leave the most lasting impression on your audience? The theme and desired impact of your event will determine what speaker will best suit your needs. If you’re booking a speaker through AAE, this information helps our booking agents to search our extensive speaker database and present a list of speakers who best fit the criteria. Be sure to keep an open mind and consider all speaker options. 

Determine your budget:

At the end of the day, budget is often the deciding factor (and sometimes the greatest hurdle) when choosing the best keynote speaker. It may be disappointing if a desired speaker’s fee is out of budget, but more often than not, there are plenty of professional speakers with more affordable fees that can speak on the same topic and leave just as much of an impression on your audience.

Whether it’s virtual, hybrid, or in-person, finding a keynote speaker is easy with AAE.

As a leading speakers bureau, we pride ourselves on our large speaker database, and can present a variety of options to you based on your criteria. Our established relationship with talent and industry experts also allows us to negotiate the most favorable speaking fees on behalf of our clients.

Whether you already have a specific speaker in mind or want to explore your options with the above tips in mind, booking a keynote or celebrity speaker is as simple as contacting us – we’ll do the heavy lifting. 

We’ve already done a lot of work for you by building curated topics and theme lists that include many great speakers. To browse available speakers, start by checking out AAE’s Top Ten Booked Virtual Event Speakers, or begin your search with our extensive list of speaking topics.