While it’s true that you get what you pay for, in hiring a speaker as in most things in life, there is more to figuring out who makes a good keynote speaker than how much they charge.

A good keynote speaker will be credible

If the purpose of the event is to, for example, showcase how to overcome adversity on the path to success, it’s helpful if the speaker has overcome adversity on their path to success. This might seem obvious but it’s astounding how often a committee wants to bring in a speaker based on name only, trying to leverage the cachet of a person’s celebrity to boost ticket sales or attendance, rather than bringing on the speaker who will credibly address the point of the event.

Credibility comes from experience. The ability to speak knowledgeably on a topic comes from having walked the walk. And credibility translates, with good speaking abilities, into a mesmerizing speech that will have attendees talking about it for a long while after.

A good keynote speaker will be tuned in

In order to launch all that credibility into the audience and have them absorb it all, the speaker has to have the ability to tune in to the audience and pick up on nonverbal cues. Are they losing the audience with too many facts? Are they speaking at a level that is too low for the audience in question? Is the audience bored? Irritated? Happy? Engaged? Are they nodding in understanding and agreement or are they staring down at their smartphones?

Regardless of the size of the audience, a good speaker will be highly focused on whether or not they are having an impact and adjust their style accordingly, adding in some interaction with the audience or taking the tone of the speech up or down, depending on the response they are getting. For meeting planners, it’s a good idea if you can see one or more speeches by the speaker you are considering—either live or on video—to get a sense of whether or not they are tuned in and focused on their audience.

A good keynote speaker will entertain

 Part of being tuned in to an audience is building a rapport with them. The best way to do that is to entertain them. An experienced speaker, even on the most serious of topics, will strive to entertain their audience. Whether with a little humor or some telling anecdotes or fully engaged storytelling, they will find a way to bring the audience’s attention into focus so that all eyes—and ears—are on them.

Entertainment is the vehicle through which the actual message of the speech is delivered. If the audience is tuned in to the speech because it’s entertaining, they are more likely to absorb the message than if they are bored or confused. Think about your favorite television commercials: the ones that tell a story or entertain you in some way have a far greater chance of staying with you than those that you tune out because they don’t resonate. Well placed humor is a great way to accomplish this but beware of a speaker who uses inappropriate humor: it may just be the end of the message.

 A good keynote speaker will be prepared

Preparing a keynote address that has value will involve spending some time discussing the goals of the event with the planner. A speaker who knows exactly what is expected of them in terms of functions (speech, Q&A, takeaways, etc…), who the audience will be made up of, what kind of information they already have and what they are looking to receive from the speaker is more likely to reach them; all of this information is valuable intelligence that will allow a speaker to prepare a speech that will resonate best with the audience.

A good keynote speaker will end with a strong call to action

As with all good speeches, and stories, the most compelling tend to have a flow. A beginning, middle and end, if you will. The end is where the whole speech ties together into a neat and tidy bow, with a strong call to action which will spur the audience members to think beyond that moment and how they will take what they’ve heard and apply it to their lives,  their work, and their world going forward.


Knowing what the qualities of a good speaker are is a great start but hiring a speakers bureau to find you the speaker will have those qualities for your audience, and more, is a better ending.


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