If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that the event industry is always evolving. Staying ahead in a dynamic industry depends on reliable, insightful data.

In our 2022 Speaking Industry Benchmark Report, we’ve got lots of valuable data to share with you. AAE surveyed nearly 700 event professionals to generate greater visibility and insight into budgeting, speaking topics, booking timelines, and so much more. We encourage you to download your free copy of the full report, but for those in a hurry, here are a few highlights.

Goals event organizers want to achieve by hiring a speaker

What makes a keynote speaker so valuable? We asked event strategists what their biggest priorities are when booking speakers and what they are hoping the speaker will impact most when it comes to their event. Here are their top answers.

The most important goals event organizers have for their booked speakers are:

  • audience engagement (74.7%)
  • education for the audience (58.7%)
  • increased attendance (47.7%)

The clearest message was that a good keynote speaker should increase audience engagement, with 74.7% of respondents listing that as one of their top priorities. Second was that a speaker should provide education for their audience (58.7%). And on average, driving increased attendance rounded out the top three at 47.7%. Event organizers, how do your top three priorities compare to this spread?

Topics event strategists are prioritizing in 2022

Let’s zoom out for a second and take a look at the topics driving event bookings this year. Our respondents provided valuable insights on what we can expect to see more of throughout the rest of 2022. When asked about speaking topics they are targeting this year, the most common answers were diversity, equity, and inclusion (58.1%), leadership and motivation (57%), mental health (47%), and the future of work (32.8%).

University event organizers favored DEI topics at a much higher mark than the average respondent, with 73.2% versus the overall percentage of 58.1%. Independent event organizers were a bit more interested in events on the future of work, with 52.4% listing it as a speaking topic they’re targeting in 2022 — compared to 32.8% of total respondents.

The topics event strategists are prioritizing in 2022 are:

  • diversity, equity, and inclusion (58.1%)
  • leadership and motivation (57%)
  • mental health (47%)
  • the future of work (33%)

Another trend worth noting is that we are seeing a large number of corporate clients bringing DEI topics to their organizations in 2022. Topics including PRIDE, Juneteenth, AAPI Heritage, and Hispanic Heritage are all in demand from corporations looking to educate and inform their employees and drive greater equity and inclusion in their own workplaces.

Qualities that matter most to event strategists when looking for a keynote speaker

As event strategists look for speakers, it’s obvious that some qualities mattered more than others. Whether the speaker’s fees fit within their budget (75.5%), whether the speaker covers relevant topics (65.7%), and whether they possess a compelling story (52.4%) were among the highest priorities for event strategists when it comes to selecting a keynote speaker.

The top three most important qualities of a keynote speaker, according to event organizers, are:

  • how well they fit within their budget (75.5%)
  • how relevant their speaking topics are (65.7%)
  • how compelling their story is (52.4%)

For university event organizers, budget was the top priority, receiving the highest percentage of answers among those respondents — 82.4% versus 75.5% among overall respondents. Independent event planners indicated that the most important quality in a speaker is their ability to cover relevant topics. This was the top answer among that group, at 71.4% versus 65.7% overall.

Event budget breakdown: 2021 vs. 2022

With budget being such an important consideration for event organizers looking for speakers, let’s take a closer look at what respondents had to say about it. Consistent with the return of more in-person events this year, budgets seem to be making a recovery in 2022 for our respondents, with 81.9% of event strategists saying that their budgets were the same (57.4%) or higher (24.5%) versus where they were in 2021. 4.8% said it is significantly higher.

81.9% of event strategists said that their budgets in 2022 were the same (57.4%) or higher (24.5%) versus where they were in 2021. 4.8% said it is significantly higher.

Independent event organizers showed the largest variation versus the total average when it comes to budget. One-third (33.3%) said their budget was slightly higher in 2022 versus 2021, showing that any increases made were done so more conservatively than in corporations or university environments.

What makes speakers most likely to accept an offer?

Keynote speakers have some clear preferences, too. Perhaps not so surprisingly, it seems to come down to topics and fees. Nearly 80% of speakers surveyed said that if they feel the event theme and keynote speaking topic are a great fit for their subject matter expertise, they are highly likely to accept an offer to speak.

Not too far behind, the speakers we surveyed said that an event must be within their desired fee range, with 68.4% of respondents listing it as a top priority. These two elements — topic relevance and fee range — dominated the answers to this question. Additional answers to note included: desirable audience demographic and size (25.7%), in a desirable geographic location (25%), and whether the request came through a trusted speakers bureau (22.1%).

Where do you line up?

We’d love to hear how your answers would compare to the data we’ve laid out above. What do you look for in the perfect keynote speaker? What speaking topics are you eyeing this year? Tweet us at @AllAmericanEnt_ with your thoughts.

These key takeaways are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the insights we gathered from event strategists and keynote speakers on the entire event planning process. In the full report, you’ll find all kinds of information on everything from choosing speakers to orchestrating an unforgettable event experience — as well as predictions on what lies ahead for our industry.